Things to Do at Lassen Volcanic National Park

California has some amazing National Parks that protect some of the most diverse and beautiful places in the country. Home to eight National Parks and many more national historic sites that protect marine life, mountains, deep valleys, sand dunes, desert, redwood trees, volcanoes and miles of wilderness.
Lassen Volcanic is one of 8 California National Parks 
Yosemite, Joshua Tree and Death Valley are perhaps the most well known California parks but one of my personal favorites is Lassen Volcanic National Park. Located just south of the border with Oregon on California’s North Eastern Corner.  Lassen is a vibrant and mesmerizing park, full of volcanoes that have shaped a colorful and rugged landscape, dotted with glacier lakes, beautiful forest, hot springs and incredible hiking. ​
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Teddy Roosevelt helped make Lassen Volcanic into a National Monument back in 1907 and a few years later in 1916 it became a National Park. Part of the ring of fire the area has more than a dozen volcanoes several of which are still active.  I visited in September and was welcomed into the park with thousands of wild flowers. I had just two days to explore the park and was able to see a lot! Here are some of the best things to see and do while you are in the park.

Manzanita Lake

Manzanita Lake is a can’t miss area of the park. One of the park entrances, as well as the general store and main cabins and campground are found right on the shores of the lake and the view of Lassen Peak which you can see from the water cannot be beat. Manzanita Lake is a great place to camp for those spending a few nights in the park and wanting to be near services and food. You can also rent kayaks or canoes to use on the lake for an afternoon of day dreaming or trout fishing.
Speaking of lodgings, outside of the cabins and campgrounds within Lassen Volcanic some of the best places to stay are in nearby lakeside Vacation Rentals, or in the nearby city of Redding, just 45 minutes away.

Bumpass Hell

Bumpass Hell is the most hydrothermal area in the park, filled with mud pots, steam vents and bubbling areas of earth. Fed by the underground Lassen Hydrothermal area which goes through much of the park, water and steam here have reached temperatures as high as  322°F, while some of the waterways may look safe, they are typically very acidic and not suitable for bathing. This area can be reached via two different trails. The 3 mile Bumpass Hell Loop Trail as well as a 5.2-mile round-trip trail from Kings Creek Picnic Area via Cold Boiling Lake. For more information visit the National Park Service. 
Note: This trail typically does not open until early to mid July due to heavy snow pack. 

Cooling my feet in Lake Helen

After the often hot walk to Bumpass Hell, the best way to cool off is a quick dip in the icy coolness of Lake Helen. This glacial lake is located just down the road from the parking lot to Bumpass Hell. When I visited there were a few people swimming in the icy waters, which may not be for everyone, but I would recommend taking off your hiking boots and sticking your feet in for a few. It was quite refreshing. In the backdrop of Lake Helen you will see the backside of Lassen Peak. The lake is named for Helen Tanner Brodt who was the first women to reach the top of Lassen Peak in 1864.
Speaking of Lassen Peak, hiking to its summit is another great way to see the park. Lassen Peak is the southernmost volcano in the Cascades range with an elevation of 10,463 feet. The volcano is still active but currently dormant. Its last eruption was in 1917. The hike to the summit is just 2.5 miles each way, and takes 3-5 hours for most people.

Looking out over Lassen from the Kings Creek Trail

Kings Creek Waterfall is also a beautiful hike to take in some of the more forested areas of the park. Accessible via a 2.7 mile out and back trail located on HWY 89, it takes you through the forest passed some beautiful vistas and finally to the magnificent Kings Creek Waterfall.

Cinder Cone Volcano at Butte Lake

One of my favorite areas of the park is Butte Lake. If you are a geology lover this will be your favorite too, as its home to the newest volcano in the park which is surrounded by a massive area of volcanic lapilli and bombs called the Fantastic Lava Beds. Further ringed by the painted dunes of pumice, that make for a colorful and vibrant landscape, it’s absolutely stunning.  Butte Lake itself is one of the lesser visited areas of the park, located on the NorthEast side of the park, access to this area is not done through the main gate, and many people do not make the drive. Camping or boating here offers a bit of solitude, as does exploring the pine forests that surround the Cinder Cone Volcano. The Cinder Cone volcano is just 350 years old, and one can actually hike to see the caldera and fall out that it’s last eruption caused. This hike which is technically only 800 vertical feet is one of the most challenging in the park and takes about 3 hours roundtrip. Watch the video above to see the view from the summit of the Painted Dunes and Lassen Peak.

View of Lassen Peak from Cinder Cone Summit

Since my visit to Lassen Volcanic I have been eager to head back. It is one of my favorite California National Parks and does not get the attention it deserves. Never have I visited a landscape with so much diversity and beauty in such a small area.



Let me know if you’ve been to Lassen, and what your favorite place was? 

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