2 Perfect Days in Lassen Volcanic National Park

Often called the mini-Yellowstone, Lassen Volcanic is home to steaming fumaroles, clear mountain lakes and volcanic peaks. Lassen Peak, the park’s namesake, is the largest plug dome volcano in the world and the southernmost volcano of the Cascade range.

Lassen was my 34th national park! Woot!

Lassen Volcanic National Park started as two separate national monuments designated by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1907: Cinder Cone National Monument and Lassen Peak National Monument. Between 1914 and 1917, a series of eruptions occurred on Lassen. Because of the eruptive activity and the area’s stark volcanic beauty, Lassen Peak, Cinder Cone, and the area surrounding were established as a National Park on August 9, 1916. The Atsugewi have inhabited the area since long before white settlers first saw Lassen.

Lassen Peak
How to Get There

The closest airport to Lassen Volcanic is Redding, CA, about an hour west. I visited after a work trip to Oakland, CA so I drove in from there (an almost 4-hour drive) and flew out of Sacramento (3-hour drive). These two airports have better flight availability but are farther away.

Where to Stay

The park has two entrances, one from the south and one from the west. The southern entrance is near Mineral, CA and there aren’t many lodging choices there. I stayed on the west side of the park at the Tall Timbers Bed & Breakfast in Shingletown, CA and loved it. This town is also very small and there aren’t many other choices. Your next best option is Redding, CA, but you have a 1-hour drive to the park entrance.

When to Visit

Due to its elevation, Lassen stays covered by snow until late into the season. For complete access to trails, wait till mid-July but be prepared for snow patches even then. I visited at the very end of September and had perfect weather, clear sunny skies and no wildfire smoke. October would be the latest month I’d recommend.

Day 1 – Bumpass Hell

Drive over to the park from whichever airport you flew in and head straight for the Bumpass Hell area. It’s home to 16 acres of boiling springs and mud pots, hissing steam vents, and roaring fumaroles. If you’ve visited Yellowstone, it will look extremely familiar, from the colors to the boardwalk and even down to the overlook names! It is still worth the 2.7 round-trip hike and it’s a good way to get acclimated to the elevation – most areas in Lassen are at about 8,000 ft.

Day 2 – Brokeoff Mountain and Burney Falls State Park

I debated which hike in the park to do. My choices were Brokeoff Mountain and Lassen Peak. It was tempting to climb the park’s namesake, but Lassen Peak trail is exposed with lots of rock and scree and steep switchbacks. The park ranger at the visitor center confirmed what my Alltrails reviews said – do Brokeoff Mountain instead. This trail starts outside the southern park entrance and climbs 2,500 ft over 3.5 miles. I had awesome views of Lassen Peak and Mt Shasta from the top.

In the afternoon, drive 45 minutes to Burney Falls State Park, the second-oldest state park in California. This little jewel is home to one of the prettiest waterfalls I’ve ever seen. An easy paved 1-mile trail will take you down to the waterfall and around to the other side.

Don’t miss the soft-serve ice cream in the shop just down the street from the parking lot!

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