Lassen Volcanic National Park: The Complete Guide for 2020

Richard Francis

London, UK

There’s no doubt about it: Lassen Volcanic National Park is a weird and wild place. Where else can you lurch from steaming fumaroles and broiling mud plots to idyllic alpine scenery with the turn of a hiking trail? Where else can you scramble up Cinder Cone scree slopes by day and gaze into some of the clearest night skies this side of Chile? Laden with more geothermal sites than you can shake a copy of Dante’s Peak at (Pierce Brosnan. Good film), Lassen Volcanic National Park is often seen as an alternative to the fan-favorite Yellowstone. But it’s much, much more than that. Ranging from the end of the Sierra Nevada to the start of the great Cascade Range, Lassen Volcanic offers long-distance trekking routes that take you past some of the California’s most iconic mountains. Honestly, that’s just scratching the surface, making Lassen Volcanic one of our favorite California national parks.

Where is Lassen Volcanic National Park?

Cinder Cone, Cone
Lassen Volcanic National Park, California, US.

Lassen Volcanic National Park occupies a truly wonderful corner of the Golden State. You’ll find it plugging the end of the Sacramento Valley in Northern California, rolling down the top end of the Sierra Nevada into the wonderful Cascade Range. From the heart of the park, the Nevada border waits 65 miles to the east. Eureka is the nearest coastal town on the Pacific, some 152 miles to the west.

Lassen Volcanic National Park Hours

Lassen Volcanic National Park,
Lassen Volcanic National Park, California, US.

Opening hours won’t really be an issue. Instead, it’s the snow that might prevent access. Harsh winter conditions put most of Lassen out of bounds to all but the most intrepid explorers from November to March. After that, check the NPS portal to see which roads are open and which are still patiently waiting for the thaw. The immersive Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center is also affected by the weather, but officially stays open 9am to 5pm all year round.

Lassen Volcanic National Park Entrance Fee

Lassen Volcanic National Park,
Lassen Volcanic National Park, California, US.

Unless you’re under 16 or hold an America the Beautiful Pass, you’ll need to pay some dollar bills to glimpse the wonders of Lassen. It’s not too much. Vehicles enter for up to seven consecutive days for $25. Hikers and bikers can get in for just $12. In the winter, that drops to $10 for a car. An annual pass is also available for the flat rate of $50.

Lassen Volcanic National Park Weather

Lassen Volcanic National Park,
Lassen Volcanic National Park, California, US.

If there’s one thing that defines the seasons in Lassen Volcanic National Park, it’s the falling and the melting of the snows. Up in the higher parts of the park (over 8,000 feet or more), it’s not uncommon to see a snowpack of two meters plus. All that peaks between November and March, pretty much sealing off all the roads and access points (apart from a few cross-country skiing routes). That’s why the bulk of visitors choose summer. Usually, the warmer months between June and August are the best of all.

Lassen Volcanic National Park Facts

Cinder Cone, Cone
Lassen Volcanic National Park, California, US.

Covering a compass-challenging 106,000 acres of land, Lassen – as its full name suggests – is mainly famous for its geothermal features. They include all four dominant types of volcanoes, from striking cinder cones all the way to the huge lava dome of Lassen Peak itself. Talking of volcanos…the most southerly active volcanos in the whole of the Cascade Range lurk within the reserve’s boundaries. Not that we want to get you worried or anything!

Lassen Volcanic National Park Lodging

Mill Creek Resort, Mineral
Lassen Volcanic National Park, California, US.

Lassen Volcanic National Park Camping

Planning a night under the stars? Here are some of the best campgrounds and campsites inside and outside of Lassen Volcanic National Park.

  1. Butte Lake Campground
  2. Crags Campground
  3. Juniper Lake Group Campground
  4. Southwest Walk-In Campground
  5. Warner Valley Campground
  6. Summit Lake North
  7. Summit Lake South
  8. Almanor Campgrounds
  9. Bluff Falls Campground
  10. Manzanita Lake Camping Cabins

Lassen Volcanic National Park Hotels

If camping isn’t your thing, there are plenty of resorts, hotels, hostels, inns, cabins and B&Bs within a quick drive of the park. Here are some of our favorite Lassen Volcanic hotels.

  1. Roseberry House Bed & Breakfast
  2. Highlands Ranch Resort
  3. Drakesbad Guest Ranch
  4. Mill Creek Resort
  5. Hat Creek Lodge
  6. Village at Childs Meadow
  7. Charm Motel & Suites
  8. Rose Quartz Inn
  9. Green Gables Motel & Suites
  10. Red Lion Inn & Suites

Lassen Volcanic National Park Airbnb

You can channel that inner trapper by heading for the pine-topped cabins and little boltholes that lurk in the northernmost forests of the Sierra Nevada. They tend to be rustic but cozy affairs, with painted-wood interiors and little decks, all close to Lassen’s main gates. There are also a few luxurious log lodges with fires and outdoor seating areas. The area around Lake Almanor to the south boasts some more modern family holiday homes and stone cottages.

