We Finally Made it to Lassen Volcanic National Park, and It Was Worth the Wait
After years of planning that never quite materialized, we finally ventured to Northern California, specifically to camp in Lassen Volcanic National Park. While Northern California as a whole didn’t fully capture my heart, Lassen Volcanic National Park certainly did, and I highly recommend it to everyone.
Planning Your Camping Trip to Lassen Volcanic National Park: A Comprehensive Guide
Not sure where to start with your Lassen Volcanic National Park camping itinerary? No worries, I’ve got you covered. Below, you’ll find all the insights and tips I gathered during our trip to help you plan your own incredible adventure.
When Is the Best Time to Visit Lassen Volcanic National Park?
If you’re a fan of wintry conditions, you could consider visiting the portions of Lassen Volcanic National Park that remain open in the colder months. However, I’d advise against it. Instead, target your visit for summer or early fall when the snow has melted, the roads are fully accessible, and the weather is just right for camping.
Things to Know about Lassen Volcanic National Park
Before you head out on your Lassen Volcanic National Park camping trip, there are some things you should know. Below are a few things we learned along the way that would have been helpful to know going in.
Grab an Annual Pass
Entry to this park is currently $30 per car. This price allows you to come and go as you please for 7 days, so it’s not a bad deal if you’ll be around for a while. That said, if you plan to visit any other national parks in the next year, the “America the Beautiful” national park pass is a much better deal, and you should consider buying one.
Note: Seniors, those in the military, and disabled individuals may be entitled to a free or very low-cost national parks pass.
It is Really, Really High Up
The highest point in Lassen Volcanic National Park is 10,457 feet, while the lowest point is 5,275 feet. This means that no matter where you go in the park, you’re going to be at a pretty high altitude. This can make it more difficult to breathe when hiking. It can also affect how well things like propane stoves function. Keep this in mind while planning.
Cell Service is Spotty
Honestly, not having cell service wasn’t surprising at all. This is the case in most national parks. What was surprising was the fact that we could get reception from time to time. While you definitely won’t want to count on cell service for anything, you may be able to find a bar or so if you really need it and are willing to search for it.
The Weather Changes Quickly
The weather in Lassen was very strange. Obviously, because it’s so high up, the park is chilly. However, while we were there, we would see the sky go from bright blue and sunny to cloudy and even rainy and back again in a matter of minutes. I recommend dressing in layers and bringing rain gear so you’re prepared for whatever the weather decides to do.
Where to Go Lassen Volcanic National Park Camping
There are several great places to camp around Lassen Volcanic National Park. Manzanita Lake Campground is an official NPS campground and is an excellent place to stay if you don’t mind paid dry camping.
What to Do in Lassen Volcanic National Park
Finally, you’ll need to decide what to do while in the park. There are a huge number of options, and we could never list them all. Instead, we’re going to list our favorites below.
Start at the Visitor Center
We began our visit at the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center, and we were very glad we did. Here we explored some exhibits about the park—including the history of the park—and watched an orientation film that really helped us understand what the park was preserving.
Stop at Sulphur Works
Sulphur Works was a quick stop but the perfect introduction to the amazing geothermal features this park has to offer. Make sure to take the time to see this one. (There was some construction traffic in this area when we went, so if you go soon after this writing, be prepared to wait to enter and/or exit the nearby parking lot.)
Walk to Bumpass Hell
No trip to Lassen Volcanic National Park is complete without a hike to Bumpass Hell. The trail to get to this amazing geothermal area is about three miles round-trip. Once you arrive, you do have to walk more in order to get up close to the field of amazing features, but it is well worthwhile.
Hike to Boiling Springs Lake
A super easy three-mile hike takes you to Boiling Springs Lake, around it, and back again. The lake features a number of steam vents, which are hidden underwater and cause the temperature of the lake to sit right around 125°F. It’s bizarre to watch the steam rising off of the lake.
Check Out Kings Creek Falls
Waterfall enthusiasts should include a visit to Kings Creek Falls on their itinerary. This is one of the prettiest falls in California, and getting to it is relatively easy. Just know that it is a 2.3-mile hike out and back, so you will need some time.
Enjoy Manzanita Lake
Manzanita Lake is super easy to access and a lot of fun to wade and swim in (if you can stand the cold). Many people enjoy kayaking and fishing on the lake as well. Just know that there have been reports of river otters in the lake. While these would be a lot of fun to see, they can be aggressive, so if you see one, be sure to keep your distance.
Bonus: Walk Through Subway Cave
Technically, this one is not in the national park. That said, it is located right outside of the park in the national forest and is well worth seeing. Subway Cave is a super accessible lava tube that guests are welcome to explore all on their own. Make sure you bring a good flashlight, as the cave is incredibly dark.
Wrapping Up Your Lassen Volcanic National Park Adventure
There you have it—your complete guide to a memorable camping trip in Lassen Volcanic National Park. From choosing the perfect time to visit, to grabbing an annual pass for park hopping, to navigating the highs and lows (literally) of the terrain, you’re now equipped to tackle it all. And let’s not forget the myriad activities to keep you occupied, from geothermal wonders to breathtaking hikes. If I could give you one final piece of advice, it’d be this: soak in every moment. Whether it’s the steam rising off Boiling Springs Lake or the quiet solitude of a high-altitude morning, these are the experiences that make Lassen Volcanic an unforgettable destination.
Share your Lassen Volcanic National Park adventure in the comments.