Best time to visit: Summer
Recommended Hikes: Lassen Peak, the Cinder Cone, Bumpass Hell, Manzanita Lake
Ideal For: Hiking, Backpacking, Camping, Fishing, Mountain-Climbing, Auto-Touring
Where to stay: Campgrounds in the park
Lassen is a landscape of volcanic features with peaks, hot springs, and crags. It is open year around, but heavy snowfall closes most of the park for the winter half of the year. Visiting in summer allows access to Lassen Peak and the more remote sections of the park that require travel on dirt roads.
Must See Attractions:
the Cinder Cone - This is my favorite feature of Lassen. Its a giant pile of loose volcanic gravel that piled up over months of continuous eruptions, some 350 years ago. It's located on the north-east side of the park, and is accessible via a dirt road into the park from Highway 44. There is a steep and exhausting hiking path that goes to the top of the cone and around its central crater, with views of Lassen Peak in the distance. Read more in the hiking section below.
Lassen Peak - The highest point on the park road is right next to Lassen Peak, allowing visitors to get close to it and even hike it if they are able. There are two picturesque lakes at is base to enjoy as well. Snow lasts well into summer on the peak.
Bumpass Hell - Lassen has a number of thermal features, mostly located on the south side of the park. Bumpass Hell is one of the larger thermal areas that can be accessed via hiking route. The hike is about 3 miles roundtrip, but it is closed when there is snow on the ground, which can last well into summer. Read more about the hike here.
Manzanita Lake - A big lake with a great view of Lassen Peak, Manzanita is located just inside the parks north west entrance. There is a great hiking path around the lake, and you can rent kayaks, canoes, and paddle boards at the Manzanita Camp Store. Motorless boats are allowed on Manzanita Lake as well.
Lassen gets a ton of snow each year. While the park is open year around, the dirt roads and the peak are closed throughout the winter half of the year. The paved road which connects the parks west and south entrances is closed until mid-June each year (opening date varies).
Only the western side of the park is accessible via paved road. In order to get to the Cinder Cone at the north-east side of the park and Juniper Lake at the south-east side, you will need to drive on well maintained dirt roads (open summer only).
Hot springs are dangerous - do not leave boardwalks when hiking near thermal features as the ground is sometimes thin and brittle and sits just above boiling hot water.
Drinking water is available at campgrounds and visitor centers. Bring your water bottle to fill up.
There is no shuttle service at Lassen Volcanic NP.
Where to Stay:
There are several campgrounds within the park - Manzanita Lake is the biggest and it can be reserved online in advance here. It also has cabins which can be reserved online here. Manzanita Lake has showers and a general store. Other campgrounds in the park are open summer only - see the park website here for more information.
Hotel options are very limited near the park, but there are more choices towards the city of Redding for visitors who are willing to drive to and from the park each day. Camping or staying in the cabins is the best option to reduce daily drive times.
Hiking in Lassen:
Cinder Cone - My favorite hike in the park because it's so unique. The Cinder Cone is about 700 feet tall, and the hike to it's peak is very steep by hiking path standards. It is made of lose volcanic gravel which makes climbing exhausting, similar to climbing on sand. The peak offers great views in all directions, including Lassen Peak. Read more about the hike here.
Lassen Peak - A good challenge for fit hikers, Lassen Peak can be summited during late summer with no technical skills or equipment required. The peak is an awesome endpoint with plenty of room to spread out and enjoy views of the park and nearby Mt Shasta on clear days. There is snow on the trail well into the summer, hiking poles and even crampons are useful for hiking on snow. Read more about the hike here.
Crag Lake - A sweet four mile round trip to the tiny green gem Crag Lake. The trailhead is near the Manzanita Lake turnoff. The lake can run dry in late summer/fall but it's a good hiking option in the spring and early summer when some of the other routes in the park are closed due to snow.
Manzanita Lake - An enjoyable and flat hike around one of the park's prettiest lakes. This can be extended to include nearby Reflection Lake as well and is a good option in all seasons.
Parts that I missed:
King's Creek - Hikes in this area lead to thermal features and King's Creek Falls. Best to visit in late summer as snow lingers in this area into July.
Juniper Lake area - Located on the remote south east side of the park, Juniper Lake is the biggest lake in the park. There looks to be numerous hiking routes in this area to nearby smaller lakes and thermal features. Motor boats are not allowed, but this is a popular place to kayak, canoe, and camp. This part of the park is closed during winter months.