Article Overview: Best Things to Do in Lassen Volcanic National Park
Are you into wildflowers, crystal clear lakes, pine and fir forests, and . . . VOLCANOES?
You can experience some of the beauty and magic of Yellowstone with less of the crowds at Lassen Volcanic National Park on the West Coast. This lesser-known national park is a hidden gem in northern California and well worth the trip.
Home to all 4 different major types of volcanoes (all climbable!), Lassen Volcanic National Park is a unique geographical experience. If volcanic peaks, mud pots, and steam vents, aren’t enough to entice you, the diversity of the area is sure to draw you in, with its beautiful forests, meadows, a cave, and crystal-clear lakes.
Ready to get started? Let’s go!
Things to Do in Lassen Volcanic National Park
Table of Contents: Things to Do in Lassen Volcanic National Park
Table of Contents: Things to Do in Lassen Volcanic National Park
- Things to Do in Lassen Volcanic National Park
- Why Trust Us About the Best Things to at Lassen Volcanic National Park?
- Things to Know Before You Visit Lassen Volcanic National Park
- Where to Stay at Lassen Volcanic
- Top 15 Things to Do in Lassen Volcanic National Park
- Top 10 Things to Do in Lassen Volcanic National Park
- Top 5 Things to Do in Lassen Volcanic National Park
- Map of Things to Do in Lassen Volcanic National Park
- List of the Best Things to Do in Lassen Volcanic National Park
Why Trust Us About the Best Things to at Lassen Volcanic National Park?
We’re Will Pattiz and Jim Pattiz, collectively known as the Pattiz Brothers (and sometimes the Parks Brothers) and we absolutely LOVE the national parks.
We’ve worked with the National Park Service, the Department of Interior, USDA, and the U.S. Forest Service for years creating films on important places and issues. Our work has been featured in leading publications all over the world and even some people outside of our immediate family call us experts on the national parks.
Our goal here at More Than Just Parks is to share the beauty of America’s national parks and public lands through stunning short films in an effort to get Americans and the world to see the true value in land conservation.
If you’d like to follow along our journey we’d be delighted to have you!
Things to Know Before You Visit Lassen Volcanic National Park
$15 per vehicle (good for 7 consecutive days) OR if you plan to visit more National Parks within the next 12 months, I suggest you go ahead and purchase the America the Beautiful Pass (which can be found at the entrance gates to most national parks). This pass gets you into all national parks, forests, monuments, and more — including 2,000 sites for free — for one full year after a one-time $80 fee.
Be prepared for limited cell service during your stay. Free Wi-Fi is only available inside the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center, and there is limited cell service (AT&T and Verizon) in Chaos Jumbles and the Lassen Peak and Bumpass Hell parking areas. For the most up-to-date information, check here.
Use it. Lots of it. Especially this one which I never leave the house without because it plays nice with our dear friend, Earth 🙂
The Best Guide Book for Lassen Volcanic National Park is this one which we’ve marked up and highlighted quite a bit.
The Best Map: I like this map best for Lassen Volcanic National Park.
National Parks Checklist Map: This beautiful National Parks Checklist Map can be ordered to your house.
Framed National Parks Map: We’re a sucker for maps, this framed national parks map is the best.
Best Time to Visit
If you enjoy winter activities, Lassen Volcanic National Park is open year-round. However, from about November-May road access, services, and other activities are limited in the snowy areas.
Also, though much of the park has withstood the recent fires, there are still some closures in place for some areas affected by the 2021 Dixie Fire. Take the necessary precautions and find updated alerts, conditions, and information here for planning your visit.
Where to Stay at Lassen Volcanic
Planning to visit Lassen Volcanic National Park? If you haven’t found a place to stay this is our favorite hotel in/around Lassen Volcanic National Park.
20. Learn About Lassen’s History
One of the first things to do at Lassen Volcanic National Park is to learn about its interesting history and there’s no better place to do so than the park’s Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center.
From here you can learn about the park’s last eruption in 1914, presidential visits, and more interesting facts and history that will enrich your trip.
Featured below is President Kennedy’s trip to Lassen Volcanic National Park on September 28th 1963 as part of a western conservation tour.
19. Hike to Boiling Springs Lake
Hiking to Boiling Springs Lake has to be one of the most interesting things to do in Lassen Volcanic National Park. The lake itself is very impressive to both look at and listen to.
The secret to Boiling Springs Lake’s magic is what lies underneath – a series of steam vents that heats the lake’s temperature to about 125 degrees! Around the lake’s southeastern shore you’ll find a series of mud pots that are among the best in the park.
The hike to Boiling Springs Lake is 3 miles round trip with only about 200 feet of elevation gain and is totally worth it.
