Things to Do in Lassen Volcanic National Park: We Totally Missed #8!

Lassen Peak in Lassen Volcanic National Park in the distance with evergreen trees in foreground

Nestled in Northern California, Lassen Volcanic National Park is a rare find. We recently visited as part of our California National Park Road Trip. There were many surprises in Lassen. And we were blown away by the diversity of this park. The landscapes are breathtaking. Geothermal wonders bubble and steam. And tranquil alpine lakes offer peace and beauty. Whether you’re a hiker or nature lover, this park has it all. Join me as I share the top things to do in Lassen Volcanic National Park. You won’t want to miss a single moment!

This is definitely a park for your bucket list! With 2 nights of camping and 2 days of exploring, we crammed a whole lot of adventure into our visit to Lassen Volcanic. After our trip we firmly believe, if you’re compiling your National Park bucket list, make sure Lassen Volcanic National Park is right at the top

About Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lassen Peak is the largest of a group of more than 30 volcanic domes that form the National Park. Over the past 300,000 years multiple eruptions have changed and formed the landscape you see today.

The last eruption in Lassen was just a hundred years ago. Between 1914 and 1917 Lassen Peak was an incredibly active volcano drawing scientists and observers from around the world. The most recent big explosion took place on May 22, 1915.

Since then, the volcanos in Northern California have been quiet providing an interesting and beautiful park for us to explore.

#1 Exploring the Volcanic Features of Lassen

Lassen Volcanic National Park is home to some remarkable hydrothermal features that are remnants of the past volcanic activity. Your visit won’t be complete without seeing the roaring fumaroles, thumping mud pots, boiling pools, and steaming ground. Here’s three spots that are easily accessible where you can experience the volcanic history of the park.

Bumpass Hell

Bumpass Hell is the largest hydrothermal area in Lassen Volcanic National Park. It is known for its fumaroles, steam vents, mud pots, and boiling pools. To visit this geological wonder, you’ll need to hike the 3-mile round trip trail into the basin. 

The fairly easy hike is family friendly and rewards you with striking photo opportunities. It’s the perfect place to marvel at the colorful geothermal features.

Sulpher Works in Lassen Volcanic National Park, something everyone should see
Sulphur pot at the Sulphur Works

Sulphur Works

We were quite surprised to find the highway going right through Sulphur Works, with a bridge crossing the bubbling pots. It is easily accessible from the parking area via a short walk along a paved sidewalk. You’ll find this must see stop in Lassen near the South end of the park highway.

As its name suggests, the area is characterized by a strong sulfur smell, which is a result of the volcanic gasses emitted by the fumaroles and steam vents. Don’t forget to bring your camera to capture the otherworldly landscape!

It’s very cool to experience the thermal activity so close as it happens right next to the sidewalk. I will confess, it made me a bit nervous when a family walked their dog along the road, even though there are numerous warnings about the scalding hot temperatures. 

Large boulder, aprox 8 feet tall and 8 feet wide, that had been moved over 3 miles by lava flow
Brad in the Devastated Area with boulder that lava moved over 3 feet.

Devastated Area

To get a deeper perspective of the aftermath of Lassen Peak’s 1915 eruption, the Devastated Area is a worthwhile stop. We were intrigued by the giant boulders found here that had been moved 5 miles when Lassen Peak erupted.

We spent about ½ hour walking this short trail that showcases the park’s volcanic history. The interpretive trail winds through a lunar-like landscape of lava rock, pumice, and sparse plant life.

#2 Day Hiking Trails

If hiking tops your list of things to do then Lassen Volcanic has some interesting trails for you. There are over 150 miles of hiking trails that will take you to destinations for exploring the volcanic history of the park. You’ll find something for all levels of hiking skill. Here are a few of the most popular.

Easy Family Hikes

Manzanita Lake Loop

In my opinion, Manzanita Lake Loop is the best family friendly hike in Lassen Volcanic. The 1.8 mile trail will take you about an hour and along the way you’ll get a great view of Lassen Peak. The trail is fairly level and the abundance of wildlife on the lake will entertain everyone.

Lily Pond

The Lilly Pond trail is a sweet ½ mile walk with interpretive signs along the way. It’s perfect for a short break. Along the way you’ll get a view of Lassen Peak and Chaos Crags.

