Lassen Volcanic National Park

Location: California

Park Tally: 47/59

Orientation: Lassen Volcanic National Park is a nature lovers dream – geothermal hot spots, colorful mountain vistas, forests of conifer trees, and an abundance of wildlife. As the park name suggests, Lassen has a volcanic history. During the years of 1914 and 1915, Lassen emitted steam and ashes in more than 150 eruptions. Then on May 19, 1915, the mountaintop exploded. Massive amounts of steam, ash and gas shot out of Lassen during the explosion, bursting up to 30,000 feet. Lassen Peak has remained quiet since 1921, but is still considered an active volcano. Now the park draws crowds of over 500,000 visitors each year to admire the spectacular landscape.

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There are five vehicle entrances to Lassen Volcanic National Park: north and south entrances on its west side, and unpaved roads on the east side of the park at Drakesbad, Juniper Lake, and Butte Lake. The park is open year-round, though road access is limited during winter months. Common visitor activities are car touring, backpacking, camping, hiking, fishing, skiing, snowshoeing, horseback riding, swimming, wildlife viewing, photographing and stargazing.

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Most iconic view:  Manzanita Lake is a must-visit when exploring Lassen Volcanic National Park. Located near the northwest entrance, Manzanita Lake provides unparalleled views of Lassen Peak (10,457-feet). Visitors can meander the 1.5-mile trail that circumnavigates the lake, with ample of opportunities for mountain, forest and lake views. The lake is also a popular spot for paddling, swimming and birding.

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Accessible activity:  One of the best ways to experience Lassen Volcanic National Park is via driving the entire 30-mile scenic park highway. A Road Guide can be picked up from the Loomis Museum or Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center. Some must-see pullouts are Manzanita Lake, Sulphur Works, and Lassen Peak Viewpoint. Some wonderful and relatively short hiking trails along the way include Kings Creek Falls (3-miles), Bumpass Hell (3-miles), and the Devastation Area Interpretive Loop (0.25-miles).

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For the adventurous:  There are numerous opportunities for a bigger adventure in Lassen Volcanic National Park. We loved hiking the Cinder Cone Trail (4-miles) in the Butte Lake section of the park. Not for the faint hearted, the Cinder Cone Trail climbs 846-feet with loose rock and high altitude making the trek challenging for most. Climbers are rewarded with stunning views from the top, with Prospect Peak, Lassen Peak, Snap Lake, the Fantastic Lava Beds and the Painted Dunes all visible. You can also take a separate trail down to the center of the Cinder Cone if you are feeling extra adventurous!

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The Brokeoff Mountain Trail (7-miles roundtrip) is another fantastic trail for those wanting panoramic mountain views. From the summit (9235-feet), hikers are treated to dramatic views of Lassen Peak and Mt Shasta can also be seen on the hike up. With an elevation gain of 2549-feet, Brokeoff Mountain is considered one of the toughest trails in the park, but also one of the most rewarding.

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Best photo opportunities: Lassen Volcanic National Park has numerous photography gems. Our favorites were Cinder Cone at sunrise (plus the trees on the Painted Dunes), and Manzanita Lake at sunset (facing Lassen Peak). Kings Creek Falls is a fantastic photography spot for those waterfall junkies out there.

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Quick facts

  • Lassen Volcanic became a National Park on August 9, 1916.
  • There are four Native American tribes that are known to have met in the Lassen area prior to immigrant settlement – the Maidu, Yahi, Yana, and Atsugewi people. The temperatures and moving deer herds in the area made it unsuitable for year-round living.
  • The park contains all four of the world’s known types of volcanoes – stratovolcanoes, volcanic domes, shield volcanoes, and cinder cones.
  • The main park road reaches 8,512-feet as it travels by Lassen Peak – making it the highest road in the Cascades Mountains.
  • Wildlife found within Lassen include black bear, bobcat, mountain lion, mule deer, pronghorn, geese, otter, coyote, red fox, chipmunk, squirrel, marmot, raccoon, weasel, skunk, pika, and more.
  • The elevation ranges from 5,275-feet to 10,457-feet in Lassen Volcanic National Park. This results in varied landscapes and types of forests.
  • Mixed conifers forests are common at elevations of less than 6,500 feet in Lassen Volcanic National Park. Elevations of 6,500 to 8,000 feet include forests of pine, red fir, hemlock, and lodgepole pine.
  • In 2016, Lassen Volcanic National Park had 536,068 visitors according to the National Park Service.

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