18. Hike the Chaos Crags
If you’re looking for a good hike that gets you up close with the Chaos Crags then add the Crags Lake Trail to your list of things to do in Lassen Volcanic National Park.
The trail itself is 4 miles round trip with roughly 1000 feet of elevation gain and typically takes about an hour and a half to complete.
The trail takes hikers through some great, vanilla smelling Jeffrey pine as well as some fir before eventually reaching a beautiful viewpoint of Crags Lake below.
17. Little Hot Springs Valley Overlook
If you’re looking for an easier, roadside attraction to add to your list of things to do at Lassen Volcanic then Little Hot Springs Valley is right up your alley.
From here if you look closely you can see some of the geothermal features the park is famous for steaming down below. This is a great area to pop off the road, stretch the legs, and get a preview of what lies ahead!
16. Mill Creek Falls
If you’re a sucker for waterfalls like me then Mill Creek Falls is a great addition to your list of things to do in Lassen Volcanic National Park! At 75 feet tall, Mill Creek Falls is the tallest waterfall in Lassen Volcanic National Park.
UPDATE: Getting to the falls is currently a bit tricky since the devastating 2021 Dixie Fire so I don’t recommend it at this point as the bridges over the falls have not yet been rebuilt. At present there are a lot of dicey tree falls to navigate so hold off on this one until further notice.
Top 15 Things to Do in Lassen Volcanic National Park
15. Take a Scenic Drive on Lassen Volcanic National Park Highway
Is your time or mobility limited, but you really want the full park experience? You’re still in luck! One of the best things to do in Lassen Volcanic National Park is to get a beautiful overview of the park mostly from the comfort of your own vehicle.
There are many great stops right off the road, such as the popular Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center, Sulphur Works, Emerald Lake and Reflection Lake, Devastated Area, and various viewpoints and overlooks.
This is still quite an endeavor — 30 miles and about one hour without stops — but it also gives you a great first look at the diversity of Lassen Volcanic National Park. Many start at the Southwest Entrance near Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center (with a great informative movie and friendly, helpful rangers) and exit at the Northwest Entrance, and you can also do the reverse.
14. Stay Up for Incredible Stargazing
Lassen Volcanic National Park is currently working toward its Dark Sky Park designation and is known for its stunning displays of celestial beauty. The park even boasts an annual Lassen Dark Sky Festival!
“Half the park is after dark!” If you’re up for bundling up and staying out a little later, one of the perfect things to do in Lassen Volcanic National Park is to take some fantastic night photos.
If you plan right — you might even see the Milky Way! Check out more stargazing suggestions tips and information here.
Up for a night hike? Bring your headlamp and enjoy a “full moon hike.” Experienced hikers particularly enjoy seeing the night side of Lassen Peak and Cinder Cone Trails.
13. Get a Taste of Devil’s Kitchen
Geologists and volcano enthusiasts can explore Lassen’s second-largest hydrothermal area on the hike to Devil’s Kitchen. (For the largest, be sure to check out #1!) Pass meadows, forests, and streams, and traverse footbridges and boardwalks on your way to mud pots (Yes, “mud pots!”), steam vents, and boiling springs.
It’s quite the busy kitchen! You’ll find yourself immersed in the burps and hisses of an active, boiling terrain. Although you might not like the smell of what’s cooking, it’s worth stomaching the sulphuric aroma to get the fully immersive experience of this volcanic wonderland.
Learn more about Lassen’s hydrothermal areas and similar things to do in Lassen Volcanic National Park here. To reach Devil’s Kitchen, start at Warner Valley Trailhead. The round trip distance takes about 2 hours and is 4.2 miles.
Psst! Looking for a shorter hike option for the day? Boiling Springs Lake has some great views and is in the same Warner Valley Region of the park with a 1.8-mile round trip.
12. Hike from Lake to Lake Along the Cluster Lakes Loop
Over 150 miles of hiking trails crossing hydrothermal areas, volcanoes, lakes, forests, and meadows make day hiking one of the best things to do in Lassen Volcano National Park. There are so many beautiful lakes in Lassen Park, so why not catch some great lake views?
The Cluster Lakes Loop is a 13-mile hike that passes 12 bodies of water, including the impressive and picturesque Silver Lake, Summit Lake, Echo Lake, and Twin Lakes and intersects with part of the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail)!
Start at the Summit Lake Ranger Station trailhead, and as this is quite a long hike, consider staying overnight in the park, such as at Lower Twin Lake. Learn more about obtaining a park permit for wilderness area camping here. Aim to hike in the summer through fall.
