Lassen Peak, viewed from frozen Lake Helen, July 16, 2006

Lassen Volcanic National Park, located about 175 miles north of Davis, features some of the most interesting volcanic landscapes in California and the United States. The park's main attraction is Lassen Peak, the world's largest plug-dome volcano which last erupted in 1922. With a 2.5-mile trail to its 10,457-foot summit, Lassen Peak is great location for a nice weekend hike. The surrounding landscape features dense forests, blue lakes, clear creeks, and lush meadows. The park is also home to a variety of active geothermal features, including hot creeks, boiling mudpots, fumaroles, sulfur pits, and a geyser. Because Lassen is only open during the summer and early autumn months, it is often cited as the least-visited national park in the contiguous United States.

Getting There

Lassen Volcanic National Park is only accessible by car and is about 3 hours north of Davis. Highway 89 runs north-south through the park and can be reached by taking I-5 north towards Red Bluff, then by heading east on either Highway 36 or 44. From the west, take US Highway 395 north towards Susanville, then head east on Highway 36. Due to large amounts of snowfall, Highway 89 through Lassen is only open in the summer, usually between Memorial Day and the first snowfall after October. Rental car and Amtrak services are also available in Redding. See also: Adventures Outside of Davis.

Popular Activities

Lassen Volcanic National Park is host to a multitude of popular summer and winter activities. The most visited part of the park is the western section, served by Highway 89. The eastern and southern parts of the park are more remote, and are only accessible via a gravel road off Highway 44 or the Warner Valley Road from Chester, respectively.

Western Portion

Lassen's western portion, served by Highway 89, features the Suflur Works, Little Hot Springs, and Bumpass Hell geothermal areas. Further north along Highway 89 is Lake Helen, a popular spot for photographing Lassen Peak and for snacking. Up the road is a parking area for the 2.5-mile Lassen Peak Trail, from which a round-trip stroll to the summit may be completed in under 4 hours. After leaving the road's high point at 8,521 feet, Highway 89 slowly descends through lush forests and meadows, reaching various campgrounds at Summit Lake, and crosses the Devastated Area. Here, a dense forest was wiped clear by a portion of the volcano's northeast flank that collapsed during the main eruption. The road heads northwest, crossing blocky lava fields, and leaves the park near Manzanita Lake and its campgrounds. From here, visitors may continue west on Highway 44 towards Redding and I-5, or northeast via co-routed Highways 89 and 44, towards the eastern portion of the Park and US Highway 395 at Susanville.

Eastern and Southern Portions

Lassen's eastern and southern portions are more remote, but feature stunning, untouched beauty in lakes, lava fields, and smaller volcanoes. The Butte Lake campground and Cinder Cone trails are accessible via a road signed as "To Butte Lake" off Highway 44, some 20 miles northeast of the Manzanita Lake entrance. A two-mile trail leads to the top of Cinder Cone, which offers stunning views of Butte Lake, the reddish Painted Dunes, and a fantastic view of Lassen Peak. An historic portion of the Emigrant Trail, which brought emigrants to California in the mid-1800's, passes through this part of the park.

The southern portion of the park is accessible via the somewhat-paved Warner Valley Road from Chester near Lake Almanor. Here, the Drakesbad Guest Ranch offers the park's only lodging and geyser, Terminal Geyser. 

The Eastern entrance is accessible from the town of Chester through Juniper Lake Road which takes you to a 13 miles unpaved dirt road. Juniper Lake has 18 campground sites and is ideal for non-motorized boating. 

Places to Stay

Asides from the Drakesbad Guest Ranch, Lassen's only accommodations are located outside the park (unless you consider camping in the park). Lodging may be found in nearby Redding, Red Bluff, or Mineral. Several motels also line the highways that feed into the park.

Further Information Official website from the National Park Service. From Wikipedia. For more pictures.


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2006-11-05 22:43:05   Lassen Park has fantastic road bicycling. I've only ridden HW89 from north to south. It is a good gradual climb to the coffee shop (seasonal) at the summit. From the summit to the south entrance is the finest downhill I have ever had the pleasure of riding. Unparalleled scenery, perfect grade and engineering mastery. —RobiPochapin

2006-11-06 01:35:07   Lassen Volcanic National Park is a wonderful place to camp. Far from major cities, high enough to be refreshingly cool, and awesome wildflowers in the spring. Try the hike from Bumpass Hell down to Cold Boiling Lake for those. Sometimes there will be star parties at the Bumpass Hell parking lot at night and you can look through sweet portable telescopes and converse with astronomy geeks. Finally, not many people know how nice Lassen is, so it is seldom full of visitors. —KarlMogel

2009-08-20 15:32:03   Recently did Lassen in 4 days - one day for each corner of the park. It was spectacular! Just a short drive away from Davis for some of the most diverse landscape in a single park that I've seen maybe ever. Make sure you wear your high hiking boots for Cinder Cone (lots of crumbly gravel) and check out the Subway Cave (technically in Lassen Nat Forest) north of park for some easy spelunking. Plenty of activities to keep you occupied from hiking to biking and swimming to fishing. —DanXie