Ten Active Volcanoes to See in the US

While over 160 active vol­ca­noes can be found in the States, a hand­ful see dai­ly activ­i­ty or fre­quent erup­tions; but many have sat qui­et­ly for thou­sands of years. If you are a bud­ding geol­o­gist or just an inter­est­ed hik­er, then it’s rec­om­mend­ed to check out all the infor­ma­tion pro­vid­ed by the Unit­ed States Geo­log­i­cal Sur­vey, USGS, con­cern­ing vol­ca­noes, and to go check out some of America’s active vol­ca­noes yourself.

Mt. HoodMt. Hood, Oregon
Accord­ing to the USGS, Mt. Hood has seen some explo­sive activ­i­ty in the past 1,500 years and labels Mt. Hood’s threat poten­tial as very high. The 11,000-plus foot Mt. Hood can be climbed to the top year-round, with most ascents occur­ring in May and June. Oth­er pop­u­lar ways to explore the active vol­cano that is Mt. Hood include stay­ing at the His­toric Tim­ber­line Lodge and explor­ing the sprawl­ing trail net­work of the sur­round­ing Mt. Hood Nation­al Forest.


Lassen PeakLassen Peak, California
The last notable erup­tion of Lassen Peak occurred in 1915, send­ing debris of ash out in a 20-mile radius. Geol­o­gists put the chances of see­ing a major erup­tion out of Lassen Peak as rel­a­tive­ly low for our life­times, but it’s not just Lassen Peak itself that sci­en­tists are keep­ing an eye on. The entire­ty of Lassen Vol­canic Nation­al Park has been active for over three mil­lion years, and evi­dence of this can eas­i­ly be found today with the many fumaroles, hot springs and bub­bling mud pits found through­out the area.


Mt RainierMt. Rainier, Washington
It might not be news to some that Mt. Rainier is a large stra­to­vol­cano, but some might be sur­prised to know that it is also con­sid­ered the most threat­en­ing vol­cano in the Cas­cades. Some of the threat of Mt. Rainier comes from its prox­im­i­ty to major pop­u­la­tion areas like Seat­tle and Taco­ma, but based on its geol­o­gy and sur­round­ing land­scapes, the real dan­ger of Rainier comes from its pos­si­ble quick melt­ing of snow upon erup­tion, cre­at­ing vol­canic mud­slides that could reach as far as the Puget Sound. While there is no cur­rent fore­cast for the next Mt. Rainier erup­tion, sci­en­tists and the USGS are fair­ly cer­tain that warn­ing signs such as earth­quakes and increas­es in the volcano’s tem­per­a­ture will pro­vide ample time for res­i­dents and vis­i­tors to prepare.


Caldera YellowstoneYel­low­stone Caldera, Wyoming
Vol­canic activ­i­ty from years ago is very much present today and on dis­play in Yel­low­stone, and a large por­tion of the park con­tains the Yel­low­stone Caldera, wide­ly con­sid­ered to be the largest vol­canic sys­tem in North Amer­i­ca. Cre­at­ed by mas­sive erup­tions that took place more than 600,000 years ago, the Yel­low­stone Caldera has also been referred to as a super­vol­cano, mean­ing it could be capa­ble of a mas­sive erup­tion result­ing in more than 240 cubic miles of spread­ing magma.

The sci­ence is still out for when the next major erup­tion will hap­pen in Yel­low­stone, but the NPS doesn’t think it will hap­pen with­in the next 10,000 years. Con­tain­ing rough­ly 10,000 geot­her­mic fea­tures, includ­ing fumaroles, hot springs, and boil­ing rivers, all of Yel­low­stone’s unique fea­tures can thank the vol­canic activ­i­ty for their upris­ing, includ­ing half of North America’s known geyser basins.


Three SistersThe Three Sis­ters, Oregon
As the USGS likes to refer to them, the Three Sis­ters are real­ly a clus­ter of glaciat­ed stra­to­vol­ca­noes. Locat­ed with­in close dis­tance to the town of Sis­ters, Ore­gon, togeth­er the Three Sis­ters make up a com­pound vol­cano and rep­re­sent the third, fourth and fifth high­est peaks in Ore­gon. Each sis­ter has a dif­fer­ent geo­log­i­cal make­up, but all three pro­vide excit­ing adven­ture oppor­tu­ni­ties year-round. Of par­tic­u­lar note, the South Sis­ter is com­mon­ly referred to as a great intro­duc­tion into moun­taineer­ing, as it can be done with­out any tech­ni­cal equip­ment. The climb­ing sea­son for South Sis­ter is typ­i­cal­ly into late sum­mer and ear­ly fall, with ide­al weath­er need­ed to sum­mit safely.


