top of page
  • Writer's pictureMeghana Gowda

The Ultimate Guide to the Everlasting Magic of Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lake Helen

My first time visiting Lassen Volcanic National Park, and I was amazed by its beauty. People always remember Yellowstone National Park when it comes to geothermal activities but that is not the only one. From boiling waters to the highest volcanic peaks, the park has so much to offer. In my point of view, Lassen Volcanic National park looks like a mini Yellowstone and Yosemite combined. Located in the Northeastern part of California, Lassen Volcanic National park is home to the largest plug dome volcano in the world, Lassen Peak. This is one of the few places in the world where all four types of volcanoes can be found-plug dome, shield, cinder cone, and composite volcanoes.

With steaming Fumaroles, Meadows covered with wildflowers, clear blue glacier lakes, and several volcanoes, Lassen Volcanic National Park is a true gem in Northern California. This National Park is a paradise for outdoor adventure people. Hiking, camping, and fishing are popular activities in the park. I'll give you all the details here so that it will be a very useful guide for your next trip.

How to get there?

The road trip is the best thing to visit Lassen Volcanic National Park. We drove from the Bay Area. It's a five-hour drive from San Francisco or 3.5 hours from Sacramento by car. If you are planning on a trip to northern California then you can add this to the list. The entry fee to the Park is $30. Buying an annual pass of $80 is useful, as it grants access to many national parks in the US for a year.

Lassen volcanic National Park sign in the Southwest Entrance
Lassen Volcanic National Park Sign

Know Before You Go

The best time to visit the park is from April-September as most of it shuts down in October for winter. Download offline maps to the places you want to visit, as there is no internet service. The only place where you get a modicum of the internet is at The Kohm Yah-mah-nee visitor center. Fill your vehicle with a full tank of gas. The park is huge and there is only one gas station at the Manzanita Lake visitor center. The nearest town to the park is Redding and Red Bluff, each an hour's drive from the park.

The visitor center offers an information desk, exhibit hall, auditorium, amphitheater, park store, dining area patio, and a gift shop and cafe. We went around the exhibit hall, checked out some cool facts about the park, and ordered coffee enjoying the view. We also watched a short movie about the Lassen Peak erupting in 1915 in the visitor center.

Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center

Where to Stay?

Camping is the primary accommodation in the park. Camping cabins are available at Manzanita Lake campground. There are also two motels with cabins Gordon's Rim Rock Ranch and Hat Creek Resort. Drakesbad Guest Ranch is the only lodging in the entire park. Some of the popular campgrounds are North and South summit lake campgrounds, Juniper Lake campground, Manzanita lake campground, and many more. The reservation to the campsites should be done in advance on the park website. The campsite charges vary from campgrounds.

We camped in the North summit Lake campground and the campsite charge was 30 USD. The campsites are located just next to the beautiful Summit Lake. We camped for two nights.

Early Morning View of the Summit Lake from our Campsite
Summit Lake Campground

What to see

Lassen Volcanic National Park Highway

The 30-mile Lassen Volcanic National Park Highway offers the most beautiful scenic drives that connect the southwest and northwest entrances of the park. It is the scenic highway that passes through dense forest, volcanoes, and winds around the main attractions of the park such as Sulphur works, Emerald lake, Lake Helen, Kings Creek Meadow Scenic Pull out and also connects to the trailhead of Bumpass hell, Lassen Peak, Kings Creek Falls. This main park road reaches 8512 feet making it the highest road in the Cascades Mountains.

Sulfur Works

If you are entering the park from the southwest entrance, the first stop is the Sulphur works. It is located a little away from the Kohm Yah-mah-nee visitor center. The Sulphur Works is a boiling and steam venting mudpot next to a sidewalk. It's the only hydrothermal area that is an easily accessible trail in the park. The boiling mudpot was an ancient volcano called Mt.Tehama that was 11,000 feet high half a million years ago. Standing beside the sulfur works and watching this is like standing in the middle of a volcano.

