Hike Into a Cinder Cone Crater in Lassen National Park

This 2 brutal up miles will be heck of an adventure. This must be one of the most difficult 2 miles ascends; walking on volcanic ashes is no joke.

the cinder cone

the basic about cinder cone trail

Where: Lassen Volcanic National Park, Butte Lake Area also sometimes referred as the Painted Dune area
Mile: 4 round trip
Elevation: 846 feet gain in 2 miles (summit at 6,907ft)
Trail Head: Butte Lake Parking area
Highlight: painted dunes view and hike into the volcano
How long does it take to hike: 4 hours
When you should hike: start hiking 2 hours before the sunset time to catch the sunset in time and descend before dark. Bring a flashlight

view at the top of the summit

hiking down into the crater

the trail experience

You should not take this trail lightly. I saw a few people trying to summit this trail right before the sunset and they had to give up because they didn’t bring a flashlight.

It was a knee killer. Every two steps are a step back. You sink one inch down for every step you take. When I hiked the trail, I met a physic professor on the way up. He was an avid photographer so he had a bunch of legit camera things with him; a tripod, a camera, and probably numerous lenses.

I stopped to talk to him for a bit. He was having a hard time because of how difficult it was to hike up the cinder cone trail. This hike may be shorter and lower in elevation than Lassen Peak or Brokeoff Mountain, but from my experience, I almost think that this was harder.

the crater mouth with my friend walking around it
the painted dunes

I finally got to the top and all of my tiredness disappear because the view was the most amazing I had ever seen. Surreal was the only way that I could describe the trail. When you reach the top, you will understand why.

Now at the top of the summit, you can hike around the mouth of the mountain, which would still be hard to walk on. The orange and yellowish color of the sand at the summit illuminates nicely at sunset, which is another reason why you should come up later in the afternoon when the lighting is better.

Painted Dunes can be seen very easier from the top. This magnificent lava bed happened after the explosion of the cinder cone volcano. The lava cooled off and create this amazing orange rolling hills at the bottom of the mountain.

what a lonely tree

The trail is much less busy compared to the more popular trails like bumpass hell, broke off mountain, or lassen peak. Cinder Cone is also very out of the way from the park. It is located in the northeast which is about two hours drive from the main visitor center in Lassen.

At the top of the summit, you can hike down in the volcano, and this was probably my favorite part of the entire thing. I’d never dreamed of being inside of a volcano before! Visitors have been creating a mini rock mountain in the middle of the crater.

By far, this was my favorite hike at Lassen National Park, and I’d recommend anyone to do this hike. Although it is a bit out of the way from other main attractions of the park, but its beauty and awesomeness definitely worth it.

inside the crater


    1. You have to! what i forgot to mention is how short it is! Although its a hard ascend, it’s only for a big one mile! So it’s flat for a mile up and then you pretty much hike 900 ft in one mile. It’s short, but difficult. Imagine walking on the sand at the beach but 900 ft up for a mile and the sand is much softer. Horrible! but awesome

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