Moderately Challenging Day Hikes

Mill Creek Falls

One of the most picturesque hiking trails you can enjoy is the Mill Creek Falls trail. This trail is a 3.8-mile round trip, and as you make your way along the path, you’ll be surrounded by towering trees. The highlight of this trail is, of course, the stunning Mill Creek Falls. As you approach the waterfall, be prepared to be captivated by its natural beauty.

Kings Creek Falls

The Kings Creek Falls trail leads to a picturesque waterfall nestled in a lush forest setting. The 2.3-mile round trip hike includes a section up a steep narrow staircase so can be challenging if icy or snowy. We were told it can stay snow covered into mid summer. 

Strenuous but Amazing All Day Hikes

Brokeoff Mountain

According to Lassen Park Rangers, one of the best trails to explore in Lassen Volcanic National Park is the Brokeoff Mountain trail. This 7.4-mile round trip hike is a bit more challenging but rewards you with breathtaking views of volcanic peaks, alpine meadows, and mountain lakes. As you ascend the mountain, you’ll be able to witness the remnants of the ancient Mount Tehama volcano. This trail remains too snow covered for hiking until mid July most summers.

Lassen Peak

And while you are hear, why not hike to the summit of the park’s namesake volcano with a panoramic view of the park. This is only a 5 mile round trip hike. However we passed on the hike because it was a hot day and this trail is in full sun traveling through rough rock. Make sure you get an early start to avoid the mistake we made. 

These are just a few examples of the many incredible hiking trails that you can enjoy in Lassen Volcanic National Park. Lace up your hiking boots, grab your backpack, and set out to explore the natural beauty of this unique park!

Bright blue lake with mountain background
Lake Helen, a quick stop along the scenic drive in Lassen

#3 Take a Scenic Drive

If you only do one thing in the park, drive the Lassen Volcanic National Park Highway (SR 89). We spent a full day cruising this 30 mile stretch, stopping for a few short hikes and dozens of spectacular views of volcanic landscapes, meadows, and lakes.

This one day covered various amazing photo stops, including Butte Lake, Summit Lake, and Manzanita Lake. We stopped for a short hike at both Devastated Area and Summit Lake. Make sure you pack a lunch as there are no amenities along this highway. 

The highlights of this scenic highway through Lassen National Park was Sulphur Works and our stop to watch hikers summit Lassen Peak.

While you could do this drive as a one way day trip through the park, entering at the North and exiting at the South end, we drove it out and back with our base at the Manzanita Campground.

#4 Spend the night under the stars: Camping in Lassen

Lassen Volcanic National Park offers a variety of beautiful camping spots for you to enjoy. Almost all camping is by reservation so plan ahead to ensure you get a spot.

Red chair in front of a campfire in Manzanita Campground in Lassen
Look at our huge campsite in Manzanita Campground!

Manzanita Lake Campground

The largest and most popular campground in Lassen Volcanic is Manzanita Lake Campground near the NorthWest entrance to the park. It is also open the longest into the fall, which is why we choose to stay here during our September road trip. 

This campground is well shaded with large campsites. Add in the benefit of flush toilets and coin showers it is a very comfortable campground. 

Summit Lake Campground

Summit Lake Campground is centrally located along the scenic drive. It’s a tent campground with gorgeous sites on both sides of the lake. Although it had already closed for the season during our visit, we loved hiking around the lake area. There are some signs of fire damage in the lake area. 

Butte Lake Campground

If you want to get away from the busy main corridor through the park, check out Butte Lake Campground. It’s a little more rustic with vault toilets, however you will find potable water in season. 

Located near Highway 44 at the end of Butte Lake Road, Butte Lake Campground offers plenty of activities for you to enjoy. Bathtub Lake and the majestic Cinder Cone are nearby, providing amazing hiking opportunities. 

Closed Campgrounds

Juniper Lake, Warner Valley and Southwest campgrounds are closed for fire recovery. The 2021 Dixie Fire (more about that below) took quite a toll on Lassen Volcanic National Park, including severe damage to these campgrounds.

#5 Wildlife Spotting

Wildlife is abundant in Lassen Volcanic National Park. If you keep your eyes and ears open, you are sure to discover an interesting critter! 

Most people ask about bears in the park. And it’s true there are about 50 black bears making Lassen their home. The best time to see them is where they can find food. Grassy patches near water or berry patches are the most common sighting areas. However, realistically bears try to stay away from people and aren’t seen that often. 

The same goes true for the Red Fox and Mountain Lions that make Lassen their home. It rare to see either one as you wander through the park.