11. Descend into Subway Cave
What’s about as cool as a volcano? How about a cave MADE from a volcano? Of all the things to do in Lassen Volcanic National Park, be sure to add a self-guided tour of the Subway Cave lava tube.
Now technically this hike is located just outside the park bounds in Lassen National Forest, but it’s a short drive from the park.
This quick excursion is about ⅓ mile long and completely dark! Bring a flashlight, a light jacket, and sturdy shoes for your stairway descent into the cave. (It gets a little cooler down there, and the ground can get rocky!) The trailhead is about ¼ miles from the intersection of State Routes 44 and 89.
Top 10 Things to Do in Lassen Volcanic National Park
10. See (and Smell) the Sulphur Works
There are 8 different hydrothermal areas in Lassen Volcanic National Park, and Sulphur Works happens to be right off the side of the park highway, making it one of the quickest and easiest things to do in Lassen Mountain National Park.
Get your first taste (and pungent smell!) of boiling mud pots, take a some photos of the mists, and if you’re hungry for more, check out the other hydrothermal areas on this list.
Access Sulphur Works from the Southwest Entrance, and follow the sidewalk. Viewing areas are on both sides of the highway.
9. Check Out Devastated Area Trail
Did you know that Lassen Peak is considered an active volcano and erupted most recently in 1914-1917?
The park looks little like it did after the eruption over 100 years ago — the area has vastly recovered — but waysides with historic pictures and accounts bring you back in time.
Are you a history or geology buff? For the best experience, consider a ranger-led tour around this ½ mile loop. The park is known for its knowledgeable ranger guides, making a tour one of the great things to do in Lassen Volcanic National Park.
8. Summit Brokeoff Mountain (Mount Tehama)
Brokeoff Mountain is a composite volcano and the 2nd highest point in the park. Some claim this should be on THE TOP of your list of things to do in Lassen Volcanic National Park — even more than Lassen Peak — but why not join the “peak baggers” and try them all?
Climb through meadows and forests and enjoy great views of Mt. Shasta, Lassen Peak, Chaos Crags, and more.
This hike is for the more ambitious hikers; it takes about 5 hours, totals 7.4 miles in distance and 2,600 feet in elevation gain, and is one of the most challenging hikes in the park.
Start at the Brokeoff Mountain parking lot. Be sure to wear layers for this and any of the summit hikes. Hiking boots are recommended, and depending on the weather and time of year, crampons may also be required.
7. See King’s Creek Falls & Meadow
It becomes quickly apparent why Kings Creek Meadow is such a perfect picture spot: the ethereal beauty of the wildflowers creates a paradise in spring, summer, and fall.
Spot trout in the winding creek. With Mt. Lassen as your backdrop, catch a soaring hawk or eagle or spy some grazing black-tailed deer, Clark’s Nutcrackers, or even a black bear!
Be careful not to disturb these delicate flowers!
The trailhead for King’s Creek Falls is just ¼ mile from the meadow. The hike is about 3 total miles with some steep, rock steps near the top, and the view of the 30-foot waterfall is worth the trip!
Be aware that the trail is primarily hardpacked dirt, and some parts can be dusty/slippery. Also, there is a seasonal marsh crossing over a log bridge.
6. Play in the Snow!
Lassen Park gets A LOT of SNOW – as much as 30 feet of snow in its winter season — and this can last more than half of the year from November through June.
Though the park technically remains open all year, more and more parts of the park become inaccessible as winter approaches. However, if you are ready and eager to snap on some snowshoes or lace up those cross-country skis, you may find playing in all that white stuff one of your favorite things to do in Lassen Volcanic National Park!
Choose between the Southwest Area for deep slopes and the Manzanita Lake Area for gentler slopes and easier routes. No equipment rentals are available in the park, but you can find a list of nearby rental locations and winter safety information here.
Top 5 Things to Do in Lassen Volcanic National Park
5. Camp and Delight in Manzanita Lake
Manzanita Lake is one of the most popular spots in the park to stay in, and it’s easy to see why. This large camping area boasts stunning views, a pleasant 2-mile loop walk, picnic areas, swimming, fishing, and kayaking.
The Manzanita Lake Campground is great for RVs, cabins, and group campsites. It is one mile from the Manzanita Lake Entrance with an entry road that is not as rough as some other camping locations. As a bonus, Loomis Museum is nearby, a visitor center packed with the history of the park.
This campground is not open for the winter/spring season and there is no Internet or cell service. There are no hookups, but there are bathrooms, coin-operated showers and laundry, a place to fill up potable water, a dump station, and a small store. Reserve your site for Manzanita and other camping areas here.
