We’re happy to present you with our 3 Must Do Things at Lassen Volcanic N.P.! Just in case you’re not familiar with Lassen Volcanic National Park, it’s one of the oldest National Parks in the NPS system. It was designated as the 15th National Park in 1916. Lassen Volcanic is located in northeastern California, about a one-hour drive east of the city of Redding and is just one of a few locations in the world where all four types of volcanoes exist. Along with Lassen Peak, which is the largest plug dome volcano in the world, you’ll find examples of cinder cone, shield and strato volcanoes. What makes this all even more exciting is that the Park is still an active volcano area! Lassen Peak last erupted in 1917 and we’re not sure if any knows when the next one might be due!
Now that we have the obligatory history lesson out of the way, we can get to the 3 must do things at Lassen Volcanic! Of course there are far more than 3 but we’ll save those for another post. We’ll probably call that one something like, “3 More Must-Do Things at Lassen Volcanic!”
It is worth pointing out that during our most recent visit in the summer of 2017, we still found snow on the ground. A lot of snow! So much snow that the main road through the park that joins the northern and southern areas was still closed! That was a bit of an inconvenience. We were camping up north at Manzanita Lake Campground, which is fantastic by the way, and then had to drive about 90 minutes, leaving the park and using an external road to get to the southern entrance to get access to some of the attractions.
Without further ado, here are three things you absolutely need to do while visiting Lassen Volcanic National Park!
There are eight campgrounds at Lassen Volcanic and they vary from primitive to developed. We chose to stay at Manzanita Lake Campground because of its proximity to the lake and some other amenities like showers, a general store and a small visitor’s center but most importantly, it had two loops that were first-come, first-served! We rarely make reservations when we go camping, we tend to head out in the middle of the week and look for first-come, first-served sites which are usually easy to find midweek even in fairly popular places. Luckily, we scored a nice, peaceful site in Loop D, a tent-only loop. Loops A and C have reservable sites while Loops B & D are first-come, first-served.
We had some really great families staying in the campground near us which made for some fun times for our kids. They still talk about the friends they made on that trip! It was easy for the kids to get around on bikes or just run like wild animals. The campsites were somewhat open to each other without much privacy but they were fairly well shaded which made for very pleasant temperatures during the day.
The campground is at an elevation of 5,890 so it was pretty cold at night. We had to bundle up to stay warm. Our 20-degree bags just weren’t cutting it in the 40-ish degree nights. In July! The days were amazing though, just perfect, clear blue skies!
In upcoming posts we’ll share how we prepare and pack for our camping trips including how we prepare for long road trips to distant campsites as well as how to meal plan!
2. Boating on Manzanita Lake!
Regardless if you’re camping with or without kids, it’s always nice to have a variety of activities to choose from. The hiking was great and playing in the snow was an unexpected treat but getting out on the lake in a small canoe with the kids was really special. They were so excited to have the chance to paddle and steer the boat. The scenery is so spectacular that you just want to get out to the middle of the lake and look back on snow-covered Lassen Peak. We had some shaky moments in the boat that prompted the kids to start asking whether or not we were going to capsize and end up in the drink! The water appeared to be mostly shallow from what we could tell, the average depth is supposed to be about 15 feet.
After our time on the boat, we enjoyed the hike around Manzanita Lake, it was easy and really beautiful. So many great spots to pause, take in the all the natural beauty and snap a few photos. If you’re brave, you can do some tree-walking into the lake like our son did! So you can see why, for us, this was one of the 3 must do things at Lassen Volcanic NP.
3. See the Boiling Mudpots and Hike the Bumpass Hell Trail!
Ok, full disclosure, we didn’t get to hike the Bumpass Hell Trail as it was still covered in snow. Again, mind you, this is July! The trail has been undergoing a multi-year renovation effort so check to see if it’s open in advance. There are however boiling mud pots along the side of the road at the Sulphur Works site. This is accessed by driving the main road through the park where it’s quite easy to park and get up close and personal. There is the smell of sulphur in the air, and the kids will complain, but once you get past that slight unpleasantness, it’s really a fascinating sight!
The boiling mud pots at Sulphur Works and the larger site at Bumpass Hell Trail are hydrothermal areas within Lassen Volcanic National Park. These hydrothermal areas are fed by rain and snow that accumulates underground in the park and is heated by molten rock beneath Lassen Peak, causing it to rise and form boiling pools of mud. These hydrothermal areas offer signs that Lassen NP is still an active volcanic area that last erupted just over 100 years ago!
One word of caution when visiting these hydrothermal areas… Please stay on the trail! Visitors have been burned when getting too close!
So, get to Lassen Volcanic National Park and enjoy a unique landscape unlike any other! And be sure to consider these 3 must do things at Lassen Volcanic!
NP campground site:
National Park Service site: