When i was planning my trip to California thinking of visiting some national parks , Lassen Volcanic National Park – did not make to my list. Reason – I slacked on my homework and totally ignored this gem of national park that has pleothara of activities to do , sights to see and that strange volcanic activities to show that no other national park in California could offer. Lassen also known as mini Yellowstone truly illustrates Earth’s powerful forces. Combine that with the fact that Lassen peak is one of the largest plug dome volcanoes in the world that continues to be monitored by scientists for next eruption , makes it even more irresistible. Lassen Volcanic National park is easy to explore and has activities for all kinds of people . Water lovers can kayak in snow fed lakes , thrill seekers can hike up the Lassen Mountain and for people who want to learn more about Earth’s intricacies – there are programs that will take you to bubbling mudpots and hissing steam vents. Not to mention if you’re looking for something a little less discovered (at least to those living in the Bay Area) and a little more calm and quiet then my ” Lassen Volcanic National Park – A weekend Trip” guide , will surely come handy. So bookmark this article .
How to Reach :
You will need car to reach to the park and then to explore it. There is no public transport that could take you to the park. If you are living around Bay Area , Lassen is located at a mere 4 hours north of San Francisco. A weekend trip to Lassen is also very doable from other nearby cities including Reno, Nevada (2.5 hours), Vacaville/Sacramento, CA (3 hours), and Concord, CA (3.5 hours).
We drove from Redwood to Lassen crossing the state of Oregon in bits and pieces with a continuous view of Mount Shatra – the drive was amazing.
Where to Stay :
Campsites : The park’s eight camps differ in character and attract different types of campers. The most popular of all the campsites is the one close to Lake Manzanita as it offers the most amenities. The others that you can try to book are Summit Lake campgrounds, Southwest Walk-In Campsite , Butte Lake, Warner Valley, and Juniper Lake campsites.
Hotels : If you are looking for all urban facilities – head to the town of Redding which is about an hout away from park enterance and has all the facilities. There are numerous hotes in the area and since Lassen never gets too crowded , finding a hotel is never a problem. We visited this national park on July 4th weekend and we were able to get hotels in our price range.
Where did we stay – Best Western , Redding
When to Go :
The park witnesses heavy snowfall every year and it takes up to late summer or early fall for many areas to get cleared. We visited near July 4th and there was still snow near Lassen Peak trail-head. I will advise to visit this park between mid July and August end as conditions will be much better by then. But depending on the experience you want to seek , keep an eye out on thermal warnings , forest fires and conditions of the park in general. If you intend to do Bumpass Hell trail , check in advance with the park rangers as sometimes because of snow , they do not open the trail at all for the visitors.
Where to eat:
The park has absolutely no shops or restaurants except the gift shops at visitor’s center. I will advise to carry your own food and snacks. The town of Redding on the other hand has plenty of options , so you can get your food packed from here.
Things to see:
We entered in Lassen Volcanic National Park from Loomis Museum side. Starting from here following is the list of must -sees:
1) Manzanita Lake and Reflection Lake :
Right at the enterance , you will find these 2 amazing lakes where you can kayak or you can hike around the lakes. This place is also one of the most well equipped campsites. Head to the park’s visitor center to pick a map and book a campsite of you need.
2) Chaos Crags and Chaos Jumbles :
One of the greatest things of this park is its geology. I will suggest to read about it before going as it will give you perspective and make your visit even more enjoyable. Chaos Crags and Chaos Jumble is a unique point where all the rocks are brought in by forces of nature from a side of mountain by volcanic eruptions and later on by landslides. The rocks are round and you may try walking on them but chances are , you may twist your ankle. This is a spot where you will hardly spend 5 mins , but it is definitely worth a stop.
3) Devastated Area :
Up next on your route will be devastated area trailhead which offers excellent views of east side of Lassen Peak and will introduce to the effects of volcanic eruptions of Lassen Peak. Wandering through pink and gray lava rocks, interpretive plaques along the trail describe the creation of the devastated area and the remnants it left behind. This is a .5 mile hike and will take around 30 mins.
4) Summit Lake :
A charming high altitude( 7000 ft) lake that offers beautiful views , has a campsite and is excellent for a picnic and take a dip in the water.
