24 July 2012

King's Creek

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Locate the trailhead.

Owing to one modern convenience's flip side of road construction and the age old problem of finding the perfect camp site (or any camp site not next to the road or stuffed too tightly between other sites) we only had a few hours before dark to meander our way along a trail on the first day in the park. The original plan was a backpack that wandered through the park and came out the Caribou Wilderness after many lakes and cinder cones and such. Considerations turned that into a series of day hikes. We decided upon a hike that started where we would have at King's Creek going downstream, but looped around and back to the road. It has spurs to a waterfall and cluster of lakes with views of Warner Valley below. It turned out a little long for the time we had.

Grabbing a spot along the road in the parking turnout, we could hear a great flow of water passing somewhere nearby. It came mostly from above the road until we crossed over to find it also below. Passing one of the park's very informative signs, we started down the trail which is quite steep at the very beginning. Near it, the creek pours rapidly over rocks heading down at a slightly steeper pace. Quickly, the trail comes upon a wide expanse of meadow with the creek poking out here and there. Lupin and others spot the meadow with color, at least at this time of year. From here, the trail meanders and a very easy downhill slant.

King's Creek Meadow
Lupins and mule ear and a few others in King's Creek Meadow.

tree with lichen growing in rings around the trunk
Noticed many places, but still a little odd. The lichen grows in rings around the trunks of a certain type of tree.

Eventually, the trail starts to drop more quickly and there are little cascades along the stream. We came to a sign saying the trail was closed and we should take the horse trail because this one was dangerous. Seeing nothing immediately dangerous and wanting to see the further cascades, we followed it a little way down, and then a little further, and then a little further than that. We came to the far end not seeing anything of particular note except the beautiful cascades through that tight section.

small ledges forming a nice cascade along the creek
A cascade along King's Creek. The rocks here seem far too dark and don't seem to fit with the rest, but it is really just the difference of being wet or not.

roaring water
The cascade section of the creek, where the sides are close and the water swift.

paintbrush and others
A small selection of the numerous flowers blooming currently in the area.

paintbrush and others
A few more of the numerous flowers blooming currently in the area.

short fall at the end of the cascade section
At the bottom of the cascade section, there is a drop that could be considered a small waterfall, but it is not the destination waterfall.

At the bottom of the cascade section, the creek is still dropping over more cascades, but is no longer in a narrow bit of canyon while doing it. The forest slopes easily to the sides of the creek again. Meeting the horse trail, the route off to the rest of the route, and a route off to other destinations to the east make a number of junctions as we drop down to the waterfall. Getting there, it's a bit taller than the one at the end of the cascade. The trail doesn't go to the bottom of the fall, but a well used scramble does. We decided to be content with standing near the top of the fall.

more water flowing quickly over black rocks
After the cascade section, the creek isn't yet done with the white-water cascades.

looking down the waterfall
Arriving at the top of the waterfall on King's Creek and having a look down.

King's Creek waterfall
A look at the waterfall from the edge of the trail, where railings help keep folks from falling off.

Backtracking up the trail a short distance, we turned to follow the loop around toward Bench Lake. A bridge had been placed to help people cross the creek, which has a strong flow, but the bridge had partly snapped and partly bent into two. The middle sat down in the water while the ends placed high on the banks stuck up a bit. It could still be crossed, but with care and some difficulty due to the slope of the far side. From there, we crossed along below a talus slope and some cliffs with caves before coming to Bench Lake.

cliffs with trees at the top and talus at the bottom
The cliffs above with a few of the smaller caves, the talus coming down, and the trees that make this place their home.

Bench Lake through the trees
Over the short lupins and through the trees, Bench Lake lies reflecting.

From Bench Lake, the trail drops again in a streamless valley. After a bit, I suspected I could see the other trail this one would join to allow the completion of the loop on the other side of the shallow dip. Soon it did join, and the trail started back up that other side. It turned leftward, so there was only a short distance where walking across could have caught the trail. One more junction quickly along the trail was the spur to Sifford Lakes. We took it quickly to the first of the lakes and then took a couple use trails out to the edge to look over Warner Valley below.

the first of the Sifford Lakes
The first of the Sifford Lakes along the trail and one of the larger ones.

at the top of one of the cliffs around Warner Valley
A short way down a use trail, we stand at the top of one of the cliffs that decorate the sides of Warner Valley.

looking out over Warner Valley
Looking at the landscape that surrounds Warner Valley at the other edges.

We really didn't have time to explore the other lakes and the trail becomes very sketchy at that first one, so we turned around. Getting back to the loop, we turned and started to climb again. We passed above the cliffs with the few caves in them, then the trail was fairly flat until the last when it dropped down into the meadow. There was another bridge, this one intact, to cross the creek. One last little climb along those first cascades and we were back at the road.

another view of the cliffs we passed below, this time before passing above
The cliffs we passed below, now from the side. This viewpoint gives them quite a different look.

©2012 Valerie Norton
Posted 1 Aug 2012

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