Lassen Volcanic Nationalpark is in my humble opinion one of California’s more underrated national parks. Which meant that when we visited it in August it was surprisingly non-crowded. Surprisingly, because sight-wise Lassen turned out to be one of my favourite parks. Weird volcanic mud action, beautiful mountain scenery and one of the easiest 3000-meter-peaks to climb.
Lassen peak is impressive. Its white-greyish peak visible from the park road, towering above the nationalpark that it lent its name to. It is 3189 meters (10457 ft) high and the view from up there is spectacular. And if that was not reason enough to attempt this peak, it is probably also gonna be one of the easiest 3000-meter-peaks you’ll ever climb. The paved park road will take you up to the trailhead which is located a convenient 2.5 miles from the peak at an elevation of 2591 meters – leaving you with a humble 500-something meters of altitude gain to manage.
These 2.5 miles are not supereasy, that has to be said nevertheless. It’s a steady uphill pretty much from the start, its endless switchbacks through some rather exposed territory and its quite a bit of a scramble up to the top. And you might feel the altitude too. Be sure to bring a lot of water with you, wear a hat and sunscreen and bring some snacks too (consult the trail leaflet on how to stay safe) The hike will probably take you about 2-3 hours to the top, and about another hour or two down again.
Yet when you start off early in the morning you’ll be able to beat the heat and the crowds and will be able to enjoy the great view of the park mostly by yourself.
And Lassen peak is not all this beautiful park has to offer: Be sure to check out the trail to Bumpass Hell (3 miles, 2 hours, roundtrip). An area with multi-coloured soil, hot springs, bubbling mudpots and steaming, smelly, pools. Be sure to stay on the marked trails and on the wooden boardwalks: Apparently an early settler called Bumpass lost a leg in this area, because he broke through the thin soil crust and fell into one of the steaming acidic pools.
Furthermore Manzanita Lake campground, the campground on the northside of the park was one of the nicest ones I stayed at during my time on the westcoast. It is rather big, yes, but at the same time it is super spacious, there were still some sites available even if you didnt have a reservation, services included a tiny shop, clean toilets, showers and even laundry faciliteis and everyone we met there – guests and hosts- was superrelaxed and supernice and just having a good time. Campground camping as it should be. Will definitely be back in Lassen Volcanic Nationalpark for more exploring.