How This Man’s “Hell” Became One of Northern California’s Favorite Destinations

Bumpass Hell in Lassen Volcanic National Park is one of the most popular destinations in NorCal. But for the man that found the area, it ruined his life.

Bumpass Hell is a popular destination for people traveling through Lassen Volcanic National Park. Lassen is chock-full of hydrothermal activity, and Bumpass Hell is largest area of this type in the park.

The plopping mudpots, bubbling pools, and roaring steam vents make this an unforgettable destination for visitors, but for the man that discovered Bumpass Hell, he wishes he never found it in the first place.




Kendall Vanhook Bumpass, a hunter/cowboy/prospector, discovered the area in 1864 while looking for stray cattle. During his first visit he broke through the thin crust of the earth and burnt his foot on the boiling mudpots below.

When he returned home and others asked him where he’d been, he replied “Boys, I have been in Hell.”

A local newspaper editor had heard about this story and asked Bumpass to take him to the area. Bumpass obliged and brought the editor to the area, again breaking through the crust and burning his leg. This time, the leg was burnt so badly that it had to be amputated.

Upon his return, Bumpass exclaimed to the locals “The descent to Hell is easy.”




It turns out that Bumpass was right. Today, the hike to Bumpass Hell (the name makes sense now, right?) is only 3-miles roundtrip and there are platforms where you can safely view the hydrothermal activity from above.

As you can see, it can be quite a fun experience:

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