Kilauea HawaiiHawai’i Vol­ca­noes Nation­al Park, Hawai’i
Both Kīlauea and Mau­na Loa vol­ca­noes have seen activ­i­ty in recent years, includ­ing cur­rent erup­tion activ­i­ty from Kīlauea, and both con­tin­ue to shape the land­scape they inhab­it. Vis­i­tors to Hawai’i Vol­ca­noes Nation­al Park can see this vol­canic action in per­son and from a safe dis­tance, with park guides and resources to cue them in on the earth-shap­ing sci­ence tak­ing place. For a unique Hawai’i and vol­cano expe­ri­ence, back­coun­try camp­sites and cab­ins are avail­able at Hawai’i Vol­ca­noes Nation­al Park, and offi­cials advise that if the unlike­ly event of a lava out­break occurs on the trail, hik­ers need to move uphill and upwind of any vol­canic activity.


Mt ShastaMt. Shas­ta, California
Mt. Shas­ta is a tow­er­ing stra­to­vol­cano that the USGS believes incurs an erup­tion every 600 to 800 years. While no doc­u­ment­ed evi­dence sup­ports the claims, sci­en­tists believe that Mt. Shas­ta last had an erup­tion between 200 and 300 years ago. Add it up all you like, but any impend­ing erup­tions don’t seem to slow down the many recre­ation­ists who use this active vol­cano for fun. Stand­ing at over 14,000 feet, you can find climbers try­ing to make their way up to the top of Shas­ta, with the most favor­able con­di­tions occur­ring in May and June before all the snow cov­er­age melts. All ascents of Mt. Shas­ta include an approach through the Shas­ta-Trin­i­ty Nation­al For­est, which makes the attempt well worth your time.


mount redoubtMount Redoubt, Alaska
Home to more than three-quar­ters of U.S. erup­tions over the last 200 years, Alas­ka has 130 vol­ca­noes with­in its bound­aries, of which, 90 have been active in the last 10,000 years and can be expect­ed to erupt again. A good way to get a glance at this under­ground activ­i­ty is by vis­it­ing Lake Clark Nation­al Park and Pre­serve locat­ed about 100 miles south­west of Anchor­age. In 1989–1990, Mount Redoubt had sev­er­al major erup­tions, which sig­nif­i­cant­ly affect­ed the sur­round­ing avi­a­tion and com­mer­cial trans­porta­tion industries.


Mt BakerMt. Bak­er, Washington
Dom­i­nat­ing the sky­line of Belling­ham and Van­cou­ver, British Colum­bia, Mt. Bak­er isn’t just a source of year-round recre­ation, it is also the north­ern­most vol­cano in the con­tigu­ous Unit­ed States. The most recent and vis­i­ble activ­i­ty on Mt. Bak­er came in 1975 when the area known as Sher­man Crater began steam­ing and show­ing signs of erup­tion. Cur­rent­ly, Sher­man Crater has remained intact, but the new steam did sig­ni­fy changes in the volcano’s inte­ri­or, perk­ing up the ears and inter­est of sci­en­tif­ic com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers. This vol­canic activ­i­ty doesn’t seem to slow the pop­u­lar­i­ty of this 10,000-plus foot peak though, or the sur­round­ing Mt. Bak­er-Sno­qualmie Nation­al For­est, which hosts every­thing from down­hill ski­ing in the win­ter to back­pack­ing through­out the rest of the seasons.


San Francisco PeaksSan Fran­cis­co Peaks, Arizona
Locat­ed just north of Flagstaff, the San Fran­cis­co Peaks is part of the larg­er San Fran­cis­co Vol­canic Field that cov­ers 1,800 square miles and encom­pass­es more than 600 vol­ca­noes. This vol­canic activ­i­ty that has been going on for over six mil­lion years has giv­en life to adven­ture-rich areas like Coconi­no and Kaibab Nation­al Forests, as well as Arizona’s high­est point, Humphrey’s Peak, which stands as the defin­ing fea­ture of the for­mer San Fran­cis­co Moun­tain. More erup­tions in the San Fran­cis­co Vol­canic Field are expect­ed to hap­pen, though it could be thou­sands of years from now. But with such var­ied topog­ra­phy and recre­ation­al oppor­tu­ni­ties, this vol­canic field already offers, no one is in a big hur­ry to see any changes.