Monday, September 25, 2023


Add a volcano or two to your Western road trip

Here’s a question from a reader of about boondocking. 

Hi Bob,

We’ve been watching the effects of Mt. Kilauea, Hawaii’s currently erupting volcano, and wonder where would be a good place to see volcanic activity in the continental U.S. We are currently planning a long road trip to the West and would like to add a volcano to our itinerary. Thanks. —Terry and Clarissa

Hi Terry and Clarissa,

Lassen Volcanic National Park

You probably wouldn’t have wanted to be road touring around Northern California a few thousand years ago, when the earth’s fiery heart regularly exploded through the crust spewing tons of white-hot boulders and rivers of molten lava across the landscape. As you mention, a similar event is taking place on the big island of Hawaii right now with the eruption of Mt. Kilauea, burying hundreds of homes and leaving behind a jagged landscape of black hardened lava burying everything in its path.

Plan to take a road trip along the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway: All American Road in southern Oregon and northern California, to illustrate the vast expanse of cooled lava beds that will remain when Kilauea finally settles down. And you can also see what the landscape may look like a few hundred years from now as the land recovers.

One difference you will note is that some rather large volcanoes remain in Northern California and Oregon, whereas in Hawaii, Kilauea, a shield volcano, flows out of large fissures in the earth in unstoppable molten rivers, and has yet to produce any of what we think of as volcano shapes (like Mounts Shasta, Hood, Lassen, and others).

The Byway
This section of the Scenic Byway picks up from northern California’s Interstate 5 at Weed (named after mill owner, Abner E. Weed, not the plant that the natives grow), branching off onto U.S. 97 to the northeast, the road less traveled into the rain-shadow chaparral and scrub high desert plateau of Butte Valley.

Shasta Indians once lived throughout this area until early settlers muscled them out in the mid-1800s, followed by the railroad that linked California with Oregon. Perpetually snow-capped Mt. Shasta to the south can be seen throughout Butte Valley, until the long steady rise crosses over 5,101-foot Grass Lake Summit, from which you get your first view of Grass Lake.

Well, sort of. The lake isn’t there anymore, having passed through the filling-in stage to the soggy meadow stage – good for birdwatching and wildlife (pronghorn antelope live here but we didn’t see any on this trip).

The Butte Valley also claims to be home to 50 species of mammals, 260 miles of signed trails, and 200 species of migrating and nesting birds, including what is claimed to be one of the largest concentrations of wintering bald eagles in the lower 48 states.

After the volcanoes stopped distributing ash far and wide, the valley evolved into a large grassland habitat, which includes the 18,425-acre Butte Valley National Grasslands between Dorris and Macdoel. You will be traveling through national forests and grasslands, which present opportunities for boondocking as well. 

Read more about boondocking at my BoondockBob’s Blog.
Check out my Kindle e-books about boondocking at Amazon.

Do you have a question for Bob? Email him at bob.rvtravel (at) .





  1. Michael M. emailed me with thefollowing suggestion:

    Don’t overlook Mt. St. Helens in Washington. It erupted in 1980 and is still somewhat active in that it is dome building, venting steam, etc. The highway off I-5 that goes to Johnston’s Ridge will take you to an awesome view of the crater/dome. The Windy Ridge route takes you through the devastation and nature’s reclamation.
    I lived in Portland, OR at the time. I could see the mountain from my back yard. It’s only about 60 miles (as the crow flies) from Portland.
    In the interim years, I’ve made many trips, both to Johnston’s Ridge and Windy Ridge. It was worth the trip every time.

  2. Lassen Peak in Lassen Volcanic NP last blew in 1915-21. Interesting and beautiful place and not that crowded, compared to other NPs.
    Definitely worth a visit with several good hiking trails and nice CG’s.

  3. There is another state with volcanoes… Alaska. Its also western… Might even see a plume from one of them.

    • Good catch, Herbert. I had just changed the wording for the insert in tomorrow’s RV Travel Newsletter, but hadn’t gone back into the article itself to update/correct it yet. You were too quick! 😀 –Diane at


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Sign up for the

RVtravel Newsletter

Sign up and receive 3 FREE RV Checklists: Set-Up, Take-Down and Packing List.