Medicine Lake Highlands
The Medicine Lake Highlands were formed with the development of the broad shield-shaped Medicine Lake volcano around 500,000 years ago. The center block began to collapse along fractured lines between 180,000 and 100,000 years ago, creating an enclosed basin or caldera, 7.5 miles long by 4.3 miles wide. Lava then squeezed up the fracture lines forming rim volcanoes. The volcanoes discharged lava onto the caldera floor and down the outer edges of the original lake Highlands. Visitors can see most of the rim volcanoes, including Mt. Hoffman, Medicine Mountain, Badger Peak, Grouse Hill, Red Shale Butte, Glass Mountain, and Lyons Peak.
Medicine Lake Highlands is also an area of moderately sloping to steep mountains. Vegetation consists of sugar pine, red and white fir and at higher elevations lodgepole pine with an understory of bitterbrush, manzanita and snowbrush. Snow usually closes the Medicine Lake area from mid-November through mid-June. During this time, an average of 10 feet of snow prohibits access by all but over-the-snow vehicles and cross country skiers. The Doorknob Snowmobile Park is located one and a half miles south of Lava Beds National Monument. The Snow Park features a paved parking lot, warming hut and rest rooms. Groomed trails lead to Medicine Lake and three other Snow Parks on neighboring National Forests. The combined total of the trails in all three forests is over 200 miles. Download a trail map.
The Medicine Lake Highlands encompass an area of over 200 square miles and is one of North America's most unique geological areas. One of the most interesting volcanic formations in the Medicine Lake Highlands is the Glass Mountain Obsidian Flow. Another feature, Medicine Lake, has no known outlets yet the water remains clean and clear. It lies within the volcanic caldera of the largest volcano by volume in the Cascade Range.
Obsidian and pumice abound in the highlands and have been used by people through the ages. The area evidences thousands of years of Native American use. Glass Mountain was used as an obsidian quarry. Obsidian was prized for making sharp-edged tools, and was a popular trade item to other tribes from as far away as 100 miles.
Please Note: Collecting obsidian anywhere in the Medicine Lake Highlands is prohibited by law. The Modoc National Forest has four obsidian mines in the Warner Mountains near Davis Creek, Calif. on the east side of the forest where it is legal to collect obsidian with a free permit available from the Forest Supervisor's office in Alturas.
In the 1960's, NASA astronauts trained for future moon landings in the pumice fields of the highlands. Pumice has been quarried here for building materials and, more recently, used in creating the "stone washed" look of denim.
There are restrooms at the Medicine Lake day use area and campgrounds.