When the springtime hits Lassen Volcanic National Park, park officials begin the massive undertaking of trying to clear the snow off the park’s roads in order to open access to the summer destinations in the park.
The task, which began on March 31, typically lasts into late-May/early-June. Last year, following the incredibly snowy winter of 2017, the road didn’t fully open until July 26.
Operations to clear the roads began early this year but took a little bit of a hit when another foot of snow dropped on the park on April 16th. The snowpack in the park was not significant this year, and although late snow added to the road clearing operation, the road should be open at a reasonable date this spring.
Here is a photo of the current progress from the road clearing operation:
We hope to see the road fully open by early-June! Below is the road clearing log from Lassen NPS:
Road Opening Process
The park highway will open to through traffic once the final section between Bumpass Hell and Devastated Area is cleared, rockfalls are cleared, and all lingering ice is melted. The road opening process may be delayed by late snow storms as well as other factors including:
- Heavy snowpack with deeper snowdrifts in some areas
- Trees that have fallen across the road and been buried in the snow
- Rockslides over the highway when the snow begins to melt
- Snow avalanches over cleared sections of the highway
- Snow storms during the operations
- Lingering ice once snow is cleared
2018 Road Clearing Operator Log
Log updates are posted when reports are received from operators in the field. The latest update may not reflect the current status. The road crew works Monday through Thursday, 10 hours per day.
March 31 – Snow clearing began at Loomis Plaza, moving toward Devastated Area. Plows reached Hot Rock and are beginning to encounter some trees in the road.
April 7 – Snow has been cleared to the Devastated Area, about 10 miles form the Loomis Plaza. Snow clearing progress has moved steadily to the Devastated Area due to the low snow levels, only about 2 feet at the Devastated Area. We will proceed with clearing operations from the southwest entrance on Monday April 9.
April 14 – Road clearing operations began ahead of schedule on the south side of the park this week this week. Road crews have plowed roughly 3 miles of park highway from the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center in the southwest corner of the park. On the north side of the park, crews continue to work on clearing the parking area and bathrooms at the Devastated Area.
April 21 – Operations were slowed this week due to a shortage of staff. Another half-mile of road has been cleared bringing the crew to the upper switchback before Emerald Sidehill. We are about 5 miles in from the Visitior Center. Operations will resume on Monday.Thanks to help from Cal Trans, about a foot of snow from Monday’s storm was removed from the road. The road opened to the Devastated Area from the northwest entrance at Manzanita Lake!
When Will the Highway Open to Through Traffic?
Road clearing operations began on March 31, 2018. Sections of the park highway will open when it is safe and there is sufficient parking for vehicle traffic. The park highway encompasses 30 miles of stunning views through twisty hair pin corners, high elevations and steep grades. To attempt road clearing throughout winter would be impossible and extremely hazardous for plow operators and drivers. The park highway traverse avalanche prone slopes with up to 2,000 foot drops and can hold a snowpack up to 40 feet deep. With the park’s high elevation and exposed passes, ice and blowing snow would be a constant issue.
Clearing of the park highway usually begins in April and continues for about two months before the road opens to through traffic. Predicting when the road will open is not possible, even in late spring, because weather in April and May can affect plowing progress significantly. See the chart below for opening and closing dates since 1980.
Northern California’s Outdoor Digital Newsmagazine