Tucked up in the very northeastern corner of California sits the unassuming yet magical wilderness area of Lassen Volcanic National Park. An hour drive directly East from Redding California will deliver you to the Loomis Ranger Station entrance to over 106,000 acres of protected land of lush wildflower meadows, jagged mountains, thermal springs, active volcanoes and more.
Lassen Volcanic National Park is home to the largest plug dome volcano, and is one of the few places on earth to contain all four types of volcanoes. Want to learn more? Here is your complete guide to Lassen Volcanic National Park.
History of Lassen
Lassen Volcanic National Park did not start its public lands life as a National Park. Instead, this unique landscape was first protected by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1907 as two separate and distinct national monuments: the Cinder Cone National Monument and the Lassen Peak National Monument. This all changed in the late spring of 1914. That May, and lasting all the way until 1917, a good three years later, a series of eruptions began to occur on Lassen Peak. These minor, and at times major eruptions, combined with the unusual volcanic beauty of the landscape motivated lawmakers to combine Lassen Peak National Monument with Cinder Cone National Monument to create what is now Lassen Volcanic National Park on August 9, 1916.
Today this hidden gem sees just under 500,000 visitors annually. And when you compare those visitor numbers to National Park giants like Yosemite National Park and Yellowstone National Park who see upwards of 4 million guests each year, you know you are guaranteed a lesser known park with many epic views and way less crowds.
Hiking At Lassen
Lassen Volcanic National Park contains more than 150 miles of designated hiking trails throughout the Lassen Volcanic Wilderness. Even the crown jewel, the Pacific Crest Trail, hikes directly through the park boundaries. While exploring you will get to experience hydrothermal areas with sulfur bubbling waters, jagged and beautiful volcanic peaks, crisp alpine lakes, and mountain meadows lined with wildflowers in late spring. Here are some of my favorite, must see trails ranging from easy, short jaunts to more difficult yet worth it views.
- Bumpass Hell: I will be completely honest with you, the name of this trail was the main reason I first hiked it. This 3-mile out and back is a gradual climb the first mile before a 200-foot descent into the basin. Once there you get the unique experience of walking on top of hot hydrothermal areas on a man crafted boardwalk. The colors are phenomenal and the history a more dark reminder to watch your step.
- Cinder Cone Nature Trail: Although this trail is just 4 miles, the last half mile is a steep hike in sandy volcanic ash up to the incredible sand volcano. From here are sweeping views of the fantastic lava beds and even Lassen Peak in the distance. It is a unique trek, almost like walking on Mars.
- Lassen Peak: This popular 5-mile hike gives you the opportunity to stand on top of the National Park’s crowning jewel. An almost 2,000-foot elevation gain with an easier scramble at the very top gives this climb a difficult but completely doable rating. Honestly, how many times can you say you stood on an active volcano that last erupted less than 100 years ago?
- Manzanita Lake Loop: At just shy of 2 miles in total, the Manzanita Lake Trail is one of a handful of walks in the park with scenic views of the iconic Lassen Peak. As you enjoy your stroll keep a lookout for songbirds, raptors, water birds, Black-tailed deer, Douglas squirrels, and golden-mantled ground squirrels who call this habitat home.
Climbing At Lassen
For any of those dirtbag rock climbing lovers out there, Lassen Volcanic National Park is a perfect climbing spot where the Sierra’s and Cascades meet. The volcanic rock terrain gives a ton of choices of style, grade, and approach to choose from. There are over 122 routes along the five climbing areas ranging from easy 5.4 ratings all the way up to professional 5.14 challenges. There are also bouldering spots, trad climbs, top rope options as well as sport. Below are quick overviews of some favorite crags but for more in depth details make sure you check out: Lassen Volcanic National Park – A Climber’s Guide by John F. Bald.
- Eagle Peak: Located right near Lassen Peak is the long rock band of Eagle Peak. All of these are single pitch volcanic routes, with everything from 5.4 to 5.13+ projects, trad, sport, and toprope. Because you have a bit of a climb to reach the crag, this is a great place to beat the heat of the lower elevations and still be in the sun. Be aware though that these classic routes were developed near the dawn of sport climbing. Unfortunately that can mean many of the bolts on Eagle Peak are old, rusty time-bombs with a good amount of space between each bolt. Always check if they are secure before climbing.
- Bellybutton: This area has 40 climbs to choose from ranging from 5.7 to 5.12 in difficulty. The Bellybutton is the large rock wall on the west face of Lassen Peak. Similar to Eagle Peak you can reach the wall by hiking up the summit trail. You can actually see the boulders from the parking lot to help guide you to the climbs.
- Raker Peak: This cliff band is approximately a 1/4 mile hike east of highway 89 which runs through the entire park. From there you walk up the shallow gully staying to the base of the Finger Rake Area on the western facing wall of Raker Peak. The rock here has a quality range that spans a range from granite hard to more crumbling sections. And there are many difficult climbs as well as easy fun routes to explore. But always keep in mind when climbing that even though some of the rock seems bulletproof, “don’t take it for Granite”!
Places To Stay In Lassen
Since Lassen Volcanic National Park is a good day’s drive from Orange County, you are going to want to make a vacation out of your visit here and stay awhile. There are a few ways you can rest your head in and around the National Park. You can pitch a tent, stay at a campground, or find a local hotel or Airbnb. Here is what you need to know before you go:
- Camping: Within the National Park boundaries are seven designated campgrounds. Only the Southwest Summit Lake campground is open year round with 20 walk-in sites. The rest require reservations for your stay. Not feeling like a tent? Check out Manzanita Lake where you can rent one of their quaint camping cabins.
- Guest Ranches: What is cooler than a guest ranch? A stay where all meals are included maybe? The Drakesbad Guest Ranch is a secluded getaway lodge at the southeast end of Lassen Volcanic National Park. The property has 19 traditional lodges and smaller bungalow units. Other perks with staying here include guided horseback rides, fishing, and a swimming pool naturally heated by the local hot springs.
- Traditional Hotel: If you are looking for something more along the traditional hotel route than the best spot to stay is Best Western Rose Quartz Inn. This mountain hotel is located in Chester, California, southeast of Lassen Volcanic National Park. The Inn has features such as a 24-hour fitness center, game room, basketball court and seasonal spa, as well as a complimentary continental breakfast for guests during their stay.
While visiting any National Park always remember that pets are not allowed on any trails or backcountry area. Also practice Leave No Trace principles such as pack out what you pack in, not disturbing wildlife and leaving only footprints and taking only pictures. Personally, Lassen Volcanic National Park holds a very special place in my heart. So much so I was actually hesitant to even share about it in order to keep its pristine beauty all for myself! But happiness is best when shared so I truly hope you have the best time visiting Lassen Volcanic National Park.
|Joshua Tree Camping, Hiking & More||Amazing Day Trips 90 Minutes or Less From OC|
|Guide To Yosemite National Park||How To Get a Hotel Day Pass|
|Sequoia and Kings Canyon||Death Valley|
Kaitlin is a former ballerina who now travels around the country in an 18-foot converted school bus. Her and her husband have welcomed 34 sweet children into their home the past eleven years. Although they would not be a forever home for all of them, they adopted their daughter buckets and are legal guardians to their son monkey. Follow their crazy adventures on Instagram @runawaymusbus