Northern California Nature March 10, 2017
The Sapphire Lake In Northern California That’s Devastatingly Gorgeous
High in the remote Lassen Volcanic National Park is the bluest lake you will ever see. It’s fed by snow run off and is located in one of the most pristine national parks out west. Lake Helen’s sparkling blue waters are definitely a must see for any Northern California, especially those of us who like to get outside and see beautiful places.
Lake Helen is what is known as a tarn, or glacial lake. It was formed when water filled a natural cavity made by the movement of glaciers.
Today, it is still fed by the melted snow that falls in the colder months in this high elevation location.
In this aerial view, note Lake Helen and the jagged peak known as Brokeoff Mountain to the right of the lake. You can also see the southern part of Lassen Volcanic National Park.
The volcanic activity in this remote national park is what usually draws visitors, but without fail they stop and stare at the sapphire water of Lake Helen.
The reflective quality of these clear, calm waters is really something else. This is a very deep lake, reaching a depth of 110 feet.
The incredible blue color comes from the unique mineral content of the lake, as well as the pristine clarity of it's waters.
agle Peak and Lassen Peak are reflected in the glassy mid-morning waters of Lake Helen, Lassen Volcanic National Park.
The lake has no surface outlet, so water escapes from the lake by seeping through the porous ground and emerges in springs at a lower elevation.
It's ringed with the incredible peaks of the surrounding mountain range. Here you can see Lassen and Eagle Peaks reflect in the calm morning waters of Lake Helen.
The lake itself was named after Helen Tanner Brodt who in 1864 became the first woman to reach the summit of Lassen Peak, which you can take in a view of from the lake's shores.
The Lassen area was first protected by being designated as the Lassen Peak Forest Preserve. Lassen Peak and Cinder Cone were later declared as U.S. National Monuments in May 1907 by President Theodore Roosevelt. It was later declared a national park in 1916.
The lake can be seen from the popular 29 mile drive through the National Park, but we strongly encourage getting out and walking along the shoreline. Go for a quick swim if the weather is nice and you can tolerate the chilly water.
Unless, of course, it's frozen over! The lake is located at around 8,000 feet in elevation. The park see an average of about 600-700 inches of snowfall each winter, making this one of the snowiest places in California.
The vivid aqua color of the meltoff on the lake is something to behold. This can be easily seen on Lake Helen and its neighbor, Emerald Lake.
You can also hike into Bumpass Hell from this spot. It's one of the most visited locations in Lassen and is like a mini Yellowstone.
Whatever you do while you are here, we guaranteed that you will be wowed by the spectacular blue water to be found in this national park. But don't take our word for it, go see it for yourself!
Have you visited Lake Helen? Share your pictures and stories with us on Facebook and Instagram. If you are looking for more Northern California adventures, take a look at
10 Under Appreciated State Parks in Northern California You Are Sure To Love.