The 8 Best Adventures in Lassen Volcanic National Park

Photo: Joe Parks

Sitting right outside Redding, California is one of the most underrated National Parks in the United States, loaded with pristine wildlife, beautiful hikes, pristine waterfalls, crystal-clear lakes and an active volcano. It’s typically not one of the National Parks you’ll hear when listing America’s most popular parks, and that’s a good thing.

At Lassen Volcanic National Park , you can experience a top-notch outdoor experience without the crowds you see at Yosemite or Yellowstone. And even with it’s lack of tourists, for our money, you won’t find more outdoor beauty in one wilderness area than in Lassen.

Did we mention it’s easy to get to? Just a 45-minute drive from Redding, you can be up in the wilderness first thing in the morning and be back in town for a hefty meal and craft beer at night. For people looking to visit Lassen for a far distance, the Redding Airport offers daily flights from San Francisco and has even recently added a flight from Los Angeles.

So nothing’s holding you back from a outdoor adventure for the ages at Lassen Volcanic National Park. Now that you’re sold, here are the 8 best adventures in the park for your upcoming trip:

Summit Lassen Peak

It’s hard to beat the experience you get when you’re standing at the summit of a significant mountain, especially when it’s an active volcano. The hike to the top of Lassen Peak is not a strenuous as one might think and you will experience amazing views of Lassen Volcanic National Park and the Northern California surroundings.

There’s no question why the Lassen Peak hike remains the most popular in the park. It’s not particularly strenuous and is a great memory for anyone looking to experience the beauty of the world.

Here is all the hike info:

Start: Lassen Peak parking area

Round Trip Distance: 5 miles

Round Trip Time: 3-5 hours

Terrain: steep 2000 foot elevation gain

Elevation: 8500 feet at trailhead, 10,457 feet at summit

Read all about the hike to the top of Lassen Peak here.

Hike to King’s Creek Falls

Photo by Tai Hoang

The trail to Kings Creek Falls in Lassen Volcanic National Park probably sees more hikers than any other route in the park during the warmer months.

A 3-miles roundtrip walk on the path includes jaunts through peaceful woods, a stroll around wildflower-speckled Kings Creek Meadow and the main attraction, tranquil Kings Creek Falls. For a short hike, it offers a lot of different scenery. If you’re a novice hiker or just getting to know Lassen, you should head to the Kings Creek Falls trailhead.

Read more about the short hike to King’s Creek Falls

Find a Wildlife Utopia at Manzanita Lake


One of the most popular places for recreation in Lassen is at Manzanita Lake, which sits right at the north entrance of the park. In fact, it’s the closest destination in Lassen if you’re driving from Redding. At the lake, you’ll discover a lake that’s chock full of wildlife and probably the best way to spend a relaxing day in the park.

Near the Manzanita Lake parking lot, you’ll find a small boat dock that launches kayaks and paddleboards into the lake that doesn’t allow motorized boats. You’ll most likely see fly fishermen on float tubes trying to catch one of the many brown and rainbow trout in the lake. You’ll also see wildlife – A LOT of it. When we recently took the short, flat hike around the lake, we were met with sightings of bluejays, Canadian geese, otters and multiple encounters with deer.

Manzanita Lake also gives hikers some of the best views of Lassen Peak in the park. Photographers flock to the lake to get the coveted photo of the volcano reflecting on to water, which is best seen during sunrise or sunset. Watch the video below to see what it’s like to take the relaxing hike around Manzanita Lake:

Make the Tricky Trek to the Top of Cinder Cone

Lassen Volcanic National Park can be accurately described as both a geologist’s wonderland and an adventurer’s paradise. The hike to Cinder Cone combines both characterizations. A notable geological feature, the 700-foot Cinder cone was formed from scoria or gas-charged lava rocketed into the sky during a volcanic eruption. The Fantastic Lava Beds as well as the Painted Dunes, which flank Cinder Cone, also serve as a reminder of the volcanic origins of the area.

After a gentle hike for the first mile or so at the beginning of the trail, prepare for the strenuous climb to the top of the cone. As you climb, be on the lookout for views of Lassen Peak, Chaos Crags, Prospect Peak, Snag Lake, the Fantastic Lava Beds and the Painted Dunes. At the top of the cone, you have the option of traversing down into the cone’s crater (highly recommended). Cinder Cone is a must-hike for frequenters of Lassen or those with an interest in our region’s geology.

