NorCal Roadtrips

An Explorer's Guide to Northern California

Exploring Lassen National Forest

Background

Lassen National Forest sits on the east side of Interstate 5 centered not far from Redding & Red Bluff. It is defined by its major geological attraction, Mt. Lassen, the largest plug dome volcano in the world. Lassen Volcanic National Park tends to overshadow the rest of the forest, which also has many virtues. This document will not cover the national park in detail as we have another write-up for that. Click the Lassen Volcanic National Park link for more information.

Things To Do

Hiking/Backpacking

There are three nationally-recognized wilderness areas within forest boundaries:

Wilderness areas appeal to those who want to experience nature unmodified by human hands. There are numerous established trailheads in the areas for those who prefer a somewhat documented trail to freelancing, but there's something for everyone.

And speaking of trails, there are more than 460 miles of those. Some of the major ones include:

The Pacific Crest Trail- with 120 miles in the forest and another 17 in Lassen Volcanic National Park it has a significant presence here.

Spencer Meadows National Recreation Trail- 6 miles of scenic walking with connections to trails with the national park.

Bizz Johnson National Recreation Trail- 26 miles of old railroad logging path.

Heart Lake National Recreation Trail- 3.5 miles along Martin Creek with views of Lassen Peak and the remains of Brokeoff Mountain, once the largest volcano in the area.

Almanor Recreation Trail- 11 miles of multi-use paved trail for exploring the shoreline.

Eagle Lake Bike Trail- a hiking/biking trail for exploring the Eagle Lake shoreline.

Winter Sports

There is one small downhill ski area (Stover Mountain), two established cross-country ski areas (Colby Creek & McGowan Lake), 6 snowmobile staging areas with parking and restrooms and lots of hills to play on.

Fishing

Lassen has three "famous" fishing destinations.

Lake Almanor- the big kahuna of Lassen National Forest, Almanor is known for rainbow and brown trout as well as smallmouth bass.

Eagle Lake- the second largest natural lake in California is known for the famous Eagle Lake Trout, a unique strain often transplanted into remote lakes with a high alkalinity level where other species can't survive.

Hat Creek- for folks who like to fish for trout in rivers it doesn't get much better than Hat Creek.

In addition, there are many smaller lakes and streams with lots to offer the angler, many stocked seasonally by DFG. Fishing in Lassen Volcanic National Park is poor to non-existent.

Camping

There are 42 developed campgrounds here, some managed by the forest service under contract to a concessionaire and 4 owned and managed by PG&E. Like most national forest campgrounds anywhere, most have amenities limited generally to picnic tables, fire grills, vault toilets and drinking water; sometimes less. We provide you with the specifics.

Private campgrounds generally offer more, and are largely confined to the major lake destinations: Eagle Lake and Lake Almanor.

Off-Road Driving

Lassen National Forest has a unique attraction for those who like to get off-road with street-legal 4-wheel drive vehicles: The Lassen Backcountry Discovery Trail. It's 186 miles of mostly dirt/gravel road suitable for a stock SUV or better for those who like to get off the grid. It can be tackled all at once or taken in stages but will get you up-close-and-personal with what the forest has to offer.

The Destinations

Click on any of the links to access a write-up on the destination noted. There is no link for Hat Creek as that is an area, not a specific destination.

Lassen Volcanic National Park- a unique place best known for its topography shaped by volcanic activity, but also a fine place to camp with some pretty lakes.

Lake Almanor- a large (28,000 surface acres) lake 13 miles in length with excellent fishing for brown, Eagle Lake & rainbow trout plus smallmouth bass. Lots of people like it because its one of the few big lakes with relatively little development; a place to fish and camp. It's owned by PG&E with campgrounds managed by them as well as the forest service.

Eagle Lake- another big (27,000 surface acres) lake with excellent trout fishing along with camping and other water sports. Home to the famous Eagle Lake Trout.

Crater Lake- a small 27 surface acre lake accessed via a rough road but a nice fit for folks with a 4WD who want to camp & fish in relative solitude. Stocked with rainbow trout. Small, non-motorized boats only.

Butt Valley Reservoir- a small reservoir fed by nearby Lake Almanor with camping and fishing for rainbow trout.

Hat Creek Watershed- one of the best and most popular places to fish for trout in a river. Opportunities to fish and camp are numerous, centered near the village of Old Station, just north of Lassen Volcanic National Park.

The Road Trips

Click the link for a write-up on the trip listed below.

Lassen Backcountry Discovery Byway

Hwy. 36- Red Bluff to Susanville

Hwy. 89- Lake Almanor to Mt. Shasta

-The End-