13 Snowshoe Hikes in Lassen Volcanic National Park

A snowshoer waves on a ranger-led snowshoe walk through the red fir forest.

Lassen Volcanic National Park is one of the most beautiful wilderness destinations in Northern California. Lacking the typical crowds that you might see at more popular parks, Lassen is known to bring visitors a remote experience jam-packed with mountains, lakes, streams and waterfalls.

Although the park is most popular in the spring, summer and fall, finding a new experience during the winter is recommended for any outdoor adventurer. Seeing your favorite lake frozen or your favorite mountain covered in snow can bring a new perspective to the Lassen experience.

In the winter, Lassen typically receives a lot of snow, making it difficult to maneuver to the popular sites in the park. But with a pair of snowshoes, the typically empty park in the winter is an outdoor adventure like any other.

RELATED: Meeting a Distant Giant: A Ranger-Guided Snowshoe Tour of Lassen

If your looking to play in the snow, here are 13 snowshoe hikes in Lassen Volcanic National Park. From the short beginner treks, to the long advanced adventures, there’s something for everyone in the midst of winter at Lassen:

Manzanita Lake Routes

Lassen Volcanic Highway opens to skiing and snowshoeing beyond the Loomis Plaza during the winter season highway closure. The route follows the snow-covered highway, with several destinations along the way. Destinations beyond Lost Creek Campground area are recommended for overnight trips only.

Above Kings Creek, the route enters an area that is subject to extreme avalanche danger. Heavy and deep snow and steep terrain require advanced skiing and mountaineering skills. This area is not recommended for the novice skier or snow camper. The summit of the park highway climbs to 8,512 feet in elevation and provides spectacular views of the region. Allow a minimum of three days to cross the park.

Beginner Routes

Manzanita Lake Snowshoe Loop
This trail is not recommended for skiing
Distance: 1.5 mile loop
Elevation: 5,800 to 5,850 feet
Average Time: 1.5 hours

Begin near the Loomis Ranger Station and circle the lake in either direction. This route provides excellent views of Lassen Peak and Chaos Crags. Please stay off lake ice, it is unstable and shores may be difficult to recognize under snow.

Reflection Lake Snowshoe Route
This trail is not recommended for skiing
Distance: 0.5 mile loop
Elevation: 5,800 feet
Average Time: 30 minutes

Begin at the shore across the highway from the Loomis Museum and circle the lake in either direction. It may be necessary to follow the park highway for a short section of the lake edge closest to the road. Please stay off lake ice, it may be unstable and shores can be difficult to recognize under snow.

Manzanita Campground Loop
Distance: 1.5 mile loop
Elevation: 5,800 feet
Average Skiing Time: 1.5 hours

Cross the footbridge by the Loomis Ranger Station, turn right and follow the road to the campground for approximately a quarter mile to where it turns to the right through a set of large rocks. The trail covers a half-mile loop through several sections of the campground.

Intermediate Routes

Chaos Jumbles Area
Distance, elevation change and times vary

Head up the park highway for approximately a half-mile to an open area of stunted trees. Veer to the right up toward Chaos Crags. Here the undulating topography slopes up into the bowl of the Crags. The terrain is easy to moderately difficult with excellent views at the higher elevations.

Chaos Crags Trail
This trail is not recommended for skiing
Distance: 4 miles round-trip
Elevation: 5,290 to 6,650 feet
Average Time: 3-4 hours

Cross the footbridge by the Loomis Ranger Station, turn left and follow the road to the Chaos Crags Trailhead sign. Follow yellow tree markers as the trail climbs steeply up to a ridge. If you decide to descend to Crags Lake, beware of potential rock falls and high winds.

Nobles Emigrant Trail
Distance: 7 miles round-trip
Elevation: 5,875 to 6,275 feet
Average Skiing Time: 3-4 hours

Pick up the trail north of Reflection Lake or at the trailhead off a service road west of Reflection Lake. Follow the orange tree markers along the base of Table Mountain. The trail climbs over a flank of Table Mountain into a thick fir forest and rejoins the park highway three miles east of the Loomis Plaza at Sunflower Flat. Return the way you came or via the park highway to make a loop.

Manzanita Creek
Distance: 7.5 miles round-trip
Elevation: 5,850 to 7,400 feet
Average Skiing Time: 6 hours

From the Loomis Ranger Station, cross a footbridge, then turn right onto the Manzanita Lake Campground road. Travel through the campground to the Manzanita Creek trailhead sign. The route is mostly a gradual climb of approximately 1,000 feet. Beware of avalanche chutes off of Loomis Peak that may reach the upper end of the trail.

