Skiing the Cascade Volcanoes
        Amar Andalkar's Ski Mountaineering and Climbing Site
Ski Mountaineering Photos & Trip Reports Equipment & Info Cascade Volcanoes Ring of Fire Site Map

Table of Contents | Introduction | Ratings | WebCams | Bibliography | Highest Volcanoes | Snowfall & Snowdepth | Monthly Chart | Conifers | Compare | Distance | Sun Chart
  Lassen Peak
  Mount Shasta
  Medicine Lake Volcano
  Mount McLoughlin
  Pelican Butte
  Crater Lake
  Mount Bailey
  Mount Thielsen
  Diamond Peak
  Newberry Volcano
  Mount Bachelor
  Broken Top
  Three Sisters
  Mount Washington
  Three Fingered Jack
  Mount Jefferson
  Mount Hood
  Mount Saint Helens
  Mount Adams
  Goat Rocks
  Mount Rainier
  Glacier Peak
  Mount Baker
  Mount Garibaldi
  Mount Cayley
  Mount Meager

| The broad shield of Medicine Lake Volcano looms in the distance,
looking SW from near Tulelake, with Mount Shasta at far right
(photo by Amar Andalkar)   <click to enlarge>

Medicine Lake Volcano
    7913 ft (2412 m) .
Major Peaks:
Mount Hoffman:     7913 ft (2412 m)
Lyons Peak:    7903 ft (2409 m)
Red Shale Butte:     7834 ft (2388 m)
Glass Mountain:     7622 ft (2323 m)
Medicine Mountain:     7580 ft (2310 m)
Little Mount Hoffman:     7309 ft (2228 m)
Location: East of Cascade Range, northern California,
30 miles (50 km) SW of Tulelake
Lat / Long: 41.6° N, 121.6° W
Volcanic Type: Shield volcano with caldera and cinder cones
Volcanic Status: Active, last eruption 900 years ago;
possibly a minor ash eruption in 1910
First Ascent: Unknown, probably Native American
First Ski Descent:
Skiable Vertical: up to 2600 ft (800 m), perhaps a bit more is possible
Timberline: over 8000 ft (2400 m), above the highest summits
Administration: Modoc, Shasta-Trinity, and Klamath National Forests, with
portions of the north slopes in Lava Beds National Monument
Protection Status:   much of Lava Beds NM is administered as wilderness
User Fees: National Monument entrance fee (or National Parks Pass)

    Little-known compared to the more shapely and famous stratovolcanoes which dominate the Cascade Range, the broad shield of Medicine Lake Volcano is nevertheless the largest volcano in the entire range. It covers an area of over 800 square miles (2000 square km), lying east of the Cascade Crest amidst the barren high desert of northeastern California. Although it rises only 4000 feet (1200 m) above its base, its massive bulk of 150 cubic miles (600 cubic km) easily surpasses the volume of Mount Shasta (90 cubic miles / 350 cubic km) , the largest of the Cascade stratovolcanoes. It is remarkably similar in size, form, and volcanic evolution to the more well-known Newberry Volcano in Oregon, the second largest volcano in the range. Like Newberry, Medicine Lake is a shield volcano which underwent multiple caldera-forming collapses, resulting in a huge 4.5 x 7.5 mile (7 x 12 km) wide depression which houses its namesake lake. Also like Newberry, its flanks are covered with hundreds of cinder cones and accompanying lava flows, while the caldera has several large and very recently formed obsidian flows. The variety of recent volcanic features at Medicine Lake is truly astonishing, and it is a shame that only a small portion of its northern flanks enjoys nationally protected status. The cinder cones, lava flows, and especially the many lava tube caves of little-visited Lava Beds National Monument are fascinating, as are the large obsidian (black volcanic glass) flows of Glass Mountain and Little Glass Mountain.
    More info about Medicine Lake Volcano coming here soon ... including what areas might be skiable, along with how to access them. It does snow heavily in winter, although not nearly as much as places farther west such as Mount Shasta, and large snow patches typically linger into July. There are many cross-country skiing possibilities, although currently only snowmobilers are catered to by the multiple use policies of the US Forest Service.