Lassen Volcanic National Park Tours

Lassen Volcanic National Park,
Lassen Volcanic National Park, California, US.

You’ll find myriad ranger-led tours in Lassen Volcanic National Park. In the summer, they take the form of ecological expeditions to band local birds. In the winter, they could be snowshoe treks to see the landscapes blanketed in white. For a more comprehensive tour, you could choose a package that includes walks through famous geological wonders like Bumpass Hell and the Sulphur Works. More adventurous crews could set their sights on multi-day treks on the Pacific Crest Trail or climbs up Brokeoff Mountain (one of the most challenging going).  

Lassen Volcanic National Park Hikes

Lassen Volcanic National Park,
Lassen Volcanic National Park, California, US.

In Lassen Volcanic, skies are blue and beautiful hikes are plentiful. If you’re ready to stretch your legs (but not sure where to start), here’s a list of 10 of our favorite hiking trails in Lassen Volcanic National Park.

  1. Pacific Crest Trail
  2. Cinder Cone Trail
  3. Brokeoff Mountain Trail
  4. Manzanita Lake Trail
  5. Lassen Peak Trail
  6. Cold Boiling Lake Trail
  7. Snag Lake Loop
  8. Bumpass Hell Trail
  9. Crystal Lake Trail
  10. Butte Lake Trail

Lassen Volcanic National Park Landmarks

Bumpass Hell in Lassen Volcanic National Park

Bumpass Hell, Mineral
Bumpass Hell, Lassen Volcanic National Park, California, US.

One of the highlights of Lassen Volcanic National Park is the valley of Bumpass Hell. It’s a 16-acre corner of the reserve that showcases its untamable volcanic activity with a medley of steaming fumaroles, broiling lakes, and prismatic ponds. These days, a boardwalk trail keeps visitors safely away from the scorching waters, which all congregate on the top of a primeval volcano.

Lassen Peak in Lassen Volcanic National Park

Brokeoff Mountain, Mountain
Lassen Peak, Lassen Volcanic National Park, California, US.

Having the distinction of being the most southerly active volcano in the whole of the Cascades, Lassen Peak is an eye-catching feature that hulks high above the park. It’s conquerable on the stunning Lassen Peak Trail, a montage of wildflowers, geological formations and sweeping views over the beautiful California highlands.  

Sulphur Works in Lassen Volcanic National Park

Sulphur Works, California
Sulphur Works, Lassen Volcanic National Park, California, US.

Just when you thought there couldn’t possibly be any more strange and steam-belching geothermal attractions, the Sulphur Works pops up. A nose peg might come in handy – this whole rock field of fire-cracked stone is doused in the smells of rotten egg. Notice all those odd ochre-red and rust colors. Oh, and don’t miss the large mud pools that sit right next to the main trail. Mhmm, it’s a pretty amazing place.

Things to Do in Lassen Volcanic National Park

Cool Off at Kings Creek Falls

Kings Creek Falls, Creek Falls
Kings Creek Falls, Lassen Volcanic National Park, California, US.

Get Some R&R at Drakesbad Guest Ranch

Drakesbad Guest Ranch, Chester
Drakesbad Guest Ranch, Lassen Volcanic National Park, California, US.

Camp by Manzanita Lake

Manzanita Lake, Manzanita Lake
Manzanita Lake, Lassen Volcanic National Park, California, US.

Spot the Best View of Park at Cinder Cone

Cinder Cone, Cone
Cinder Cone, Lassen Volcanic National Park, California, US.

Pop Into the Tiny Loomis Museum 

Loomis Museum, Shingletown
Loomis Museum, Lassen Volcanic National Park, California, US.

Climb Lassen Peak

Lassen Peak, Peak
Lassen Peak, Lassen Volcanic National Park, California, US.

See Geothermal Activity at Sulphur Works

Sulphur Works, California
Sulphur Works, Lassen Volcanic National Park, California, US.

Conquer the Summit of Brokeoff Mountain

Brokeoff Mountain, Mountain
Brokeoff Mountain, Lassen Volcanic National Park, California, US.

Grab a Snack and a History Lesson at Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center

Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center, Mineral
Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center, Lassen Volcanic National Park, California, US.

Hike Bumpass Hell Trail

Bumpass Hell, Mineral
Bumpass Hell, Lassen Volcanic National Park, California, US.

Get Up Close to Lava Flows in the Devastated Area

Devastated Area Loop Trail, Mineral
Devastated Area Loop Trail, Lassen Volcanic National Park, California, US.