NorCal Roadtrips

An Explorer's Guide to Northern California

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lassen Volcanic National Park is located between Redding and Susanville. Lassen Peak is a 10,457 foot plug dome volcano that last erupted in 1914 and left in its aftermath the sights that you see today. It is one of several Cascade range volcanoes, including Mt. Rainier, Mt. Shasta and the recently infamous Mt. St. Helens, which erupted in 1980. They are certainly unique, and in their own way beautiful. The park comprises 106,372 acres, with close to 80,000 being designated as wilderness. Features of interest include the areas affected by lava flows, craters, cinder cones, hot springs and pretty forested areas quite unlike the rest. Particular points of interest include Emerald Lake, Summit Lake, Emigrant Pass, Lost Creek, Butte Lake and Manzanita Lake. Many smaller, more remote lakes are scattered throughout the park. The park closes in winter, generally in late October, and re-opens in late May. In our view Butte Lake should be on your itinerary, either for a day or to camp. In fact, we prefer it to the more popular Manzanita Lake as a place to camp. It's located in the northeast corner of the park about 24 miles from the northern park entrance. The campground compares favorably with Manzanita but is less crowded, but the real attraction is the hike to the Cinder Cone volcano via the Cinder Cone Nature Trail; the trailhead is at the campground. You'll hike 1.2 miles to the base of the volcano and then ascend to the top where the views are fabulous. The ascent is not long but is relatively steep and it's like walking in sand. So if you are not in reasonably decent hiking shape you may find it a challenge. Other trails lead off from the base for those who need more. The Manzanita Lake area has the virtue of being closer to many of the "star" attractions of the park, as well as being the location of the ranger station, store, etc. The other best choice would be the Summit Lake (North & South) campgrounds, located on a very pretty lake. These campgrounds open later in the year than Butte or Manzanita so check before making plans. And here's a tip. In the vicinity of the village of Old Station there are three very fine Forest Service campgrounds along Hwy. 44/89. The best is Hat Creek Campground, which straddles the creek of the same name, which is well known to trout fishermen. The others are Big Pine Campground and Cave campground. All offer an option to the park campgrounds if they are full, or if you prefer the more rustic feel of a Forest Service facility. The location of all is very central to everything you'll want to do in and around Lassen Volcanic National Park.

From the bay area, the most expeditious route would be to take Interstate 5 north to Red Bluff and Highway 36 east to the park. That would lead you to the southern park entrance and a direct shot to the Manzanita Lake area and the many attractions along the way. If you, like us, want to focus on the Butte Lake area, it would be better to drive past Red Bluff to Redding and take Hwy. 44/89 east. You will pass the northern park entrance. Stay on Hwy. 44 to the hamlet of Old Station and just past there watch for a well marked forest road to Butte Lake. It's a simple matter to backtrack to the park entrance and head south to Manzanita Lake and environs and then stay on Hwy. 89 south out of the park at the southern end and on to Red Bluff, Int. 5 and points north or south. 

Hwy. 89 that traverses the park closes in winter near Lassen Peak. Hikes to the summit are restricted to select days (generally weekends) early in the season so check with the rangers if that is in your plans.

Campgrounds in the park are all above 5,600 feet and are listed on the linked page. Check on availability early in the season.


Things To Do Campgrounds Photo Gallery