Complete Tourist Guide to The Lassen Volcanic National Park, California

Updated on Dec 12, 2023 | Online US Visa

Northern California's Lassen Volcanic National Park, taking up the southernmost part of the Cascade Mountain range and enveloped by the Lassen National Forest, is a vast geologically active swath of wilderness where black bears and mountain lions roam and campers can find prime stargazing, trout fishing, miles of hikes, and winter snow.

The 166 square miles of the park contain one of only two active volcanoes in the lower 48 states during the twentieth century (Lassen Peak), tonnes of lakes, coniferous forests of fragrant pines and Douglas firs, glacial valleys, wildflower-covered meadows, and Yellowstone-like hydrothermal zones full of bubbly mud pots, sulphur vents, and steaming hot geysers, all at an elevation range of 5,650 to 10,457 feet above the ground.

No Native American tribes elected to reside in the Lassen area year-round due to the hard winter climate, high elevation, and temporary deer population. When the snow retreated and hunting and foraging conditions improved, four tribes (Atsugewi, Yana, Yahi, and Mountain Maidu) began to visit the area. Their descendants continue to work at the park. In the 1950s, an Atsugewi named Selena LaMarr became the park's first female naturalist. Since its inception, tribal people have worked as summer interpreters, cultural demonstrators, exhibit & artefact authenticators, and fact-checkers.

The Kohn Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center (Mountain Maidu for "snow mountain") was the first park structure to be named by the American Indian language when it opened in 2008. The Pit River Tribe and the Redding Rancheria are two of the anthropological tribes that have merged with others to become modern-day tribes. More information on the region may be found here in this article!

What Is the Best Way to Get There?

Lassen is situated on CA-89, a few miles north of the CA-36 intersection, just outside of Red Bluff and Mineral, California. Sacramento International Airport is a little under three hours away by a vehicle. The park is 44 miles from Redding Municipal Airport, which has direct flights to Los Angeles and San Francisco.

What Can You Do Here? 

Kohn Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center

The Kohn Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center, one mile from the southwest park gate, is a good place to get your bearings and plan your stay in Lassen. Exhibits, a help desk, an auditorium, a pavilion, a park store, a deck, a cafeteria, and a souvenir shop are all available on the premises.

The activities you engage in while visiting the park are mainly dependent on the season. Summer (mid-June to early September) has the most activities and is the simplest to get to. Hiking, non-motorized water sports, fishing, horseback riding, birdwatching, auto-touring, and other activities are available throughout the park. Summer has by far the most ranger-led events, such as evening chats, junior ranger activities, a junior firefighting programme, and stargazing. Talks, evening programmes, stargazing, and outdoor bird-banding displays are conducted from spring until fall. The Southwest Area's two-hour guided snowshoe treks, which take place from January to March, are a lovely exception.

The 30-mile park roadway, which runs between Manzanita Lake in the northwest and the park's southwest gates, is the principal route for exploring the park and contains the majority of the must-see attractions. There are three other roads in Warner Valley that lead to more remote areas: Juniper Lake and Butte Lake.

Because there is just one gas station inside park boundaries, fill up before you arrive (behind the Manzanita Lake Camper Store). It is only open from late May through late October.

Sulphur Works

One such item of interest is Sulphur Works, a former mineral mine created by an Austrian immigrant in the mid-nineteenth century that is now a roadside attraction maintained by his family. As you walk the short paved route through the park's most readily accessible hydrothermal region, its vibrant colours, moving soil, and powerful odours will stimulate all of your senses.

Because of its distant position, Lassen has little to no light pollution, making it an excellent area for stargazing. All through the summer, Rangers offer Starry Night events, and the park organises an annual Dark Sky Festival.

Loomis Museum

The Loomis Museum, which is only accessible during the summer, was erected by local photographer Benjamin Loomis and his wife Estella in 1927. It features a film, displays on eruptions and park history, a store, and a functional seismograph, as well as his photos of the park, particularly those capturing the 1914 to 1915 Lassen Peak eruptions, which helped drum up support for the park's establishment. The ancient stone structure is directly across the roadway from the Lily Pond Nature Trail.

Hikes and Trails to Try In The Area

Hikers will find themselves at stunning hydrothermal features, alpine lakes, volcanic peaks, and meadows thanks to the park's more than 150 km of paths. Follow the leave-no-trace mentality, stay on the route, but never feed wildlife like bears or the uncommon Sierra Nevada red fox to keep the wild atmosphere. In the winter, the trails are generally coated in powder and necessitate the use of skis or snowshoes. Some paths have even been reported to have snow in June and July.