Boiling Sulphur Mudpoint

Bumpass hell

The most famous trail in Lassen is Bumpass Hell which is the largest of the eight hydrothermal areas in the Lassen Volcanic National park. The Bumpass Hell Trail provides access to the 16-acre basin of plopping mud pots, bubbling pools, and roaring steam vents. The colors of Bumpass Hell are striking and due in part to varying minerals in the waters of the area. The minerals can stain the soil's oranges and yellow, and the waters are often bright blue and emerald green.

The Bumpass Hell Trail is hard-packed with dirt and rocks. The hike is pretty easy about 4 miles round trip Most of the first mile is four feet wide, with minimal slope. The last half mile descends 300 feet into the basin and includes some rock steeps and steeper slopes. There are some beautiful views of the mountains, valleys, and purple wildflowers. Be prepared for the rotten egg smell because of boiling sulfur.

Boardwalks around the basin

The View of the Mt.Lassen on the bumpass trail
Mt.Lassen Peak

Lupines bloom on the Bumpass hell trail

The view of steaming fumaroles, boiling mudpots
Bumpass Hell

Helen Lake

Lake Helen is a glacial lake in Lassen Volcanic National Park. It is located across the road from the Bumpass Hell trailhead. After a hike to Bumpass Hell, you can enjoy a snack or lunch picnic on the shore of the lake. Swimming is impossible because of the ice-cold water. The lake also has an incredible view of Lassen Peak.

The beautiful blue color comes from the unique mineral content of the lake, as well as the pristine clarity of its waters. The lake was named after Helen Tanner Brodt who in 1864 became the first woman to reach the summit of Lassen Peak.

Lake Helen with the view of Mt.Lassen Peak behind
Lake Helen

Emerald Lake

Emerald Lake is located near Lake Helen. You can see this lake when driving along the Lassen Park scenic Highway. The water is green in color as its name, clear and cold. We stopped while driving along the highway and There was no particular parking lot, but a little space was available along the road to pull over.

Emerald Lake

Kings Creek Falls and Meadows

The hike to Kings Creek is around 3 miles round trip with some beautiful meadows, creeks, and scenic cliff views. When we went the shorter route(the cascades trail) to the falls, was closed, and had to take the longer route, so we returned after stopping at the cliff views.

Along the scenic highway, you can stop at the Kings Creek Meadow Scenic Pull out, the view is lovely. You can drive further along the highway to the Kings creek Meadow. You can walk up to the small creek in the meadow without any hike. Lassen Peak is also visible from there which makes it more scenic.

Meadow on the trail of Kings Creek Falls

The View on the trail to the Kings Creek Falls

Kings Creek Meadow

Kings Creek Meadow Lookout

Summit lake

We camped at Summit Lake Campground, which made us explore the area more. Summit Lake is surrounded by beautiful pine forests and has warmer water than any other lake in the park. So swimming, fishing, and kayaking are popular activities at the lake.

Lassen Volcanic National Park is notable for its incredible dark night sky. So don't forget to look up when it's dark. Camping in the summit lake made it easier for us to head to the lakeshore and check out the Milky way.

Summit Lake during Sunset

The Night Sky (shot on Pixel)

Manzanita Lake

Manzanita Lake is a popular spot in Lassen Volcanic National Park. A 1.6-mile hiking trail around the lake is perfect for bird watching and wildlife watching. The lake is pretty famous for kayaking, fishing, and swimming, and for those who want to learn more about the park, there are also ranger-led programs here. This is also the most photographed lake in Lassen, the north side of the lake offers a beautiful view of the Lassen Peak and its reflection in the clear blue water.

Few other places to visit when in Lassen National Parks are Devil's Kitchen, Painted Dunes, and some intense hiking areas like Mount Lassen Peak, and Cinder Cone. We were there for just 2 days so we just went to the popular and easily accessible attractions of the Park.

514 views1 comment

1 Comment

yesh gpu
yesh gpu
May 09, 2022

Very informative, keep up the good work.

bottom of page