The 3 best things to do in Lassen Volcanic National Park
Lassen Volcanic National Park is one of the best kept secrets in busy California. Seated only a four-ish hour drive from San Francisco and boasting a truly insane and diverse landscape, it's surprising this park doesn't get more yearly visitors. The insanity of this park stems from the fact that Lassen Volcanic National Park is, big shocker, quite volcanic. Actually, the area is so volcanic that it even contains all four types of volcanoes found on planet earth, creating a hodgepodge of scenery and micro-environments that seemingly don't fit together. For instance, some sections feel like you've found a secret portal into Yellowstone National Park, with boiling mud pits and spectacularly colorful rocks and pools, while others provide classic Sierra Nevada alpine vibes with jagged peaks and rolling evergreen covered mountains. Then, out of nowhere, you approach the Cinder Cone Volcano on the northeastern side of the park and are convinced this is what visiting the moon would be like. Amazingly, all of this exists within a fairly small National Park (only 166 square miles)!
Anyway, all of this to say, visit Lassen Volcanic National Park. Start packing, go now! What are you waiting for?
Okay, great, so we've established that you're going. Well, here are the 3 best things to check out in Lassen Volcanic National Park to help you start planning your trip.
The 3 Best Things In Lassen Volcanic National Park:
1. Bumpass Hell (3.0 mile hike round trip)
Bumpass Hell is a prime example of the Yellowstone-like and actively volcanic landscapes that exist in Lassen. This is actually the most popular trail in the park and understandably so because it's completely out of this world. Features like boiling mud baths, gas expelling fumaroles, and colorful rock from years of angrily sputtering earth blow you away as you wander through this valley.
A fair warning for y'all who don't like to stay on the trails - I HIGHLY RECOMMEND YOU STAY ON THE TRAILS. This valley is called Bumpass Hell for a reason. Way back when, a fine gentleman named Mr. Bumpass used to provide walking tours of this odd land to visitors from near and far. Unfortunately, while giving one of these tours, the ever-changing ground gave way under his foot and he found himself leg deep in a boiling bath of water and volcanic earth. He lost that leg.. Do yourself a favor and stay on the trails and boardwalks.
2. Lassen Peak (5 mile hike round trip)
To be completely honest, this is a difficult hike. You rise nearly 2,000 feet in 2.5 miles, but it's so worth it!
Here's why. The views are incredible. On a clear day, you can see the impressively isolated Mount Shasta in the distance, but also get views of the mountains and park surrounding Lassen Peak, including Brokeoff Mountain and the Cinder Cone.
Advice: pack warmly; the top can be very cold.
Also, there is a pretty sweet rock scramble at the very end after you cross an all-season bed of snow. This is the only way to reach the absolute top and best view in the park.
For those who aren’t up for the challenging journey to the top, fear not and don’t be discouraged from hiking just a portion of the trail. The views are fantastic the whole way up so you can go as far as you'd like and won’t be disappointed with your sample of the scenery. Also, pausing to check out your beautiful surroundings on the journey upward makes for an excellent excuse to take frequent breaks. Hint, hint - this may just be the ticket to pushing yourself to the top. No one said you had to do it quickly…
3. Cinder Cone (aka the Moon)
Forget rocket ships and space suits. All you need to feel like an astronaut is visit the Cinder Cone at Lassen Volcanic National Park. This mountain, mound, hill, crater, or whatever you want to call it of volcanic ash is one of the weirdest and most shocking things you'll find in California. The Cinder Cone truly feels out of place since nothing else in the area, let alone state, is anything like this. You'll just have to go there for yourself to really understand the oddness. The immediately surrounding is fascinating too, with the painted dunes and rugged lava beds.
Lassen Accommodation: Camping and Non-Camping
Camping: Manzanita Lake Campground
My main recommendation is to camp at Manzanita Lake Campground. Its very centrally located in the park and there are incredible views of Lassen Peak from the lake. Waking up has never been so pretty!
Non-camping option(s): If you’re not interested in camping, the National Parks Service has gathered a pretty extensive list of non-camping accommodations on their webpage.
I hope you have a grand ole’ time in Lassen! Send some pics :p
Ah yes..before I forget..we’re on social media!