You will see a lot of small and entertaining animals. Pika, squirrels and snow shoe hares are found in most areas of the park. Ducks and geese can be found on the lakes. And there are over 200 species of birds so bring your binoculars!

Distant view from Lassen's scenic drive
We captured this gorgeous view off the scenic drive!

#6 Photography Opportunities

Sunrise and sunset provide excellent lighting for capturing the park’s beauty at different times of the day. Lassen Peak is suggested as the best spot for both stunning sunrise and sunset photos by Noah Lang Photography. He also recommends walking the Cinder Cone Trail early and late in the day because the softer light brings out the colors in the dunes. 

You can capture vibrant wildflower photos throughout the summer. The bloom time starts in fields at the lower elevations in late May and moves up into the higher elevations through September. 

And of course, there are beautiful lakes, active wildlife and volcanic geology that you will enjoy photographing.

picnic table under evergreens
Picnic area near Summit Lake

#7 Picnicking

One of our favorite moments in Lassen Volcanic National Park was our picnic next to Summit Lake. It was beautiful and quiet. 

You’ll find 6 picnic areas along the scenic drives and an abundance of alternate gorgeous places you can enjoy your lunch. 

If you didn’t bring a picnic with your, stop at the Lassen Cafe & Gift, located inside the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center, on the South end of the park. Or pop into the Manzanita Lake Camper Store on the North end for supplies to make your own picnic lunch. 

Kayak with 2 people on lake with mountain in background
Kayakers on Manzanita Lake – NPS photo

#8 Boating

I’ll admit that it never occurred to me that boating would be a popular past time in Lassen. I was so wrong! Non-motorized boats, like kayaks and canoes, are welcome on most lakes in the park. At Manzanita Lake you can rent kayaks and enjoy a lazy afternoon floating on this beautiful waterway. 

Before bringing your own boat, check Lassen’s current watercraft rules. There are 4 lakes where boating is prohibited: Lake Helen, Reflection Lake, Emerald Lake and Boiling Springs Lake.

#9 Fishing

Another surprise was that trout fishing is popular in the park. In fact, Manzanita Lake is rated as a blue ribbon fly fishery by the state of California Department of Fish and Game.

If you want to fish in Lassen Volcanic National Park, don’t forget your California fishing license. And check the current fishing rules as some lakes and streams are catch and release only and some require barbless hooks. 

#10 Ranger Programs and Visitor Centers:

You’ll discover two visitor centers in Lassen Volcanic National Park.

Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center

One mile from the South entrance to the park you’ll discover the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center. This stop along Lassen’s scenic drive is packed with reasons to stop. Inside you’ll find an information desk where you can get advice on trails and things to do. 

For a variety of educational opportunities visit the exhibit hall, auditorium or amphitheater. You’ll also find a park gift shop and cafe. This is your only chance to grab food before entering the park. This visitor’s center is open all year, although some of the facilities are only open in summer.

Loomis Museum

The North entrance to the park is anchored by the Loomis Museum. You’ll find visitor information, interesting exhibits and a park film here. Many summer ranger-led programs are held in the courtyard here. 

Ranger Programs

We love catching a ranger program in National Parks. They give insight into the park from someone who is a passionate resident of that park. Well, Lassen Volcanic offers daily ranger talks, hikes and Junior Ranger activities at both visitor centers. The schedule varies so check the event calendar for times. 

#11 Backpacking and Wilderness Camping:

Unlike most National Parks, you are pretty much on your own when backpacking into the wilderness of Lassen Volcanic. There are no designated routes and campgrounds in this park. You also won’t find rangers ready to give you advice on backcountry trails. So it is critical to do your research before you go. 

You will need a wilderness permit to go backcountry. Those are only available on-line. Since there is little cell reception in the park, make sure you get your permit before you leave home.

The Pacific Crest Trail, 2650 miles from Mexico to Canada, runs right through the park. You just might run into long distance hikers when backpacking in Lassen.

#12 Stargazing:

We seriously recommend that stargazing in Lassen Volcanic National Park should be on your itinerary. With its high elevation and minimal light pollution, the park offers some of the clearest night skies in California. Here you have the chance to see constellations, planets, and even the Milky Way in all its glory. 

For the best view of the stars, plan you trip on a moonless night. Get away from the campgrounds because they have trees and lights from other campers that will reduce your view. Instead head out to open areas. A few suggestions for easy access include the Visitor Center parking lots, trailhead parking lots, and lakeshores that are near the road.

