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45 Switchbacks. Ha. Ha. Ha.

Updated: Mar 23

Many times, we wake up on a weekend day and decide we're going somewhere. It's usually last-minute, but we're so used to it, we kind of know the drill of what we need to pack to get on the road quickly. Neither of us is a particularly early riser, which is probably why we end up hiking in the dark a lot and/or are the last car at the trailhead, but somehow, we still manage to make it happen.

Lassen Volcanic National Park is about 3 hours from us. That's doable in a day, plus time for a quick hike. My husband decided that today was the day we were going to hike up to Lassen Peak, our first 10k+ peak this year. It was only the second or maybe third time we'd been to this park and I still remember the first time because it was my first exposure to geothermal features and bubbling mud pits that reeked of sulphur. This time, however, we were on a mission to get to the trailhead and head on up to the top. After all, it's a measly 5-mile hike. How long and difficult could it possibly be?

Well, let me tell you. It took a little under 2.5 hours to complete. On the way down, my husband asked me how many switchbacks I thought there were. I guessed 28 and he guessed 32. So naturally, we had to count the switchbacks on the descent, because how else would we know who won?

45. Seriously. 45 switchbacks. I guess that's the best way to climb 2000 feet of elevation gain in 2.5 miles. Both of us were shocked at how many there actually were. I mean, it seemed like a lot of them on the way up, but maybe we were just so jaded by the unforgiving steep climb that our minds over-exaggerated the switchbacks. Nope. 45.

As we were counting them on the descent, I was making myself laugh by doing my best impression of The Count from Sesame Street. I knew it was my niece Nora rubbing off on me, as we had just spent a week together a month prior, and this was one of her new "tricks:"

Back on the trail, my husband asked me, "Are you going to do that for every one?"

Yup. Why not.

He did eventually join in.

And as we approached the final switchback, I just had to get it on video to send to my sister to show to Nora.

It was nice comic relief for a pretty tough hike.

At the top, I was really looking forward to my snack after all that climbing. It was extremely windy and a bit on the chilly side, especially after working up a sweat on the ascent, so I tried to find a wind break while staying in the sun for warmth, but nonetheless, it was pretty darn cold up there. And to think on our way up, we'd seen hikers wearing shorts!

Speaking of the windy conditions, we also saw a guy's hat fly off of his head about 2/3 of the way to the summit and tumble down a steep pile of volcanic rock over the edge of the trail. And I'll be darned if that guy didn't rock crawl his way down to retrieve it. He must have really liked that hat.

Despite freezing at the summit, on our descent we both commented on how blasted hot this hike would be during the summer. Full sun exposure the entire trail would make it brutally hot. So we were thankful we attempted this one during the fall. It was a challenging hike, but we were so happy to check it off our list.

Lassen Peak

Total Distance

5.00 mi

Total Time


Total Ascent

2,123 ft

Max Elevation

10,260 ft


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