Located in Lassen National Park, Hat Creek Volcanic Area is the second largest ancient lava bed in the state. 20,000 years ago a river of lava called the Hat Creek Flow crawled northward near Old Station for 16 miles, and covered the floor of Hat Creek Valley. Typical of a lava field, the landscape is a mostly barren expanse of craggy rock but there are two points of interest here. As the Hat Creek Flow crawled along, the outside lava cooled but the inside continued flowing. Eventually, as the lava drained, a hard tube remained and created what’s now known as Subway Cave. If you visit, you can walk the entire length of 1,300 ft. long tube resembling a subway tunnel. Although this lava tube is safe, it’s still a good idea to take a buddy and be aware that it gets very cold and dark as you go deeper into the tube, so bring a jacket and two sources of light.
Other interesting remnants of the lava flow can be seen from the Spattercones Nature Trail. This 1.5 mile loop has 17 interpretive signs that point out lava mounds, two volcanic cones enclosed by rings of colorful, weathered rocks, a vertical lava vent and a smaller crater drained by a tiny lava cave. From the trail, much larger volcanic summits can also be seen in the distance, the highest being Lassen Peak, 12 miles to the south.
Free guided tours are offered each weekend at the Subway Cave from mid-June to Labor Day. The Spattercone Nature Trail is open April through November.
WHERE: Spattercone Nature Trail: approximately 1.5 miles south of Hwy 44 and 89 junction in Old Station. Subway Cave Trailhead: 1/4 mile north of the junction of Hwy 44 and 89. The community of Old Station is located 1/2 mile south of the trailhead. (google map)
MORE INFO: www.fs.fed.us