Learn all about the tricky trek up Lassen’s Cinder Cone here

Learn About the Volcanic History of Lassen Peak

Lassen first showed signs of coming to life on May 30th, 1914 with steam explosions near the summit. These continued for almost a year, more than 180 releases in all, expanding the summit crater by 1,000 feet. On the evening of May 15th, 1915, the first lava was sighted spilling down the flanks of the volcano and filling in the summit crater. A few days later on May 19th another explosion created a new summit crater. There was still 30 feet of snow at the summit, and the hot rocks created a half-mile-wide avalanche that spilled down the side of the volcano and into Hat Creek four miles away.

As the snow in the avalanche melted it mixed with volcanic materials to form a mudflow called a lahar. This then raced down Lost Creek canyon for another seven miles. Hat Creek Valley was flooded with muddy water on May 20th, which damaged several ranches in the Old Station area. Floodwaters headed down Hat Creek to the Pit River, over 30 miles, and witnesses claimed the muddy waters killed many fish. Of course, there were salmon and steelhead in all these waters back then. More lava spilled from the summit on the 19th and 20th reaching down the mountainous flank another 1,000 feet.

The next powerful explosion happened around 4:00pm on May 22nd blowing rocks high into the air above the summit. Shortly thereafter a column of volcanic ash and gas rose some 30,000 feet above the mountain, which was visible from 150 miles away. A pyroclastic flow, an angry burst of hot gas and rock blasted down Lassen’s flank at up to 450 miles per hour and 1,000 degrees clearing three square miles of virtually everything in its path.

See 10 Mind-Blowing Photos from the Lassen Peak Eruption

Find Incredible Views at the Top of Brokeoff Mountain

Brokeoff Mountain. Photo via Flickr/BriarCraft

Several hundred thousand years ago, ancient stratovolcano Mt. Tehama blew forming Brokeoff Mountain. Experts suggest Tehama’s explosion matched the destructive proportions of Mt. Saint Helens’ 1980 eruption. Erosion from melting glaciers and volcanic activity has left Brokeoff with a steep north face that appears to have ‘broken off’ from another formation, hence its name.

Lassen Peak hogs a lot of the attention centered on Lassen Volcanic National Park. However, visitors to the area ought not overlook Brokeoff. Sitting only about four miles from Lassen Peak, 9,235-foot Brokeoff Mountain provides hikers with a slightly more challenging 6.8-mile haul.

A panoramic view from Brokeoff Mountain’s peak provides incredible views of the Coast Range to the west, Mt. Shasta and more notably, Lassen Peak. Be sure to bring cold weather gear as the summit can be quite chilly at times.

Read all about summiting Brokeoff Mountain.

Complete the Desolate Hike to Mill Creek Falls

Mill Creek Falls. Photo: Ryan Loughrey

The 1.6-mile hike to Mill Creek Falls is an easy-moderate hike, and will end up at a viewpoint that overlooks the falls. Although perhaps less dramatic than the more well-known Kings Creek Falls, these falls hold the record for highest vertical descent in the park at 75 feet.

The hike, which is typically less crowded than others in the park, will take you through intermittent forests on a very nicely maintained trail as well as a wooden bridge over West Sulphur Creek. The creek has a milky hue to it, which made it look somewhat otherworldly.

Learn more about the desolate hike to Mill Creek Falls

Discover a Hydrothermal Area

It’s been a hundred years since Lassen Peak’s last eruption, but evidence of its violent volcanic potential still pervades Lassen Volcanic National Park. Areas like Bumpass Hell (currently closed for renovation), Sulphur Works and Devil’s Kitchen hold true to their namesakes, and give visitors a glimpse of the largely hidden hydrothermal workings at Lassen.

The remarkable hydrothermal features in Lassen Volcanic National Park include roaring fumaroles (steam and volcanic-gas vents), thumping mud pots, boiling pools, and steaming ground. Water from rain and snow that falls on the highlands of the park feed the hydrothermal system. Once deep underground, the water is heated by a body of hot or molten rock beneath Lassen Peak. Rising hot water boils to form boiling pools and mud pots. Super-heated steam reaches the surface through fractures in the earth to form fumaroles such as those found at Bumpass Hell and Sulphur Works. These features are related to active volcanism and are indications of the ongoing potential for further eruptions from the Lassen “volcanic center.”

There are over 8 different hydrothermal areas in Lassen. Learn all about the hydrothermal areas here. 

Have fun on your outdoor adventure to Lassen Volcanic National Park! If you’re looking for a place to stay on your visit, go here.

Active NorCal

Telling the Stories of Northern California


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