BEST HIKES IN LASSEN VOLCANIC NATIONAL PARK
I visited Lassen Volcanic National Park this summer for the first time and was impressed by the variety of the landscapes, views, and trails. In Lassen, you can explore colorful geothermal hot pots, summit a peak, and swim in an alpine lake all in the same day. Unfortunately just a few days after we arrived, a large fire started less than 60 miles away, greatly affecting air quality. We did as much as we could, but didn’t have a chance to check off all Lassen’s best hikes. So what did we do for this blog post? We reached out to our favorite fellow outdoor bloggers and asked them to contribute to this comprehensive guide to the best trails in Lassen Volcanic National Park.
As it goes in all of the destinations we share, please practice good trail etiquette and remember to Leave No Trace. This means packing out all of your garbage, being respectful to others on busy trails, and following the established rules.
Plan your adventure using this round-up of the best hikes in Lassen Volcanic National Park!
This best hike in Lassen was submitted by John Soares, who is the author of 100 Classic Hikes: Northern California and Day Hiking: Mount Shasta, Lassen & Trinity Alps Regions (both published by Mountaineers Books, 2018). He shares hiking trails and tips at his Northern California Hiking Trails website and his Northern California Hiking Trails Facebook page.
- Roundtrip mileage: 5 miles
- Elevation Change: +2,000 feet
At a height of 10,457 feet, Lassen Peak dominates the topography of Lassen Volcanic National Park. The 2.5-mile-long trail to the summit gains 2000 feet of elevation, but at a steady rate and on a wide path. The views at the top more than justify the effort. You’ll see jumbled chunks of lava in the crater, remnants of Lassen Peak’s eruptions from 1914 to 1921. You’ll also gaze at prominent lakes and peaks throughout the park, and farther south to the Northern Sierra Nevada. Other Cascade volcanoes lead north to Mount Shasta, with the Trinity Alps and the Coast Range in the far distance to the west, beyond the Sacramento Valley.
Beyond what you should always take for a day hike, make sure you have extra layers of warm clothes: it can be windy and cold up there.
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This best hike in Lassen was submitted by Josh McNair, who is the author of California Through My Lens – an awesome online resource for people looking to plan an epic California vacations.
- Roundtrip mileage: 3 miles
- Elevation Change: +200 feet
Bumpass Hell is one of the best hydrothermal areas in California. It is a short hike each way that leads to a boardwalk that crosses colorful boiling mud pots and steam vents all over the ground. The smell of the sulfur is heavy in this area but the uniqueness of the landscape makes up for the uncomfortable smell. Be sure to stay on the boardwalk as Bumpass Hell gets its name from one of the early settlers who fell into one of the pools and lost a leg. The trail is currently closed for restoration but should open again in late 2018. You can check updates on the trail here on the NPS site.
Boiling Springs Lake / Devil’s Kitchen
This best hike in Lassen was submitted by Kim Vawter, BFT’s Community Manager, who hiked through the Drakesbad area of Lassen Volcanic National Park on her Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike.
- Roundtrip mileage: 4.2 miles
- Elevation Change: +/-440 feet
These trails are in a lesser-visited section of Lassen. You won’t find any crowds but you will find just as stunning and unique scenery. Seventeen miles of the Pacific Crest Trail cuts through this area of the park and continues North. There are plenty of hiking trail options that begin from the Warner Valley Trailhead. The Boiling Spring loop trail is 3 miles roundtrip and is easy with little elevation gain. The Devil’s Kitchen loop is 4.2 miles with 440 feet of elevation change.
Snag Lake Backpacking Trip with Extension to Cinder Cone/Painted Dunes
- Roundtrip mileage: 14+ miles
- Elevation Change: +1500 feet
Snag Lake is one of the lesser visited lakes in Lassen Volcanic National Park. It’s not as impressive as its neighbors in the Clusters Lake loop, but it’s a lovely destination for hikers wanting to add extra mileage to their trip or to do a backpacking trip in Lassen. Begin at Summit Lake and follow the trail to Upper and Lower Twin Lakes. From there, take the trail to Rainbow Lake. The trail breaks off here. The right in the fork will get you to Snag Lake in half the time. Total elevation gain is about 1500 feet. To get back to your car, retrace your steps, or make it a loop by adding on the Cinder Cone, and finishing the Clusters Lake loop burn area. If you make this a loop trail it can be a really nice 20+ mile backpacking trip.
Terrace, Shadow & Cliff Lakes
- Roundtrip mileage: 3.3 miles
- Elevation Change: + 725 feet
The Terrace, Shadow & Cliffs Lakes trail is one of the best hikes in Lassen Volcanic National Park with little effort. You only have to put in 3.3 round-trip miles with 725 of elevation gain, and you get three beautiful alpine lakes and some epic views of Mount Lassen. The trail starts from the Paradise Meadow trailhead parking left side the side of the road (heading north) and at the first junction, you hang a right towards the lakes. Not more than 20 minutes into the hike, you reach the first, Lake Terrace. The trail gradually descends through the lake basin, meaning you save the work for the trip home.
We had Cliff Lakes (and awesome surrounding views) all to ourselves, but found Shadow Lake far superior for swimming. I highly suggest bringing something to swim in, along with some lunch, to really make the most of this moderate hike.
Kings Creek Falls
- Roundtrip mileage: 3.0 miles
- Elevation Change: – 700 feet
One of the more popular trails in the park, Kings Creek Falls takes through meadows and forest and down along a cliff with expansive views, until you reach the top of King Creek Falls. There is a nice overlook platform at the top of the falls, where you can get a nice photo. On the Park website, they ask that people don’t go down to the base of the Falls.
The Falls sit in a narrow canyon and are quite pretty….but the real highlight of the trail is on the way back up. When you get to the junction, you’ll want to make a loop for the best scenery. Hug the left towards the river and continue following the creek. Shortly after the junction, you’ll come to some steep rock stairs, right along a series of fast, flowing cascades. At the top, there’s a nice place to rest in the shade before you continue back to your car.
- Roundtrip mileage: 2.2 miles
- Elevation Change: + 1000 feet
Short and steep, you’ll climb 1000 feet in 1.1 miles to get to reach Ridge Lake (or Lakes depending on the water levels). Sitting in a rocky basin, this felt like a typical alpine lake in the Sierras. It’s totally swimmable, so come prepared if you want to dip. We only saw 3 other people on this hike. I think the elevation changes scares many people away. Other highlights of this hike were the abundance of wildflowers and the small bear we saw both on the way up and back down. Of course, I wanted to get a photo, but I wasn’t that quick and I wanted to respect the bear’s space.