Lassen Peak in the Summer

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Park Overview

Lassen Volcanic National Park is a treasure trove of hydrothermal activity with geological wonders and pristine alpine lakes. It’s at the crossroads of three unique biological areas: the Cascade Mountains, the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and the Great Basin. The park has several areas to view boiling springs, belching mud pots, and hissing steam vents.

The southwest entrance of Lassen National Park is a short 30-minute drive from Chester. The park’s highlights can be seen from the main park road if you have less than a full day. Before getting to the park, download the Then and Now Audio Driving Tour.

Chester is an ideal location to use as a base camp while visiting Lassen Park. Check out local lodging choices.

When to Visit Lassen Volcanic National Park

The Park is well worth visiting at different times of the year. Lassen gets tons of snow in the winter, wildflowers in the early summer, unique hydrothermal and volcanic features during the summer, and beautiful, vibrant fall colors.

Getting Started

It is well worth a stop at either visitor center; the SW entrance is Kohm Yah-mah-nee, and Loomis Plaza is at the north entrance. Each visitor center has different displays highlighting the park. Both have a 20-minute video that is well worth the time to watch. Make sure to pick up a park newspaper and map, then explore.

The park is home to over 700 flowering plants, 300 vertebrates and 350 invertebrates. Take the breathtaking views of the entire Almanor Basin and Mount Shasta from the park.

Hiking in Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lassen is made for hikers of all abilities and ages: wheelchair-accessible area, lakeshore strolls, several summits to bag, and multi-day backcountry trips.  The park offers over 150 miles of trails.  Much of the park was burned by the 2021 Dixie Fire. Visit the park website to learn about the current conditions after the fire. Even after the fire, there are still several days’ worth of great hiking to plan for.

Make sure to have plenty of water and stay on the trails.

Main Park Road

The main park highway runs thirty miles through the park’s western portion, connecting the two visitor centers. Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center at the SW entrance is open year-round with limited days in the winter.  The Loomis Museum is at the NW entrance and is only open during summer.

The speed limit is 25 miles on the park highway, and you will want to take your time and pull over often to take in the views.  Make sure to stop at Sulphur Works, Lake Helen, Devastated Area, and Hot Rock.

The Audio Tour and the Lassen Volcanic National Park Auto Tours, Trips & Trails book by Larry Eifert provide information about the sites and history that add to the drive. Many of the trails in the park are accessed from the main park road.

Butte Lake Area

Spend a full day relaxing and hiking the NE corner of the park. It is 7 miles from Highway 44 via a dirt road.

Butte Lake is a deep blue expanse bordered by black lava blocks. The beach area is great for relaxing near the shore or exploring the lake by kayaking.

Other extraordinary sites are Cinder Cone, Painted Dunes, and the Fantastic Lava Beds. When visiting this park area, consider stopping at the Subway Caves on the Lassen National Forest near the 89/44 junction.

Warner Valley

Warner Valley is a unique area of Lassen Park. It is a scenic 17-mile drive from Chester. The last 3 miles is a dirt road not recommended for low clearance vehicles.

Drakesbad is the only lodging facility within the park boundaries. Lunch and Dinner reservations are required, but no same-day reservations are allowed.

Drakesbad offers several different trail rides during the summer months.  It is best to call ahead for reservations.

Reaching Drakesbad requires 3 miles of dirt road. It is two miles of dirt road to the trailhead for BoilingSprings Lake, Devil’s Kitchen, and Terminal Geyser.

Drakesbad Guest Ranch will be closed for 2024/

Juniper Lake

Juniper Lake is popular for backcountry access, camping, kayaking, and horseback riding. Horse corrals are available.  Access is from Chester, and the last six miles is a rough dirt road.

Wilderness Areas

Approximately 75% of Lassen is designated wilderness. Hence, there is limited vehicle access and limited activities with pets. Help protect endangered species such as the Sierra Nevada Red Fox and Cascades frog.

Only about 5% of public lands have the designation of wilderness.  Learn more about wilderness areas and their importance.

This makes for great backpacking trips for those looking for true solitude.

Permits are required for overnight camping in the backcountry.  Please note that bear-resistant containers are required when camping in the backcountry. Canisters can be rented from the Lassen Association for a fee of $10 per week.  A deposit is required.

Information on closures within park boundaries.

Amazing Night Skies in Lassen

Lassen Volcanic National Park is great for viewing the night sky, and it has abundant dark skies.

Best places and tips on stargazing in Lassen Park.

Join Lassen Park Rangers for an evening of viewing celestial wonders. 

Saturday, 8/12/2023, 8:30 pm – 11:00 pm

Manzanita Lake Campground Road. Meet at the end of the campground loops (Loop D). Plan to walk from a parking area near the viewing spot. Park at either the Loomis Plaza parking area (about a1-mile walk). Or at the Camper Store Parking area (about a half-mile walk) from the viewing location.

