Lassen Volcanic National Park is one of the less traveled parks in the United States. It is a great park and will likely be increasing in popularity as the more popular parks experience overcrowding. If you want to get away from the crowds to experience nature in a National Park, then I highly recommend Lassen Volcanic National Park.
it is located in Northeastern California. This Park is known for its volcanos, incredible landscapes, and clear mountain lakes. There are four kinds of volcanos in the world and all four can be found in Lassen Volcanic National Park. Lassen Peak is a volcano that last erupted in 1915. Now, you can hike up to Lassen Peak. If you have more than one day and enjoy a strenuous hike, I recommend the hike up Lassen Peak. It is 5 miles (2.5 miles each way). The hike takes 4-5 hours on average.
If you only have one day, I recommend three primary activities: Scenic drive through the park, hike to Bumpass Hell, and hike around Manzanita Lake.
There are two entrances to Lassen Volcanic National Park. They are the north entrance and the south entrance. The scenic drive connects these two entrances. It is a 30-mile drive. There are handful of scenic overlooks and places to stop along the drive. The drive, without any stops, is approximately 45 minutes. If you plan to make some stops (and I recommend that you do), allow for 1.5-2 hours for this drive.
Hike Bumpass Hell Trail
This hike is just under three miles and takes approximately two hours. It is an out and back hike. It is a moderate hike that involves some steep terrain at high elevations. This hike is one of the highlights of Lassen Volcanic National Park because you are able to see hydrothermal features including steaming pools and boiling mud pots. Getting to the hydrothermal area is a beautiful hike along the side of a mountain, which provides some breathtaking views.
Once you reach the hydrothermal area stay on the path at all times. This is much like a mini Yellowstone Park. The ground around the hydrothermal areas is fragile and you can fall through the crust. This has happened to people, and it has resulted in serious injury and death. The simple solution is to stay on the trail at all times. They built a great boardwalk for visitors to experience this area safely.
Hike Manzanita Lake
Manzanita Lake is a gorgeous clear lake located at the northern entrance of the park. It is perfect for kayaking and canoeing. We had our kids’ kayaks along, so they were able to get out on the water. There are kayaks available for rent through a concessions company inside the park. The kayaks are located near the boat ramp. If there is not an employee available at the boat ramp, then head to the concession shop/gas station next to the lake and they will be able to help you.
While you are there at the northern entrance, be sure to stop into the Loomis Museum for 15-20 minutes. It is a small museum, but it gives you a good history of the park. You can actually stop into the museum while you are on your hike around the lake. The trail takes you right by the museum. The hike around the lake is 1.8 miles, mostly shaded and flat. It is not wheelchair accessible, but it is an easy hike for all ages. You will find that this hike is well worth it, because the views are incredible! This hike can be done in under an hour.
There are picnic tables around the lake along with bathrooms in the parking lot. This is a good stop for a picnic lunch while enjoying the scenery that the lake provides. We saw a bald eagle in one of the trees. I actually saw it swoop down to the lake and it flew off with a large fish in its claws. It was an incredible sight! We also saw plenty of ducks and geese on the lake. No motorized watercrafts are allowed on the lake, so it is a peaceful area.
Outside the Park
Outside of the National Park, approximately a 20-minute drive from the northern entrance, you can visit Subway Cave. The cave is actually a series of lava tubes. You are able to go and explore these lava tubes free, on a self-guided tour. There are signs throughout the cave system that explain how the lava tubes were formed. It is only a 1/3 of a mile long hike through Subway Cave. Be sure to bring flashlights. The cave is pitch black and there are no lights inside. You must bring your own flashlights. Wear a sweater or light jacket if you can because the caves are also very cool. Good shoes are also a must. The ground is very uneven and rocky. It is easy to fall if you do not have proper shoes. Again, a flashlight is a must.
Below is a map of Lassen Volcanic Park and a map of the area so you can find Subway Cave. Burney Falls is a bit further down the road from Subway Cave. We did not have time to stop there on this trip, but it does come as a highly recommended destination.