With a diverse landscape, Lassen Volcanic National Park is a destination you can’t miss while visiting Northern California. This national park truly has it all, even four types of volcanoes. You’ll find crystal-clear lakes, boiling mud pots, epic hiking trails, and a lot of wildlife. After visiting for my first time this last year on an outdoor socially-distanced weekend, I found myself eager to return again. The sheer beauty and untouched aspect to this park took me by surprise.
Open year-round, Lassen gets all four seasons in their full force. The winter months are full of snow, often making it difficult to access the park and trails. But by spring, the meadows turn into inviting green fields overflowing with wildflowers. The summer and fall months are also popular when the snowmelt gives access to higher peaks, most notably, Mount Lassen.
Whichever way you may choose to experience Lassen Volcanic National Park, it’s a place for those looking to disconnect and reconnect with nature. These are the six epic things to do when visiting.
Walk to the Hydrothermal Area of Bumpass Hell
The most active hydrothermal areas in all of Lassen is in the area of Bumpass Hell. Parking at the main lot for Bumpass Hell will lead you to a 3-mile roundtrip trail that takes you out to the concentrated area.
Once you get to Bumpass Hell, there are boardwalks that will take you through the turquoise pools of steaming water. Be very mindful that you cannot get in these waters for a soak, they are incredibly hot. So be sure to follow the designated trails. The colors and scenery here feel out of this world, with bright colored pools and bubbling mud pots.
Spend the Day at Manzanita Lake
With a plethora of lakes to choose from in Lassen, one of the best is Manzanita Lake. There is so much to do here, whether you choose to rent a kayak and get out, or even just walk the trail that circles the lake. You can even swim in the lake if you need to cool off from the heat of summer.
My favorite evening was spent catching the sunset at Manzanita Lake where you can see Mount Lassen. As the sun started to drop, the sky lit up with pastel colors and the peak reflected onto the lake. If you’re into photography, I’d highly recommend getting there about an hour before sunset to get out to the far side of the lake with the view.
Take a Hike to the Top of Cinder Cone Volcano
Not for the faint of heart, the hike to the top of Cinder Cone is well worth the effort. The reward is a bucket list experience of hiking up a dormant volcano and possibly the most epic view in the park.
Starting at Butte Lake Campground, you’ll take the Cinder Cone Trailhead and follow this all the way up. I can promise you that the last stretch will be the hardest as each step on the loose gravel will have you slide down a bit. Once you get to the top, it is certainly all worth it. A rewarding part of the hike is the opportunity to see the Painted Dunes. The distant rolling hills are colored with red and orange, spotted with trees. Just be sure to pack lots of water for this hike as you will be exposed to the sun for the majority of it.
See Sulphur Works
The most accessible hydrothermal areas in the park is located just off the road towards the Southwest Entrance. Named Sulphur Works, you can find boiling pots and colorful pools here. Park in the designated lot and follow the paved sidewalk to take a look at the hydrothermal area.
As the sun starts to go down, you may notice just how clear the sky is in Lassen Volcanic National Park. There is virtually no light pollution and the open skies give away to some of the best stargazing around.
For those looking to get a great look at the stars and galaxies, you won’t want to miss a night of stargazing.
Enjoy Kings Creek Meadow and Kings Creek Falls
Kings Creek Meadow looks like a scene from a movie where a lush green meadow has a single creek running through it. I’d recommend bringing a packed lunch here and enjoying the view. I came back twice to enjoy the area as it is serene and peaceful.
Afterwards, just up the road, you can follow the trail to Kings Creek Falls. The 2.2mile round trip trail takes you out to cascading falls through a lush area. It’s a very popular trail, so you could opt to do this first in the morning and then relax at the nearby meadow afterwards.
A few travel tips for visiting Lassen Volcanic National Park:
- When visiting California, please be sure to travel responsibly and safely.
- The park is quite limited in services, so it is best to fill up on gas before entering the park. Manzanita Campground does have a gas station but is usually only serving 87. You can fill up at the closest towns of Old Station or Chester.
- If you plan to stay in the park, do make a reservation in advance as the campgrounds get full.
- The best time to visit the park is in the late spring to early fall after the roads are clear and before the next winter.
- I recommend packing your own food as the Manzanita camper store is limited in supplies. It’s good to note that the amenities in the park are nothing near of what you would find at say Yosemite National Park.
- For more travel tips, check out this Guide to Visiting Lassen Volcanic National Park.
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