Southwest Routes

Lassen Volcanic Highway is open to skiing and snowshoeing beyond the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center during the winter season highway closure. The route follows the snow-covered highway, with several destinations along the way.

The southwest area of the park is primarily composed of steep terrain and sections of the highway are prone to avalanche danger. Travel outside of the road corridor is recommended only for experienced winter travelers.

The Diamond Peak area (including the eastern slope above Sulphur Works) is extremely avalanche prone. This area should be avoided by using the marked “Ranger Cutoff” route just north of Windy Point. By mid-winter it is difficult to find any trace of the road between the Little Hot Springs Valley and Reading Peak.

High winds and white out conditions are common in this area during winter storms. Destinations beyond Lake Helen are recommended for overnight trips only. Good overnight snow camping areas can be found short distance from the highway north of Diamond Peak and near Emerald Lake and Lake Helen

Beginner Routes

Sulphur Works
Distance: 2 miles round-trip
Elevation: 6,700 to 7,000 feet
Average Skiing Time: 1 hour

The boiling mudpots and steam vents at Sulphur Works are active year-round. Follow the park highway route northwest from the southwest parking area. The left side of the route is bordered by steep side hills, be aware of avalanche danger. For your safety, do not travel or camp in or near hydrothermal areas. The snow surrounding these areas may look solid, but may actually be a weak snow layer hiding pools of acidic boiling water. Traveling too close to hydrothermal areas has resulted in severe injuries for previous visitors.

Nanny Creek via McGowan Ski Trail
Located in adjacent Lassen National Forest
Distance: 5 miles to Nanny Creek one-way
Elevation: 6,080 to 5,110 feet
Average Skiing Time: 4 hours

The McGowan ski trail is located in Lassen National Forest, 3.5 miles south of the southwest entrance. Marked routes travel across a flat and slightly descending landscape. Follow a loop to the north or ski through to Highway 36 at Nanny Creek. The trail does not go to McGowan Lake, which is on private property. This main route makes for a good one-way ski route if vehicles are available for shuttle.

Intermediate Routes

Ridge Lake
Distance: 4 miles round-trip
Elevation: 7,000 to 8,000 feet
Average Skiing Time: 4 hours

Follow the park highway route from the southwest parking area about ¾ mile and cross the bridge before Sulphur Works. The route begins at the north end of the flat area to the left. The route climbs rapidly along the east side of West Sulphur Creek to the Ridge Lakes basin. Several good camping spots can be found on the north shore of Ridge Lakes. If weather is severe, more protected camping can be found about ¼ mile below Ridge Lakes along its outlet creek. Avoid the area south of Ridge Lakes during periods of avalanche danger.

Diamond Peak
Distance: 4 miles round-trip
Elevation: 6,700 to 8,000 feet
Average Skiing Time: 4 hours

Follow the park highway route from the southwest parking area 1.5 miles to Windy Point. Veer left off the Park Highway Route at the sign for Ranger Cutoff, just beyond the point. The route climbs a gentle slope to a ridge with excellent views of Brokeoff Mountain and Sulphur Works. Stop here or continue along the ridge as it gradually narrows, providing views of Lassen Peak and eventually opening onto a steep slope at the western foot of Diamond Peak. Return using the same route; avoid descending the avalanche-prone slopes above the Sulphur Works area.

Advanced Routes

Brokeoff Mountain
Distance: 7 miles round-trip
Elevation: 6,650 to 9,250 feet
Average Skiing Time: 8 hours

Most skiers access the summit via the southwest ridge. Getting onto this ridge can be difficult as the various routes pass through hazardous canyons. Traditional routes use the Forest Lake route or the summer trail that begins near the park entrance. Numerous avalanche paths exist on all aspects of the mountain. Travelers should use extreme caution. Many skiers reserve travel on Brokeoff Mountain for spring when snow conditions traditionally stabilize. Summit conditions during inclement weather often include high winds with little or no visibility. Be cautious of overhanging cornices at the summit.

Lassen Peak
Distance: 20 miles round-trip
Elevation: 6,700 to 10,457 feet
Average Skiing Time: 3 days

Most skiers and snowshoers allow three days to summit Lassen Peak in the winter. A possible itinerary includes Lake Helen, summit Lassen, and return. Be prepared for high winds in the Lassen Peak and Lake Helen areas. Conditions on the mountain are most stable in early morning hours; afternoon travel is not recommended. The safest route up the mountain follows the summer trail through the forested section and continues on the southeast ridge to the summit. Weather conditions on Lassen Peak can deteriorate rapidly, creating white out conditions and high winds.

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