#13 Winter Activities


During the winter months, Lassen Volcanic National Park offers a variety of snowshoeing opportunities for visitors of all experience levels. You can explore the park’s snow-covered trails and pristine landscapes while enjoying the serene beauty of a winter wonderland. 

Ranger-led snowshoe walks are available on weekends from January through March. They provide a unique chance to learn about the park’s ecology and winter wildlife. 

Remember, there are no winter equipment rentals at the park, so be sure to bring your own snowshoes and gear. For more information, visit Lassen Volcanic National Park’s Winter Activities page.

Cross-Country Skiing

If you’re a fan of cross-country skiing, Lassen Volcanic National Park offers miles of trails. The park’s diverse terrain provides a range of skiing options, from groomed trails to challenging backcountry routes. 

As with snowshoeing, it’s important to bring your own gear, as there are no rentals available in the park. Before embarking on your cross-country skiing adventure, check the park’s winter conditions and avalanche advisories to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.

While enjoying the winter activities at Lassen Volcanic National Park, always prioritize safety. Dress in layers, carry extra water and snacks, and inform someone of your planned route and expected return time. 

Best Time to Visit Lassen Volcanic National Park

For an opportunity to explore everything there is to do in Lassen, we suggest that July through September are the best months to visit. During this period, all roads are open and the weather is usually delightful. Our mid-September trip had perfect weather with cool nights and sweatshirt weather during the day.

Lassen Volcanic National Park is open all year. The park is at a high altitude, so that means heavy snowfalls in winter, cool spring and fall weather and usually moderate weather in the summer.

Route 89, the scenic highway that connects the North and South visitor centers closes each fall when snowfall gets too deep to clear. It often isn’t cleared of snow until the end of June. And then snow starts falling again in October. Since the snow can be up to 40 feet deep in places, it takes a lot of work to open this road each year. 

man walking wooden boardwalk toward trees burnt in fire
Dixie Fire impact near Summit Lake

About the 2021 Dixie Fire and How it Impacts Your Adventure

As we drove through the park, the long term impact of the Dixie Fire was quite evident. The NorthEast area of the park was often a sea of burnt landscape. Years later, some hiking trails are still rated as dangerous because these dead trees continue to fall.

The Story of the Dixie Fire:

In 2021, the Dixie Fire caused significant damage in California, particularly in Lassen Volcanic National Park and National Forest. The fire began in July and raged on into October, spreading rapidly due to dry conditions and strong winds. This intense blaze consumed almost a million acres of forest before it was contained.

2,000 firefighters and support personnel faced a tough battle trying to control the Dixie Fire. They employed various strategies, such as using planes and helicopters to drop water and fire retardant, and deploying bulldozers to create firebreaks. 

These efforts were crucial in slowing the fire’s spread, but the blaze still managed to scorch 963,309 acres, making it one of the largest wildfires in California’s history. The fire forced many residents to evacuate their homes for safety. In the aftermath, recovery efforts began, including replanting trees and cleaning up the damaged areas. It will take time for Lassen Volcanic National Park to fully restore its natural beauty.

Fire Related Closures in Lassen 

Considering that 68% of the park was impacted by the fire, we were amazed at how much of the park has already begun to recover. However, there are areas that were destroyed by the fire and recovery will take much longer. Before heading backcountry make sure you check at one of the visitor centers so you are aware of areas that are still closed. 

Entrance Fees, Reservations and Permits


You do not need a reservation to enter the park. The park is always open, so you can arrive at your convenience. 

You should reserve your campsite in advance. Most campgrounds required a reservations. Due to the Dixie Fire, 3 of the 7 campgrounds are still closed (for 2024 season) reducing the number of campsites in the park.

Entrance Fees

The 7-day entrance fee into Lassen Volcanic is currently $10 in Winter and $30 April 15th to November 1st. I’d recommend purchasing your pass online before you head to the park because the entrance station isn’t always manned.  And when it is staffed, they are cashless. It can become a bit of a pain to purchase your pass upon arrival.  

Annual passes are also available. And, of course, America the Beautiful passes are always accepted. If you don’t know which type of pass is best for you your can get all the details on the Lassen’s entry pass webpage.

Tips for Visiting Lassen Volcanic National Park

When planning your visit to Lassen Volcanic National Park, there are a few key suggestions to keep in mind. This will ensure you have an enjoyable, safe, and memorable experience during your time in the park.