Saturday, 9/9/2023, 8:30 pm- 11:00 pm
Location TBD

Learn more about astrobiology in the park.

The park usually holds a Dark Skies Festival during summer. There will not be a Dark Sky Event during the summer of 2023. Please check back for plans for 2024.

Book a Lassen stargazing experience.

Visiting Lassen with Kids

Lassen Park is full of adventure and educational opportunities when traveling with kids. If you have a 4th grader, take advantage of the Free National Park pass for families.

Interpretive rangers give presentations during the summer.  Scheduled talks are posted at visitor centers daily and are subject to change due to availability, weather, etc.

Lassen Park offers several programs for kids: the Junior Ranger Program and the Chipmunk Club for children under 5.   

Water sports

Even though most think of volcanoes and hiking when Lassen Park is mentioned, there is plenty to do in the water. Lassen Park has over 200 lakes and several ponds and creeks to explore. Many lakes last only briefly and are dry during the summer.

Recreational swimming is allowed in most of the lakes. View the park website for details and precautions.

Boating is also allowed on several of the park’s lakes. Watercraft rentals are also available on Manzanita Lake.

Fishing is permitted on many of the lakes in the park—valid Ca. A fishing license is required for all over 16 years of age. Fishing one and 3-day licenses may be obtained online from Calif. Fish and Game. The most accessible lakes to fish in are Manzanita and Butte Lake.

Visit Lassen Volcanic National Park in the Winter

Lassen Park is open year-round for visitors to explore the park’s wonders on over-snow travel. The park has added beauty when covered in a blanket of white snow.

Plan a day with the kids sledding or snowshoeing near the visitor center.  Have a tailgate party in the parking lot. The southwest campground remains open if you want to try snow camping.

For the more adventurous, plan a day of snowshoeing to Sulphur Works or Ridge Lakes.  The park is yours for cross-country skiing, backcountry skiing, or snow camping.

When traveling past the visitor center in the winter, be aware of avalanche dangers and current conditions. Plan your winter visit.

The visitor center is usually closed Monday through Wednesday in the winter.  The park does keep the front vestibule open with potable water and heated restrooms.

When traveling in the winter and early spring, you may see a reddish color in the snow caused by a living organism called snow algae. The red color is caused by a defense mechanism produced by microscopic algae. This phenomenon is called Watermelon Algae by many.

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Know Before You Go

  • Beginning MAY 1, 2023, Lassen Volcanic National Park will transition to a cashless fee system and only accept mobile or electronic payments for entrance and permit fees. Acceptable forms of payment will include credit and debit cards and payment apps on mobile devices.
  • Download the NPS App before you visit Lassen Park.
  • Roads and areas in Lassen Park may be experiencing temporary closure due to damage by the Dixie Fire. Check closure updates
  • Visit the park website for current conditions and road conditions. Highway 89 through the park closes in the winter and does not re-open until sometime between May and July for vehicular traffic.  
  • When the park road is still closed to vehicular traffic, it is open to hiking, biking, and walking your dog on a leash.  There is usually a few days’ window where you can ride your bike between Devastated Area and Sulphur Works, with the highway free of snow and no vehicular traffic.
  • Dogs are not permitted in most places. Please check regulations when traveling with your pets in the park.
  • Lassen Park strives to increase accessibility for all. Driving through the park allows you to see plenty of fantastic views and exciting geology, with several interesting stops along the main park road. For details on accessibility in the park, visit the park website or print the park accessibility bulletin.
  • Gas stations are limited near the park. Gas near the north entrance during the summer months at Manzanita Lake. Shingletown, Old Station, and Chester also have gas available.
  • Permits are required for overnight camping in the backcountry, and bear-resistant containers are required when camping in the backcountry.
  • We’ve pulled together more info and critical tips for traveling in Plumas County tips on visiting the area.

Resources

Did You Know?

  • Lassen Volcanic National Park was established in 1916, a little over one year after the eruption of Lassen Peak
  • Lassen Park covers 106,000 acres and is the only U.S. National Park that’s home to all four volcano types: shield, plug dome, cinder cone, and composite
  • Lassen Peak 10,457 feet and the largest plug dome in the United States
  • Lassen Peak was the only active volcano in the continental U.S. until Mount St. Helen blew in 1980
  • Lassen Park at the southernmost end of the Cascade Range which extends all the way down from Canada
  • Bumpass Hell is the largest geothermal area west of Yellowstone
Discover more of Plumas County
Places to stay nearby Lassen Volcanic National Park
Chester

Your perfect basecamp in charming old town Chester, centraly located to Lake Almanor and Lassen Volcanic NP.

Chester

Antlers Motel is in the best location in Chester close to shopping, restaurants, parks and trails. Best value in the Lake Almanor area.

Chester

This home is located in the heart of Chester. Minutes to Lake Almanor, for boating, water sports, swimming, kayaking, 40 minutes to Mt. Lassen.