Man skiing down a mountain on a cloudy day

Riding the Volcano

Words: MEGAN MICHELSON 
Photo Above: JASON HUMMEL 

It sounds insane: spend your vacation time by tempting fate and visiting an active volcano. But is it? The pros outweigh the cons: glorious scenery, excellent backcountry opportunities, fewer crowds, and the trills of a lifetime. Here’s how to do it.

MOUNT ADAMS, WASHINGTON

Just north of the Columbia River, Adams is the largest active volcano in the state. 

To get to the top of 12,276-foot Mount Adams, you’ll spend a couple of days climbing the mountain’s face and setting up camp. When you finally reach the top of the volcanic summit, you can smell sulfur blowing in the wind. On the way down you’ll be rewarded with a 4,000-vertical- foot ski descent of the Southwest Chutes, wide- open gullies filled with untracked snow. Hire a backcountry guide from Northwest Mountain School (from $450; mountainschool.com) and they’ll show you the safest routes and cook you pad Thai at base camp. Plan your trip for April to June, when snow conditions are the most stable.

Even cloud cover can’t ruin a run down the volcanic Mount Adams (last eruption: 550 BC).

© Jason Hummel

WHERE TO STAY

The night before you head out, get a good night’s sleep at the Trout Lake Valley Inn in the tiny town of Trout Lake, near the trailhead. From $90; troutlakevalleyinn.com 

Blue Oakley snow goggles

WHAT TO BRING 

Northwest Mountain School rents most of the camping and ski gear you’ll need, but bring your own goggles. Oakley’s Team USA Signature Airbrake Snow model comes with anti-fog lenses you can easily swap out based on the light. $245; oakley.com

“check the weather and avalanche forecast before you go”
Casey Overturf

© Oscar enander

MOUNT RAINIER, WASHINGTON

An imposing part of the Seattle cityscape, Rainier last erupted in the 1890s. 

The mighty volcano of Mount Rainier towers over Seattle. In the winter, it’s coated with a thick layer of snow. To spend a night or two snow camping on the peak’s lower flanks, snag a required backcountry permit, then snowshoe or ski 1.8 miles uphill and along an unplowed road from the Narada Falls trailhead to a snow- covered Reflection Lake, a flat basin ideal for setting up camp. “Winter is a great time to visit Rainier, but you do need to have navigational skills and check the weather and avalanche forecast before you go,” says Casey Overturf, a ranger at Mount Rainier National Park. 

WHERE TO STAY 

Before or after camping, score a creekside log cabin with a fireplace at the Copper Creek Inn in Ashford, close to the park entrance. From $119; coppercreekinn.com

WHAT TO BRING 

Nearby Whittaker Mountaineering (whittakermountaineering.com) rents all the camping gear you’ll need, from sleeping bags to tents. But to sip coffee at camp, you’ll want a Yeti Rambler Lowball, a 10- ounce stainless-steel cup with vacuum insulation. $25; yeticoolers.com 

AN ERUPTION OVER 7,000 YEARS AGO COLLAPSED A 12,000-FOOT VOLCANIC PEAK

© Greg Vaughn

CRATER LAKE, OREGON

With no streams flowing in, it took 250 years for the lake to fill to its current depth. 

Crater Lake was formed when an eruption over 7,000 years ago collapsed a 12,000-foot volcanic peak into a giant hole known as a caldera, which is now filled with the deepest lake in the U.S. (1,943 feet). In the winter, Crater Lake National Park averages 44 feet of snow. You can snowshoe along the rim of the crater and peek down at the steep banks and sapphire lake below. Rent snowshoes at the Rim Village Gift Shop for $15 a day, then head out on your own or sign up for a ranger-led, two-hour snowshoe walk on winter weekends—you’ll get free snowshoe rental and ample facts on winter ecology. 