4. Take a Dip in Lake Helen (If You Dare!)
Of the 200 lakes and ponds in Lassen Volcanic National Park, Lake Helen is one of the most popular, with some of the best views and crystal-clear waters. This lake sits at the base of Lassen Peak, so the magnificent mountain is reflected in its blue water.
Lake Helen is 100 feet deep and cooooooooold all year long! If you are undeterred by freezing water, there is space for swimming along the southern shore. Parking is limited at the Lake Helen picnic area, but overflow spaces can be found in the surrounding designated pullouts.
3. Sit Inside Cinder Cone Volcano
Cinder Cone Volcano is the 2nd volcanic hike on our list of things to do in Lassen Volcanic National Park and another very popular excursion, clocking in at 4 miles, 3 hours, and an elevation change of 846 feet.
Start at the Butte Lake parking area. Be prepared for loose rock and potentially high winds. Your walk will be bordered by woodlands and the Fantastic Lava Beds. On your way up, look for the Painted Dunes, the Jeffrey Pines, and even a view of Lassen Peak.
At the top, your view will extend to Prospect Peak and Snag Lake as well. If you’d like to continue a little further, a separate trail takes you down into the crater where you can actually SIT INSIDE a volcano!
2. Hike up Lassen Peak, the Largest Plug Dome Volcano in the World!
We would be remiss if we didn’t include the park’s namesake in our list of things to do in Lassen Volcanic National Park! The beauty of this park is that you can actually hike all 4 of its different and magnificent types of volcanoes.
The hike up Lassen Peak is strenuous and starts at its self-named trailhead. The total round-trip distance is 5 miles and takes 4-5 hours, with a gain of 1,957 feet! Watch your footing, as there can be some loose rock, and enjoy the mountain hemlock and pine trees on your climb.
The hike includes switchbacks on a rocky ridge. You have the option to end where the trail ends and enjoy the view from the first summit or continue on the steep route to the final summit — or walk down into the volcano!
Dress in layers for this hike and protect yourself from the sun. Also, be prepared for snow — even in the summer — and take precautions.
1. Experience Bumpass Hell
Yes, that’s really the name! This hike made the top of the list of things to do in Lassen Volcanic National Park because it is the most frequently recommended for its complete exploration of a variety of volcanic features, including steam vents and mud pots.
This 3-mile, 2-hour hike along a boardwalk encompasses the largest geothermal area of the park with the added benefit of fantastic mountain views. The hike is of easy to moderate difficulty and be prepared for a busy trail with limited parking, particularly on weekends.
Though there are opportunities to glimpse geothermal features in other parts of the park, be sure to take the time to see why Bumpass is a Lassen Volcanic National Park favorite.
Lassen Volcanic National Park Itinerary
Morning: Start your day early and head to the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center. Here, you can learn about the park’s history and geology, as well as get information on hiking trails and other activities.
Afternoon: After lunch, drive to the Bumpass Hell Trailhead and hike the 3-mile round trip trail to Bumpass Hell. This hydrothermal area features a variety of geothermal features, including mud pots, steam vents, and boiling pools.
Evening: Drive to Manzanita Lake and enjoy a picnic dinner by the lake. Afterward, take a sunset stroll on the easy Lakeshore Trail, which offers stunning views of Lassen Peak and the surrounding mountains.
Morning: Start your day with a hike to the summit of Lassen Peak. This 5-mile round trip hike is strenuous but offers amazing views of the park and surrounding areas. It is important to note that the summit of Lassen Peak is at an elevation of 10,457 feet, so be sure to bring plenty of water, snacks, and warm layers.
Afternoon: After lunch, take a leisurely drive on the Lassen Volcanic National Park Highway. This scenic drive offers access to many of the park’s features, including the Sulphur Works hydrothermal area, the Devastated Area, and the Lassen Peak Trailhead.
Evening: End your day with a relaxing soak in the hot springs at Drakesbad Guest Ranch. This historic guest ranch offers access to natural hot springs, as well as hiking trails and other outdoor activities.
Map of Things to Do in Lassen Volcanic National Park
List of the Best Things to Do in Lassen Volcanic National Park
- Bumpass Hell
- Hike Lassen Peak
- Cinder Cone Volcano
- Lake Helen
- Manzanita Lake
- Play in the Snow
- Upper Meadow King’s Creek Falls
- Summit Brokeoff Mountain
- Devastated Area Trail
- Sulphur Works
- Subway Cave
- Cluster Lakes Loop
- Devil’s Kitchen
- Scenic Drive
- Mill Creek Falls
- Little Hot Springs Valley
- Chaos Crags
- Boiling Springs Lake
- Park History
Pin the Best Things to Do in Lassen Volcanic National Park
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