5) Kings Creek Upper Meadow :
Another pit spot with some amazing photography opportunities. Meadows are beautiful and excellent for enjoying a picnic. I missed visiting Kings Creek Falls which I later came to know was just 1.5 mile hike away. I have seen photos of the falls on web , and I really regret not visiting them. Do add it to your list .
6) Bumpass Trail :
People go to Lassen specially for Bumpass trail. So its very important that you check on park’s website to make sure the trail is open for visitors. It is a three mile round-trip hike leads to a boardwalk where you can listen to bubbling mudpots, watch the steam escape from a fumarole (named Big Boiler), marvel at the unusual multi-colored soil, and watch the boiling pools of water. That being ssaid , this area stinks of sulphur smell. So if that bothers you , this hike is not for you.
Note : Bumpass trail is closed till December 2018 for maintenance work. We visited the park in July and trail was not open which was a big bummer.
7) Lake Helen and Emerald Lake :
From sulphur smell to crystal clear blue water – you will be amazed by the beauty of these lakes. Located at more than 8000 ft above the sea level , the water of the lakes is cold and not for swimming. Even in July we could see some sections of unmelted snow by the lake.
8) Sulphur Works :
Since Bumpass trail was close and i was bummed for not being able to see any geo-thermal activity – here comes Sulphur works that showed me all i needed to see. Just by the road – Sulphur Works is an area with bubbling mud pots and steam vents. There is a boardwalk along the road that you must stick to and keep an eye an on kids as going to unguarded areas can really be fatal. FYI – this area also smells of sulphur.
Beyond Lassen Volcanic National Park :
If you are visiting Lassen National Park , do add the following 2 waterfalls in your itinerary. Trust me – pure heaven.
1) Burney Falls :
These falls are not part of Lassen but rather a state park called – McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park. If you are driving from Redding to Lassen Volcanic National Park , these falls should come first after about an hour drive , followed by the national park. I personally had never heard of these falls and I was absolutely blown over when I visited these falls . I kept thinking – How come something this beautiful is less crowded than any other attraction in Bay area. You will understand my “less crowded statement” when you will see the beauty to visitors ratio of these waterfalls. It is breathtaking. For your GPS , try Burney Falls Parking Lot. From here it is a well marked- guided trail which will take you to the base of falls . Carry a snack or lunch with you and enjoy this 129 feet spectacle that was dubbed as ” the eighth wonder of the world ” by President Teddy Roosevelt. In my opinion , Burney falls are better than Niagara falls – I am not kidding. Burney Falls was my favorite part of our week long road trip in Nothern California. An absolute must see.
2) Moss Brae Falls :
You read directions , try to get as much information as possible from blogposts , you put GPS coordinates – still you are clue-less -> This pretty much summarises my experience about Moss Brae Falls. Undoubtedly, one of the most difficult waterfalls to locate – Mossbrae was experince of another kind for us. In order to find these waterfalls , try to find Hedge Creek Falls near Redding. From here walk down to the river – cross it from the shallow side and you will find yourself staring at Union Pacific Rail-Road. Walk on this Rail road for about a mile and as you get closer to the waterfall , you will hear the sound of trickling water. Just keep following the sound and voila you will see dozens of water streams trickling against a bright green mossy rock backdrop , truly making you feel as if you have reached Nirvana.
Keep few things in mind :
a) Walking on railroad is trespassing , so you are breaking the law.
b) This is a live rail. The Cargo trains do pass by so keep an ear on train sound.
c) Crossing the river is not very easy. The rocks are very very slippery.
d) The hike must be attempted in day time.
For a weekend or a long weekend- Lassen Volcanic National park and its surrounding areas will keep you entertained. The beauty of this area ( for at-least me) lies in the fact that it is so less crowded that you can enjoy it , the way you want it. From Waterfalls to the bubbling mud-pots , this area was truly my favorite part of road – tip. To be honest I liked it more than Yosemite. Do let me know in the comments below of you have visited this National park and how did you like it. Have you been to Burney Falls and Moss Brae Falls? How was your experience. Thank you so much for stopping by.
Note : Photo of Bumpass trail is taken from Google images.