Into The Wild: Lassen Volcanic National Park

Located at the northern end of the Sacramento Valley, the Lassen Volcanic National Park is renowned for its active volcanic landscapes, vibrant ecosystems, and fun aquatic opportunities. So whether you’re looking for an enjoyable family vacation destination or an awe-inspiring natural getaway, consider going into the wild, untamed backcountry of California to explore the Lassen Volcanic National Park!

Hydrothermal Areas

Most visitors are drawn to the Lassen Volcanic National Park for its unique hydrothermal areas which consist of boiling lakes, roaring fumaroles, hissing steam vents, and bubbling mudpots. These geological wonders are the result of water being heated by molten magma beneath the earth’s surface. Multi-colored soil around these hydrothermal areas are stained by sulphur and other minerals which give them unusual orange, yellow, and green hues. The most colorful of these geothermal sites is known as Sulphur Works, while other prime hydrothermal areas include Boiling Springs Lake, Bumpass Hell, and Terminal Geyser. For your own protection when viewing these areas, make sure to stay on established trails and boardwalks or you’ll risk sustaining an injury from the acidic, boiling pools of water.

Self-Guided Auto Tours

One of the easiest and most efficient ways to see the sites within Lassen Volcanic National Park is by driving down the national park highway which spans 30 miles. Along the way there are multiple spots to pull off and take a closer look. In addition to seeing many of the hydrothermal areas within the park, an auto tour will also give you the opportunity to have a picnic beside the scenic waters of North Summit Lake and take stunning panoramic pictures off the Lassen Peak Viewpoint, which is the highest point along the park road.

Visitor Center and Museum

An on-site museum, known as Loomis Museum, is located next to Manzanita Lake within the park’s boundaries. The museum is open for viewing during the summer months and inside you’ll find a range of exhibits documenting the eruption cycles and geological changes that have occurred in the park throughout the years. The Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center is open year round and it offers practical information about how to best explore the park. The visitor center also houses an amphitheater, patio, educational bookstore, and dining area.

Other In-Park Activities

  • Kayaking and paddle boarding
  • Birdwatching
  • Fishing, 
snowshoeing, and skiing
  • Horseback riding
  • Stargazing

Get a Bite to Eat

After an active afternoon of exploring, you’ll probably work up quite an appetite. Luckily there are three eateries located within the park that offer delicious snacking and dining opportunities.

Lassen Cafe & Gift Shop – This eatery is located inside of the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center, and along with handcrafted jewelry, park apparel, and other souvenirs, you’ll also find an array of delicious foods available. Grab a soup and salad, snack on some fresh fruit, and indulge in some soft-serve ice cream or an espresso.

Manzanita Lake Camper Store – If you’re feeling hungry, another option for satisfying your rumbling tummy is to visit the Manzanita Lake Camper Store, located near the northwest entrance of the park. Here you will have access to cold beverages, hot pizzas, and fresh-made deli sandwiches.

Drakesbad Guest Ranch – For a more traditional dining experience, make reservations at this hospitable retreat nestled in a lush mountain valley within the park. The ranch serves full meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Some menu items include homemade muffins, baked pasta, and barbecued pork sandwiches. To-go sack lunches are also available.

Make Yourself at Home

You’ll need more than a day if you really want to unearth everything that the Lassen Volcanic National Park has to offer. So plan your overnight stay by reserving a spot at any one of these RV-friendly campgrounds within the park. Before making your reservations, be aware that no campground within the park offers electric, water, or sewer hookups.

Manzanita Lake Campground – This is the most RV-accessible campground within the park’s boundaries and it offers 101 sites total. Paved, pull-through sites are available and they can accommodate a maximum RV length of 40 feet. Flush toilets and coin-operated showers are located on-site, while a dump station can be found less than a mile away. This campground is within walking distance of the Manzanita Lake which is a popular spot for fishing and swimming, and it also offers great views of the surrounding mountain peaks.

Butte Lake Campground – This 101-site campground can accommodate RVs with a maximum length of 35 feet. No dump station is available within the campground, but you will have access to flush toilets during the summer months and vault toilets during the winter. Planning your stay here will put you in close proximity of the Cinder Cone Volcano which provides awesome hiking opportunities, and you’ll also have access to great swimming and boating opportunities at the nearby Bathtub Lake.

Summit Lake Campgrounds – This campground consist of both north and south sections which offer 94 sites total, with RVs only allowed in the north section. The Summit Lake North Campground can accommodate RVs with a maximum length of 35 feet. Flush toilets and lake access are available here as well.

Lost Creek Group Campground – With only 8 sites total, this small campground is designed for those traveling with a large entourage who all want to camp together in a more secluded atmosphere. The campground can accommodate RVs with a max length of 40 feet. Although only vault toilets are available, you will be in close proximity to access the amenities offered at Manzanita Lake which is less than 4 miles away.

In the Area

After you’ve fully explored the park you might be looking for more activities to do within the area. Venture outside of the Lassen Volcanic National Park Boundaries and you’ll find these attractions in nearby towns.

Woodson Bridge Recreational Area – Less than a one-hour drive from the park you’ll find this picturesque nature haven which offers great hiking and boating opportunities, beach access, and potential views of majestic bald eagles which call this area home during the winter months.

Turtle Bay Exploration Park – This attraction is worth the little-over-an-hour drive from the volcanic park. Visit here and you’ll be able to marvel at museum exhibits, stroll through the botanical gardens, and meet some of the park’s animals which include Whisper the Bobcat, Nashi the Raccoon, Digger the Badger, and Mojave the Desert Tortoise. This exploration park is also home to one of the largest sundials in the world.

Gateway Science Museum – If you’re looking for a great educational destination, consider driving just under two hours south to this scholastic museum. Here you’ll find fascinating ice-age skeletons, hands-on science displays, and interactive exhibits which are continually being changed to offer visitors a unique experience during each and every visit.

The Lassen Volcanic National Park is perfect for nature lovers and geology enthusiasts alike, but it’s also a fun family getaway and a scenic destination for solo travelers too. So no matter who you are, if you’re looking for an explosively awesome experience, start planning your trip to the Lassen Volcanic National Park today! Have you ever been here? Tell us what you thought by leaving a comment!

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