Lassen Peak is the largest plug dome volcanoes in the entire world! And it sits just 6 hours north of the Bay Area. It is considered to be one of the most underrated national parks by many. This 100,000 acres land of volcanoes only see 400,000 visitors per year compared to the beaten Yosemite with 4+ million visitors. This makes Lassen a great backup national park for those last minute campers. Even on the busiest day of the year, the campgrounds are never full and walk-ins are always welcome. 95% of the people who visit this magnificent land only spend time driving on the iconic national park road for only about 1 hour, according to a ranger that I spoke to at the park. More history and overview of Lassen National Park.
Location: Southwest entrace: 40°26’08″N 121°32’02″W / northwest entrance: 40°32’40″N 121°34’38″W more directions here
Season and weather: summer, fall, and late spring (winter comes fast and last long here, and most of the park will close once snow falls)
Highlights: volcanoes, volcanoes everywhere!
things to do
Best Hikes in lassen national park (my top picks)
1. Bumpass Hell (geothermal area)
2. Brokeoff Mountain (most scenic hike)
3. Lassen Peak (tallest mt. in the park)
4. Cinder Cone (painted dunes area)
5. Mill Creek Falls (tallest waterfalls at the park)
other things for non-hikers
Stargazing activity, snow fights in the winter, and driving tour, more things to do
driving in the park
It takes only about an hour and a half to drive at the speed limit from southwest entrance to the northwest (manzanita lake campground). The main road is beautiful and well maintained.
camping at lassen national park
If you’re a hiker I recommend that you stay at Southwest walk-in, it is the closest campsite to the major hikes including lassen peak, brokeoff, and bumpass hell. It is also the least crowded, cheapest, but it doesn’t have a shower. The campsite does have fire cooking area.
Juniper Lake: far and remote at the east south rim of the park. The road to this campground is bad so no small vehicle. Also, from this campground, you will have to drive almost two hours to reach any major trails.
Southwest: closest to all the major hikes and the main visitor center (walk-in, so you have to carry everything from your car to the site, which means that if you don’t want to walk far, then pick a site that is closest to the parking lot)
Manzanita Lake: most family friendly, grocery store, museum, and showers!
Buttes Lake: Cinder Cone trail and is about 2 hours from southwest entrance and an hour from northwest
Summit Lake (Souther & North): right in the middle of the park on the main freeway between north and south entrances. South has flush toilet and North doesn’t.
personal experience / tips / advice at lassen national park
I went there and camp at the south west walk-in site. My buddy and I were the only campers there for one night with another group came in the day after. We went in August, and the weather could not have been more perfect. The sky is clear, there was no rain, the sun is out all day, the day is long, the sun rises early, but regardless, due to high elevation, the park gets really cold at night. At the top of Lassen Peak, there will be snow year round.
The park is big and the highway is busy. Many tourists from all over the world come to Lassen to hike, camp, and appreciate sulfur work and the stunning views of many volcanoes. The entire park is made of volcanoes. What used to be one of the largest volcano in the world exploded into several ones.
On day one, we arrived, unpacked our things, and chose to hike the famous Bumpass Hell right the way; it was crowded. This is the most popular hike for non-campers because it’s easy and doable for most people and it shows off pretty much the main attraction of the park. On the next day, we got lucky and it was the first day of the season that they open up Lassen Peak after a long reconstruction of the trail. We didn’t plan for this, so I recommend that you call in or check the park’s website to see the condition of the trail because they only open it up on a handful of weekends throughout the year.
I hiked brokeoff mountain and lassen peak all on the same day, so it was an amazing day of work out for me. After summiting brokeoff mountain in the AM, we stopped at the visitor center and had delicious ice cream. The visitor center is perfect with a convenient store and a cafe. We hung out in there for a few hours because, boy, brokeoff mountain was quite a hike! We also saw a film about the park, which i highly recommend you to! Summiting Lassen peak later at 5pm and reaching the summit at 7pm while the sun is still out was amazing. I got to see the moon rise off the horizon. I don’t know when else will i get to see something like that again.
At night we had pasta for dinner, and i got to say that it was the best pasta I’ve ever made, no jokes, better than what I usually make at home. But then we went dehydrated at night because I accidentally dropped our only gallon of water, the handle broke, and the water all pour out. Make sure to keep your water secure!
On our third day, we left the main part of the park and headed to Cinder Cone volcano and camped at Butte Lake. I had a fun day just relaxing by the lake and there were not that many people around. Although I had to get off trail and find my own good spot away from this one family that was just being really loud. After a great relaxing day, we hiked the cinder cone. It was probably the hardest 2 miles of my life because of the volcanic sand that we walked on.
Lassen is so far my favorite national park. I have a great interest in volcanoes and boiling water. It was amazingly pretty as if I was walking around in photoshop. I highly recommend anyone to visit this park. It is not far from the bay area. If you live in norcal and have never been here, you really should go!