Here’s how the story goes: In 1865, a pioneer named Kendall Vanhook Bumpass, who had discovered the site the year before, guided a newspaper editor interested in covering it. While showing off his discovery, Bumpass stepped on what looked to be ground but was really only a thin crust covering boiling liquid. The crust broke, his leg plunged through into the scalding muck, and his injuries were so severe his limb had to be amputated.
Afterward, he reportedly said, “The descent to hell is easy.”
Actually, the hike is easy — easy enough for families with young ones; I saw several as I traversed the three-mile round trip. The 1 1/2 miles slope down only 300 feet,although the thin air at this elevation (8,000 feet) can make the hike seem more difficult. The sulfureous vapor emanating from below probably doesn’t help your oxygen intake either.
My Lassen visit is recorded here.