Lassen Volcanic National Park

Bumbling mud pools, hiking trails, and bear hideaways in NorCal's least visited National Park

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Northern California‘s least visited National Park offers some of the most diverse and interested scenery in the state. Lassen National Park boasts four types of geothermal features–steam vents, fumaroles, hot springs and mudpots. In-the-know visitors adore the quiet hiking trails, pristine alpine lakes, horseback riding through meadows, camping under the stars and mountain biking the volcanic peaks.

Start at the Loomis Museum to learn about local Native American history (four tribes called the park home) and the interesting natural features of the landscape. Check out the photos taken by B.F. Loomis of Lassen Peak, the last volcano to erupt along this byway in 1914-1915. Local rangers can assist with trip planning as well.

Visiting Lassen National Park

With 150 miles of trails snaking through the park, first time visitors tend to stick to the main road to drive through the main destinations. For people just planning on driving through Lassen that day, take a short hike through the Devastated Area. Ideal for families or people with limited mobility, this easy interpretive walk shows the volcanic effects upon the land and often feels like walking on the moon.

The most interesting hike in the park is the 1.5 mile trail to Bumpass Hell, an easy sloping trail to the largest collection of hydrothermal features in the entire park. Named after the unfortunate hiker whose leg was severely burned in one of these bubbling mud pools, these richly beautiful pools of water, stained hues of orange, white and South Pacific ocean remind you that all that glitters may not be worth getting too close to.

In a good rain year, take a 1.5-mile walk to Kings Creek Falls, often abloom with lilies in late spring. Or more advance hikers might brave the ascent to Lassen Peak (10,457 feet).

Swimmers will appreciate the chance to cool off in the frigid waters of Summit or Manzanita Lakes (both good picnic areas as well). Note that often there is still snow in the park in late May, so bring a wetsuit if you plan to swim in June, or maybe instead opt for your snowshoes.

Services in the park are slim, with the Manzanita Camper Store, Drakebad Guest Ranch (which is also the only hotel in the park), and Lassen Cafe and Gifts being the only spots to grab food. There are a couple rustic camping cabins open seasonally near Manzanita Lake (order the camper’s package, if you are not traveling with your stove or bedding). Cabins include heaters for cold nights and bear boxes. And of course there are dozens of spots to pitch your tents–note that the lakeside spots often fill in summer.

Photo by Punahou77

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