  • Dress appropriately. Weather in the park can be unpredictable, and temperatures can vary greatly. 
  • Pack layered clothing, sturdy hiking boots, sunscreen, and a hat to protect yourself from the sun. 
  • Bring plenty of water. Even through temperatures are cooler in this park, dehydration is a serious risk at high altitudes. A water bottle is essential for staying hydrated during hikes and outdoor activities.
  • Follow designated trails and avoid venturing off the path. Lassen Volcanic National Park is home to delicate ecosystems, hydrothermal features, and volcanic peaks that can be sensitive or dangerous to walk on. Staying on designated trails will ensure both your safety and the preservation of the park.
  • Keep a safe distance from wildlife and never feeding them. This is particularly important when encountering bears, which are common in the area. Ensure you store food and scented items in bear-proof containers or designated storage areas.

If you’re short on time, take the scenic 30-mile park highway drive, which provides an excellent overview of this beautiful park. Along the way, you’ll encounter stunning landscapes, volcanic features, and picturesque alpine lakes, perfect for fishing or boating.

Lastly, make the most of your visit by taking part in ranger-led programs and learning more about the unique geology, wildlife, and history of Lassen Volcanic National Park. The park offers a variety of programs, including guided hikes and educational talks, that can enhance your experience and knowledge of this extraordinary location.

How to Get to Lassen Volcanic NP National Park

From Redwood National and State Parks to Lassen

We left from the Southern Tip of the Redwoods on our road trip to Lassen Volcanic National Park. GPS indicated it would be a 4 ½ hour drive. Well, that may be true if you are used to mountain roads and willing to push the speed limit. For us midwesterners with our truck camper it took about 6 hours.  If you are towing a bigger camping it might take longer. There are many elevation changes and sharp curves as you cross highway 299. 

San Francisco to Lassen Volcanic National Park

To get to the park, hop over to I5. And then state highway 36 from Red Bluff will take you to the South park entrance. This GPSs at 4 hours and it is probably closer to accurate since most of the drive is Interstate. Of course, depends on how long it takes you to get out of the city!

Where to Stay near Lassen Volcanic NP

When planning your visit to Lassen Volcanic National Park, finding the perfect place to stay is essential. There are a few top-notch lodging options near the park that will ensure a comfortable and enjoyable trip.

Lassen Volcanic NP Camping

To experience all Lassen Volcanic National Park has to offer, you can’t beat camping right in the park. For a comfortable stay we recommend Manzanita Lake which has a variety of amenities. They also provide camping cabins, offering a unique camping experience for those who prefer to avoid traditional tent camping. 

There are 7 campgrounds to choose from in the park. You can also enjoy rustic camping in the Lassen Volcanic National Forest. The Hat Creek Ranger District to the North of the park has 7 campgrounds available. And to the South, Almanor Ranger District offers 15 campgrounds. You’ll also find dispersed camping in the National Forest. 

For those of you with RVs who want full hook-up sites, you’ll need to stay 30 to 50 miles out from the park to find those amenities. 

Hotels and Lodging Options for Lassen

For the closest hotels and rental homes, check out gorgeous Lake Almanor which is about an hour drive away. You’ll find the largest selection of lodging choices along Interstate 5. Redding, California is about an hour from the park’s North Entrance. And the town of Red Bluff is about an hour from the South Entrance. 

Within the park, past visitors have been welcome at the Drakesbad Guest Ranch. However, the ranch was severely damaged in the Dixie Fire and is currently not open. Hopefully soon!

A few more thoughts…

As we wrapped up our journey through Lassen Volcanic National Park, we couldn’t help but feel a deep sense of awe and appreciation for this incredible destination. To experience the power of old volcanos in forming our current landscape is something not to be missed. 

From the bubbling hot springs and steamy fumaroles to the serene lakes and majestic peaks, Lassen offers an unparalleled blend of adventure and tranquility. Every trail I hiked and every vista I admired left me more convinced that this park is a must-visit for any nature enthusiast.

Our list of things to do in Lassen will guide you as you plan your own adventure! Trust me, the memories you create here will be nothing short of magical, and you’ll leave with a heart full of wonder and a spirit ready for the next adventure. Happy exploring!


  • Ladona Stork

    The Authors: Hey, we are Ladona and Brad, avid campers and hikers. We are crazy about getting outdoors at every possible moment and have decades of experience exploring nature. Our current goal is to visit all 63 US National Parks and just completed #42. WooHoo! Our mission is to help you plan your own adventures and create memories beyond your imagination!