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. There are several areas in the park 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 base out of while visiting Lassen Park, local lodging choices.
When to Visit Lassen National Park
The Park is well worth visiting at different times of the year. Lassen gets tons of snow in the winter, a variety of wildflowers in the early summer, unique hydrothermal, volcanic features during the summer, and beautiful vibrant fall colors in the fall.
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 well worth the time to watch. Make sure to pick up a park newspaper and map, then go out and explore.
The park is home to over 700 flowering plants, 300 vertebrates and 350 invertebrates. Take in the breathtaking views of the entire Almanor Basin and view 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, please visit the park website for current conditions after the fire. Even after the fire, there is 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 western portion of the park 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 the summer months.
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.
Both 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 a great place to relax near the shore or explore the lake by kayaking.
Other extraordinary sites are Cinder Cone, Painted Dunes, and the Fantastic Lava Beds. When visiting this area, consider stopping at the Subway Caves on the Lassen National Forest near the 89/44 junction.
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 and not recommended for low clearance vehicles.
Drakesbad is the only lodging facility within the park boundaries. Lunch and Dinner reservations are required, no same-day reservations.
Drakesbad offers several different trail rides during the summer months. Best to call ahead for reservations.
To reach Drakesbad requires 3 miles of dirt road. It is two miles of dirt road to get to the trailhead for BoilingSprings Lake, Devils Kitchen, and Terminal Geyser.
Due to Dixie Fire, Drakesbad will not be open for the 2022 season
Juniper Lake Area
The Juniper Lake area 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 somewhat rough dirt road.
Approximately 75% of Lassen is designated wilderness. Hence limited vehicle access and limited activities with pets. helps protect endangered species/resources such as 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 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.
Night Skies in Lassen
Lassen Volcanic National Park is great for viewing the night sky, Dark Skies.
The park usually holds a Dark Skies Festival during summer. There will not be a Dark Sky Event during summer 2022. Please check back for plans for 2023.
Best places and tips on stargazing in Lassen Park.
Visiting Lassen with Kids
Lassen Park is full of adventure and educational opportunities when traveling with kids. If you happen to 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 geared toward kids: Junior Ranger Program and the Chipmunk Club for children under 5.
Even though most think of volcanoes and hiking when Lassen Park is mentioned, there is plenty to do in the water. Lassen Park is home to over 200 lakes and has several ponds and creeks to explore. Many of the lakes last for only a short time 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 easiest lakes to fish in are Manzanita and Butte Lake.
Visit Lassen Park in the Winter
Lassen Park is open year-round for visitors to explore the wonders of the park on over-snow travel. The park has added beauty when covered in a blanket of white snow.
Plan a day with the kids sledding and or snowshoeing near the visitor center. Have a tailgate party in the parking lot. The southwest campground remains open if you want to try your hand at 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. Planning your winter visit.
The visitor center is usually closed Mon- Wed. 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.