  • A 17-mile section of the Pacific Crest Trail bisects the park.
  • Manzanita Lake Trail wraps around the eponymous loch and is ideal for novices because the elevation increase is minimal and the trail is less than two miles long.
  • The 2.3 mile Kings Creek Falls loop has steep slopes, a marsh crossing, a log bridge, and a high elevation, but hikers are rewarded with a 30-foot-tall drop.
  • Do not be put off by the name. The 3 mile Bumpass Hell Trail gives visitors access to the park's greatest hydrothermal region. You will cross the remains of a volcano and a beautiful lake before dropping down into a basin of sparkling pools and sulphurous aromas. Visit the short Devastated Area Trail to learn more about the 1914 - 1916 eruptions. The 0.2 miles trail is filled with informative markers and views of Lassen Peak and its rugged southeast slope.
  • At 13 miles, the Snag Lake Loop is the longest single path.
Lassen Volcanic National Park

Fishing and boating

Lassen is a land of lakes, many of which are accessible by non-motorized boats such as kayaks, SUPs, and canoes. On Helen, Emerald, Reflection, and Boiling Springs lakes, boating is forbidden. The most famous lakes for water activities are Manzanita, Butte, Juniper, and Summit. Between May and September, the Manzanita Lake shop rents out single and double kayaks. Fishing is another common attraction in the park, particularly on Manzanita and Butte lakes, which are home to a wide variety of trout species. Brook trout can also be found in the Kings and Grassy Swale creeks. It is necessary to have a valid California fishing licence.

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Where Can I Camp?

Inside the park, there are seven campgrounds with a maximum of 424 allocated campsites. A picnic table, fire ring, and bear-resistant storage container are included at every campground. (Food can also be kept in a car with a hard roof.) Three picnic tables, three fire rings, and three bear-resistant lockers are available at group sites. Except for Juniper Lake, all campers provide drinking water spigots and/or sinks. Some (Butte Lake, Summit Lake North, and Lost Creek Group, for example) feature flush toilets and dishwashing facilities. Trash and recycling containers are available at all campsites. There are just four RV connections. The campsites in the Manzanita Lake region provide the greatest amenities, such as a camp store with food and supplies, showers, a laundromat, and the park's sole dump station.

From June to September, most of the campsites are only accessible by reservation via Juniper Lake, Warner Valley, and Southwest Walk-in Campgrounds are always first-come, first-served (FCFS). Individual site reservations can be made up to six months in advance of trip dates, while group site reservations can be made up to a year in advance. Until dry camping is in force, which shuts off drinking water and flush toilets, sites range from $22 to $72 per night. Dry camping, which happens in the winter when water systems are turned off for the season, has lower fees. Camping is discounted by half for those with access passes. Most campsites are fully booked by April and remain so throughout the summer.

There are many fantastic chances for trekking and backcountry camping since a portion of the park is protected for wilderness, a designation awarded to just 5% of the country's public lands. To do either, you will need to obtain a free permit, and by signing it, you promise to follow all of the requirements, which include locking up all food and toiletries in a bear-resistant container and packing out garbage and toilet paper. In wilderness regions, campsites are not marked, but there are regulations about where you can camp.

Where Should You Stay?

There are a couple of possibilities if you do not want to rough it. The Drakesbad Guest Ranch, located in the glacier-carved Warner Valley, offers lodging in the historic lodge (homesteaded in the 1880s by namesake Edward Drake), cottages, and various bungalows. You do not need to be a guest to eat, have a massage, or go horseback riding at DGR, but you will need a room key to use the pool.

The quaint Manzanita Cabins are also managed by the same concessioner, Snow Mountain LLC. Every cabin contains mattresses, a propane heater, light, bear box, fire ring, access ramp, steps with handrails, and an expanded picnic table, with one-room, two-room, and bunkhouse choices for one to eight people. They are located near the lake and need reservations. They are accessible from late May to early October. You must supply your own bedding.

Where Should You Eat?

A full-service sit-down restaurant in Drakesbad requires reservations. Soups, salads, sandwiches, coffee, and soft serve are served at the Lassen Café at the visitor centre, which has a fireplace and a terrace. The Manzanita Lake Camper Store has grab-and-go things available.


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