Northern California is hiding a secret. It’s filled with the underexplored and underexplained occurrences that until now have only garnered the interest of geologists and vulcanologists. Lassen Volcanic National Park offers tremendous opportunities for the curious. Discover exploding mountainsides, steaming crevasses, serene mountain lakes, and lunar landscapes, with very little sign of mankind in the mix.
This little-visited location sounds like the perfect destination for your next RV excursion! Here’s a list of 10 things to do in Lassen Volcanic National Park when you get there:
Drive Lassen Volcanic National Park Highway
Pick up the “Road Guide to Lassen Volcanic National Park” at Loomis Museum for a thorough introduction to the park’s highlights by car or RV.
The auto tour meanders 30 miles past several hydrothermal areas, through thick forests and down volcanic slopes. Scenic pullouts, picnic spots, and trailheads abound. It’s a great overview from which to plan more specific adventures.
Stock up at Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center
Supplies are limited throughout the park, so a pit stop at Kohm Yah-mah-nee is a must. In addition to grabbing a nourishing meal at the Lassen Cafe here, visitors will find a plethora of information on park highlights in the exhibit hall. Watch a 20-minute video bringing the geology and history of Lassen to life.
There are even a gift shop and Park Stamp Station for national park collectors in the group. We encourage you to a moment to talk with rangers. They will tell you about specific attractions and can sign you up for a ranger-led tour.
Tip: Be sure to pocket a few snacks for the day’s explorations, as the Manzanita Lake Camper Store is the only other location offering rations.
Enjoy the Bubbling Mud Pots at Sulphur Works
Investigate an age-old sulfur mine with roiling mud pots and rumbling fumaroles. You can find these at Sulphur Works, located near the park’s southwestern entrance. With magma lying 5 miles below the earth’s surface in this location, it is easy to see why fallen rainwater returns to the atmosphere as steam.
Once a prosperous business venture with its own gas station, restaurant and bathhouse, this hydrothermal wonder became part of Lassen Volcanic National Park in 1952.
Hike Down to Bumpass Hell
Although it doesn’t usually open until mid-July because of high snowpack, the Bumpass Hell Trail should be on your list. However, it offers visitors a unique look into the wide variety of hydrothermal areas throughout the park. Hikers will descend from the rim of Mount Tehama into an active vulcanized landscape that is truly out of this world.
Similarily, a boardwalk leads park explorers past super-heated, steaming vents and boiling hot springs. Mother Nature expends pent up energy from under the earth’s crust, unleashing acrid smells and rumbling clamor along the way!
This 3-mile round trip journey also includes a jog past the cool, pristine waters of Lake Helen and through meadows of tenacious California wildflowers, capping off a hike designed to stimulate all the senses!
Admire Kings Creek Falls
A stunning hiking trail leads to this 30-foot cascade, making this journey a favorite in Lassen. Explorers descend through bucolic Lower Kings Creek Meadow, eventually finding themselves at the perfect picnic spot in Lassen Volcanic National Park. This location offers an overlook of the falls, complete with thunderous torrent and cooling sprays.
A narrow stone staircase leads the adventurous back up to the Cascades Foot Trail, and the beauty around each turn cries out for photographic documentation! Therefore, hiking boots and a camera are required equipment to finish this 3-mile hike. And don’t miss the giant red fir trees in this forest, bent by yearly winter snows.
Kings Creek Falls is just one of several hidden gems within Lassen’s landscape.
Take a Swim in Summit Lake
With its lower altitude, Summit Lake provides warm water temperatures for a multitude of activities. In other words, swimming, paddle boarding, and non-motorized boating are welcome!
There are even campgrounds at the lake’s edge for both tenters (south campground) and RVers (north campground) to enjoy. When water sports have been exhausted, hikers will love the large number of lake trails that emanate from this centralized location.
Walk an Old Pioneer Covered Wagon Route on Nobles Emigrant Trail
After your swim, travel through history by hiking along remnants of a trail that brought pioneers to Northern California in the mid-1800s.
As a part of the California Trail, this path shortened the trip for those who sought gold in the form of nuggets and rich agricultural land.
A 24-mile section runs from the northeastern portion of the park to Manzanita Lake. It offers landscapes that haven’t changed much since the first gold-rushers traversed these hiking trails over 170 years ago!
See the Power of Volcanos in Chaos Jumbles
More evidence of geologic land building and erosion lies in a region of the park known as Chaos Crags. In addition, this is where six lava domes were formed about 1,000 years ago! With the help of volcanic eruptions, gravity eventually won out, causing massive rock slides in Lassen Volcanic National Park and creating the aptly named Chaos Jumbles.
This huge boulder field can be viewed from the top of the crags via the Chaos Crags and Crags Lake Trail. Even more exciting, it is considered an active geologic region today!
Kayak Around Manzanita Lake
The rock slides from Chaos Jumbles dammed Manzanita Creek formed placid Manzanita Lake.
Today’s visitors enjoy kayaking, fishing, and paddleboarding on waters that reflect Lassen Peak and Chaos Crags in the background. They can also busy themselves with setting up camp in their RVs at the adjoining campground.
Bring your own non-motorized craft or rent one from the Manzanita Lake Camper Store. This will surely be a memorable day on a remarkable mountain lake.
Get the Best View of the Park from Cinder Cone
For an experience right out of a science textbook, hike up Cinder Cone Volcano. In addition, this trail is right at the top of every rockhound’s wish list. This hike gains 800 feet in altitude! The trail winds its way through forested topography to climb the side of a shadeless, sandy, giant cone of lava.
Then, hikers are rewarded with 360-degree views of Lassen Volcanic National Park from one of the park’s most iconic structures. And don’t miss the side trail leading down into the crater of Cinder Cone.
The variety of landscapes within Lassen Volcanic certainly doesn’t disappoint. In other words, thick woodlands to towering mountains, gurgling mud pots to roaring waterfalls, and moonscapes of painted rock to gargantuan cones made of lava, this national park entices its visitors with the unusual and unique.
In conclusion, it is perfectly suited as an RV destination dream trip full of adventure and exploration – better add it to your itinerary!