Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center greets winter visitors in Lassen Volcanic National Park, California.
More than 400,000 people travel to northeast California each year to see the mud pots, fumaroles, crags, and lakes of Lassen Volcanic National Park. Yet the most popular entrance has never had a real welcome center. Summer visitors picked up maps in a crumbling former ski chalet: for the last 10 years, winter travelers got only a cold shoulder. But all that changed this fall when the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center opened near the southwest entrance on Highway 89.
A stop at the new center—whose name translates as "snowy mountain," the Mountain Maidu people's term for Lassen Peak—yields much more than a fistful of official brochures.
A striking film on the park's geologic and natural history presents a smart big-picture introduction. An interactive relief map, built to scale, illuminates various geological features around the park and offers a sense of scale and shows how the volcano came to be. While you're checking out models of the earth's four types of volcanoes (Lassen has all four), the kids will get a kick out of stomping on the floor to register "miniearthquakes" on the seismometer. (530) 595-4480, nps.gov/lavo
Photography by Melissa Barnes
This article was first published in January 2010. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.