The land is positively alive at Lassen Volcanic National Park. Home to all four types of volcanoes—shield, composite, cinder cone, and plug dome—this park in the northeast corner of California literally bubbles, steams, and roars. But for all of its hydrothermal activity, Lassen has a restive side too, with crystalline lakes and meadows filled with summer wildflowers. Here are seven ways to make the most of your visit.
Explore a Lake in the Heart of the Park
If this national park has a downtown, it’s along Manzanita Lake, where you’ll find an expansive campground, cabins, and a museum. Hike around the lake on an easy 1.5-mile loop trail; especially in the morning, you’ll get the park’s definitive view of the 10,457-foot Lassen Peak. Or cruise out on the lake with a stand-up paddleboard or kayak rental from the Manzanita Lake Camper Store.
Hike Through Lassen’s Largest Hydrothermal Area
When you head out on something called the Bumpass Hell Trail, you know it won’t be a routine walk in the woods. Named for the unfortunate Kendall Bumpass—who burned his leg when he broke through a thin layer of crust and fell into scalding water—this gentle 3-mile round-trip hike includes a stretch along a boardwalk with close-up views of boiling mud pots and vivid turquoise pools. Along the way, you’ll also get terrific views of Lassen Peak and Brokeoff Volcano.
Stop at Lassen’s Most Accessible Hydrothermal Area
Easily reached along the main park road, the parking area at Sulphur Works gives you a good glimpse of the roaring steam vents and volcanic-gas vents known as fumaroles. For a tough workout, the Ridge Lakes Trail climbs more than 1,000 feet in a mile to a pair of alpine lakes at a basin with an elevation of 8,000 feet.
Escape to Lassen’s Historic Guest Ranch
Tucked into lush Warner Valley, Drakesbad Guest Ranch offers rustic lodge rooms and cabins during the summer season. Discover the valley’s beauty as you saddle up for guided horseback rides or fly-fish for native rainbow trout. Lodging includes three meals a day in the ranch dining room; on Wednesdays, chefs cook up old-fashioned barbecue delights such as ribs, tri-tip, and burgers.
The Heat Is On at Devil’s Kitchen
Starting from the Warner Valley Trailhead, the 4.2-mile round-trip Devil’s Kitchen Trail crosses meadows and marshes before reaching its namesake hydrothermal area—the park’s second largest. You’ll see mud pots, fumaroles, and steaming streams, while side routes off the main trail lead to alpine lakes.
Lassen After Dark
When the sun goes down, Lassen gets dark. Very dark. This is one of the best places in California to truly see the night sky, and park rangers lead occasional astronomy programs during the summer. You can also come to the park for its annual Dark Sky Festival in August, which includes nightly constellation tours and presentations by professional astronomers.
Lassen in Winter
While parts of Lassen become inaccessible after heavy snows, you can still reach areas that are ideal for winter sports. Go sledding in the southwest section of the park or join ranger-led snowshoeing outings that begin from the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center. For a gorgeous cross-country ski outing, try the marked trail around Manzanita Lake. Or follow the main park road—there’s no traffic in winter.