Route Ratings Starting
Quality Effort Ascent Descent
Ski Mountaineering / Cross-Country Skiing Routes:  
Mount Hoffman
5600 ft
(1700 m)
2500 ft
(750 m)
-200 ft
(-50 m)
16 miles
(25 km)
Mount Hoffman is the highest point on Medicine Lake Volcano, a small cinder cone perched on the north rim of the caldera. Winter and spring approaches begin from Door Knob Snowmobile Park, about 4 miles (6 km) to the north just south of Lava Beds National Monument, and roads beyond this point are not plowed. Forest Service roads lead high on the north and south flanks, but no roads or trails pass within a mile of the summit. However, the forest cover is not very dense in this area and cross-country travel should be easy when there is even a modest snowpack.
Glass Mountain
5600 ft
(1700 m)
2200 ft
(650 m)
-200 ft
(-50 m)
17 miles
(27 km)
Glass Mountain is a massive flow of rhyolite lava, erupted less than 1100 years ago on the northeastern rim of the caldera. The surface of the flow is about 90% pumice and 10% black obsidian, although as with all such flows the core is nearly pure obsidian beginning just a few meters below the surface. The nearly treeless slopes would allow a multitude of ski possibilities, if there is enough snowpack to cover the sharp blocks of obsidian and pumice.
Little Mount Hoffman
5300 ft
(1600 m)
2000 ft
(600 m)
14 miles
(22 km)
Little Mount Hoffman is medium-size cinder cone located just west of the caldera rim, currently the site of a restored lookout cabin available for rent during the summer. A road switchbacks up the wooded north slope to the summit, while open slopes fall away to the south and west. Winter and spring access begins from Four Corners Snowmobile Park, about 5 miles (8 km) to the northwest.

| Topographic map of Medicine Lake Volcano
showing possible ski routes as listed in table above
<click map to enlarge, 382 kB file>

| Panoramic view of the Little Glass Mountain obsidian flow in the western part of Medicine Lake Volcano;
view looking southwest from Little Mount Hoffman, with Mount Shasta in the distance
(digitally composited from three photographs by Amar Andalkar) <click to enlarge>

| Panoramic view from the summit of Little Mount Hoffman, with a 200-degree field of view spanning east to west:
high points on the rim of Medicine Lake caldera are at left (beyond outhouse), cinder cones of south flank of Medicine Lake Volcano at center,
obsidian flow of Little Glass Mountain at right with Mount Shasta beyond in the distance, and Little Mount Hoffman lookout at right edge
(digitally composited from nine photographs by Amar Andalkar) <click to enlarge, 193 kB file>

| Panoramic view of Medicine Lake from its north shore, with a 180-degree field of view spanning the lake from the east end (left) to the west end (right);
the broad peak at center is Medicine Mountain, which forms the south rim of the caldera
(digitally composited from eight photographs by Amar Andalkar) <click to enlarge>

| Panoramic view of Glass Mountain, a massive obsidian flow on the NE rim of the Medicine Lake caldera, taken while standing on the flow itself;
gray material is mostly pumice (frothy, aerated volcanic glass), while dark black areas are nearly pure obsidian (dense volcanic glass)
(140-degree field of view, digitally composited from six photographs by Amar Andalkar) <click to enlarge>

| Panoramic version of the photo at the top of this page, showing the classic shield volcano profile of the Medicine Lake Highlands;
the flat marshes of Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge are in the foreground, with Mount Shasta in the distance at far right
(digitally composited from five photographs by Amar Andalkar) <click to enlarge>

Useful Web Links:

Modoc National Forest: Home Page
Shasta-Trinity National Forest
Shasta-Trinity National Forest: Little Mt. Hoffman Lookout
National Weather Service Office: Medford, OR
National Weather Service: Tulelake Zone Forecast (alternate link)
The Weather Channel: Tulelake, CA, Forecast
USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory: Medicine Lake Volcano

List of Guidebooks:  (detailed references on the bibliography page)

There are currently no guidebooks which have hiking or skiing information about Medicine Lake Volcano.
"Fire Mountains of the West" has a brief two-page description.

List of Maps:

Map Series Scale Topo? Map Names Year Notes
USGS 7.5-minute 1:24,000 Yes, 40 ft Medicine Lake
Little Mt. Hoffman
Schonchin Butte
Bonita Butte
Caldwell Butte
West of Kephart
These are standard USGS maps, recently updated;
  the first two cover nearly all areas of interest for
  skiing. Those updated in 1993 are new "single-edition"
  maps with USFS road and trail information.
USGS 30' x 60' 1:100,000 Yes, 50 m Tulelake 1984 Helpful for a regional overview across
  the broad shield of Medicine Lake Volcano
US Forest Service 1:126,720 No Modoc National Forest
Shasta-Trinity National Forest
Klamath National Forest
The first is essential for forest road information;
  the other two may be useful depending
  on the direction of approach

More photos, routes, links, references, etc. coming soon...
Please contact me with any suggestions, additions, or corrections.

Previous Page (Mount Shasta) | Medicine Lake Volcano | Next Page (Mount McLoughlin)
Table of Contents | Introduction | Ratings | WebCams | Bibliography | Highest Volcanoes | Snowfall & Snowdepth | Monthly Chart | Conifers | Compare | Distance | Sun Chart
Ski Mountaineering Photos & Trip Reports Equipment & Info Cascade Volcanoes Ring of Fire Site Map

Amar Andalkar   Seattle, WA, USA   <About the Author / Contact Me>
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