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Just erupting to take a volcano vacation? Head out west and go with the flow at these scenic spots that will blow your top.

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Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway

Perhaps the best volcano drive-by in the continental United States is the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway. The 500-mile-long All-American Road spans California and Oregon. The Oregon portion is 140 miles long and its highlight is Crater Lake National Park.The road passes by an unforgettable landscape created by eons of eruptions and lava flows. Crater Lake itself is the result of an ancient volcano blowing its top. The force was so powerful that it left a hole 1,943 feet deep, making  Crater Lake the deepest lake in the United States. Those driving the Oregon circuit should also make a stop at the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex.

Mt Shasta | Photo courtesy of Chris Flentye

Lava Beds National Monument

Over the border in California, check out Mount Shasta before proceeding to explore the mysteries of magma at Lava Beds National Monument and the 129-foot-tall Burney Falls. The byway finishes its path at Lake Almanor, just miles past the active geothermal area at Lassen Volcanic National Park.

Lassen | Photo courtesy of Chris Flentye

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lassen Volcanic National Park contains the southernmost volcano in the Cascades, along with towering pinnacles formed by lava flows. The 30-mile Lassen Volcanic National Park Highway offers an excellent introduction to the park. It includes views of fumaroles, boiling mudpots and glacial lakes. Make sure to experience the majesty of Lassen Peak from the highest point on the road at 8,512 feet.

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Mount St. Helens Johnston Ridge Loop

If you were around back then, it’s hard to forget the major eruption of Washington’s Mount St. Helens in 1980. Its powerful impact can be seen along the route of the Mount St. Helens Johnston Ridge Loop of the White Pass Scenic Byway. The route goes through the eruption zone, where the damage by Mother Nature caused is still apparent. In some cases, though, the results are surprising. For example, Coldwater Lake formed when Coldwater Creek was blocked by a post-eruption landslide. A healthy lake ecosystem has since developed there  to the point where visitors can paddle around it or fish.  At Johnston Ridge Observatory, discover how the landscape was reshaped by the eruption and discover how volcanoes are monitored today.

Multiple routes on Big Island, Hawaii

Given that the island of Hawaii, aka the Big Island, is the state’s biggest island and is made up of five volcanoes, you’ll see spitting images from coast to coast. To view all five volcanoes—Maunaloa, Hualalai, Maunakea, Kohala and Kilauea—on one drive, take the Hawaii Belt Road which circumnavigates the island. Another option is the Kohala Mountain Road, which cuts right through one volcano and also provides stunning views of the Kohala Coast. Saddle Road runs by a triad of volcanoes—Hualalai, Maunaloa and Maunakea. Weather permitting, lucky travelers may even see snow atop the latter two peaks. The Chain of Craters Road within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is a great option for cruising on Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes.

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Tagged: Feature, Hawaii

Laura Powell

Laura Powell

Laura is a 20-year veteran travel journalist. She was CNN's first travel reporter, and has written for publications ranging from Alaska Airlines Magazine to The Washington Post. Find her at the www.dailysuitcase.com or on Twitter: @dailysuitcase

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