WHERE TO STAY 

In-park lodging is closed during the winter. So book a knotty-pine-paneled lodge room at the historic and recently renovated Union Creek Resort, 25 miles to the west. From $74; unioncreekoregon.com

WHAT TO BRING 

Keep your head from getting cold
while snowshoeing with
Smartwool’s Reversible Slouch Beanie, made from merino wool with two ways to wear it. $34; smartwool.com 

Imagine dropping 2,500 vertical feet of untouched powder off the rim of a volcanic caldera

© Maurtitius Images / Alamy

TORDRILLO MOUNTAINS, ALASKA

Officially first explored in 1898, the range remains virgin territory for adventurers. Imagine dropping 2,500 vertical feet of untouched powder off the rim of a volcanic caldera. And you took a helicopter to get there. That’s an average day at Tordrillo Mountain Lodge, deep in Alaska’s remote Tordrillo Range. A helicopter will deliver you and your skis or snowboard to the summits of volcanic peaks like 11,070-foot Mount Spurr or 9,147-foot Mount Hayes. Both peaks, conical mountains with glacial terrain and open bowls of deep snow, are located about a 10- to 15-mile heli flight from the lodge. 

WHERE TO STAY 

You’ll stay in the Tordrillo Mountain Lodge’s plush 5,600-square-foot lakeside log home and end the day dining on Alaskan king crab and soaking in a wood-fired hot tub. all-inclusive week-long packages start at $13,000; tordrillomountainlodge.com

WHAT TO BRING 

Poc’s Receptor Backcountry MIPS helmet offers style and protection from rotational impacts to your head so you can focus on what matters most: the heli-skiing. $260; pocsports.com 

it makes its presence felt often.

© Blaine Harrington III

YELLOWSTONE, WYOMING 

 

The park’s volcano is actually beneath the earth. And it makes its presence felt often. 

You can cross-country ski in the shadows of Bunsen Peak, an ancient volcano, and near the geothermal pools of Mammoth Hot Springs. Sign up for a guided ski tour (for rates and availability check trailguidesyellowstone.com) and your guide will break trail through the valley and help you spot the tracks of wildlife like elk, wolves, bison and moose. “There are less crowds in the winter in Yellowstone and it’s a great time to watch for wildlife,” says Brian Farrell, owner of the outfitter Trail Guides Yellowstone. 

WHERE TO STAY 

Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel is one of few hotels in Yellowstone you can drive to in the wintertime and it has easy access to ski trails. Book a cabin with its own six-person hot tub. From $140; yellowstonenationalparklodges.com

© Maurtitius Images / Alamy

WHAT TO BRING 

Rent cross-country ski gear from the Bear Den Ski Shop inside the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel (from $16 for a half day). Want to know how far you’ve gone? Track your distance, navigation, altitude and more on Garmin’s Fenix 3 watch. $500; garmin.com 

You can spot the blackened lava and jagged edges of the volcano

© AleSocc

MOUNT KILAUEA, HAWAII

Among the world’s most active volcanoes, Kilauea is a bit short on winter sports. 

WHERE TO STAY 

Sleep in a private bungalow surrounded by mango trees at Puakea Ranch on the north end of the island. from $275; puakearanch.com 

WHAT TO BRING 

Pack the waterproof and indestructible Olympus TG-4 camera to capture imagery and high-definition video of molten rock and dancing dolphins, then upload via built- in Wi-Fi to share with friends. $380; getolympus.com 

From the shores of the Big Island in Hawaii, you can spot the blackened lava and jagged edges of the volcano Mount Kilauea. And why not sightsee from the seat of a floating sea kayak? Rent a kayak or opt for a guided tour (from $29; konaboys.com) and you’ll paddle through the calm waters of Kealakekua Bay and experience some of the best snorkeling on the island, including coral reefs visible to 100 feet deep and a marine wildlife sanctuary that’s home to spinner dolphins, manta rays and eels. 

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01 2016 The Red Bulletin

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