Lassen Volcanic National Park Hiking Overview

Lassen Volcanic National Park Day Hiking Highlights

  • Visit Boiling Springs Lake for a three-mile hike starting at the parking area west of Warner Valley Campground, and you will see the park's amazing geothermal features: roaring fumaroles (steam and volcanic-gas vents), bubbling mud pots, boiling pools, and steaming ground.
  • Hike the colorfully named Bumpass Hell Trail, an estimated two-hour walk for three miles at an 8,000-foot elevation. The trail showcases most of the park's geothermal features. It usually opens in early or mid-July.
  • The Lassen Smelowskia flower, an endangered species, only grows within Lassen Volcanic National Park. Look for it at Lassen Peak.
  • Review the schedule of ranger-led programs, and attend a talk on the park's volcanic formations, wildlife, or the fault lines that geologists monitor for seismic activity.
  • There are more than 150 miles of hiking trails within the park, ranging in difficulty from a strenuous five-mile, round-trip hike up Lassen Peak to a gentle 1.5-mile stroll around Manzanita Lake.
  • The park's main road provides incredible views of the Cascades and High Sierras, as well as access to mountain lakes and active hydrothermal areas.
  • There are eight campgrounds within Lassen Volcanic National Park, and a large part of Lassen's wilderness is available for wilderness camping with a free permit.

The park's 150 miles of trails include a 17-mile section of the Pacific Crest Trail. Pick up a copy of the Lassen Trails booklet, which gives nifty descriptions and maps of the park's trails. You'll find it for sale at the park offices as well in stores in nearby communities.

Besides the Pacific Crest Trail, GORP recommends the Bumpass Hell Trail, a three-mile (round-trip) trail to the largest thermal area in the park. The trail is also one of the most scenic. The Lassen Peak Trail is an approachable summit that takes an average of four hours up and back. Most moderately in-shape hikers will have no problem completing the hike in good weather. The Cinder Cone Trail is another fascinating trail. The ground is loose and somewhat hard-going, but you're treated to peculiar landscape along the way and a great view of the surrounding peaks when you reach the top.

Here's a rundown of all the major Lassen trails. Check our overview map for location of trail numbers.

1. Forest Lake and Brokeoff Mountain—3 miles to Forest Lake, 7.4 miles to Brokeoff summit. Uphill steady climb of 700 feet to Forest Lake and 2,600 feet to Brokeoff. Scenic hike including flowers and streams.

2. Mill Creek Falls—4.6 miles round-trip, downhill about 300 feet and uphill about the same. Hike features highest waterfall, forest, and flowers.

3. Ridge Lakes—2.2 miles round-trip, rather steep climb of 1,000 feet to lakes in a glacial cirque below the rim of Mount Tehama. Hike features wildflowers, views, and wildlife.

4. Sulphur Works—Short 0.3 mile round-trip to the only hydrothermal area in the park close to the park road. Hikers will see hot springs, mudpots, fumaroles. Area is covered with mineral deposits in many pastel shades.

5. Bumpass Hell—3 miles round-trip, gradual climb of 500 feet during the first mile, 250-foot descent into the largest hydrothermal area in the park. One of the most scenic trails in the park.

6. Bumpass Hell to Cold Boiling Lake and Kings Creek—4 miles one way. A rise of 500 feet on the first mile followed by a descent of 1,000 feet. Good views and wildflower displays, past a lake in which cold gas bubbles give the impression of boiling.

7. Lassen Peak—5 miles round-trip, 2,000 feet uphill on steady, steep grade. Hike begins at 8,500 feet. This is a summit that many people can (and do) take a crack at. Magnificent views.

8. Terrace, Shadow and Cliff Lakes—3 miles round-trip, forest, lake, and flowers.

9. Park Road to Summit Lake—This is a continuation of Hike 8. It's 3.7 miles one way to the park road, then another half mile to Summit Lake, descending 1,300 feet. Hemlock forest gives way to red firs, white pines, and ponderosa pines as the trail travels downhill. This hike offers a sense of wilderness and isolation, even though it goes from road to road over a relatively short distance.

10. Park Road to Hat Lake—2.8 miles one way, descending 1,600 feet. One of the best trails in the park for wildflowers, especially when you reach Paradise Meadows.

11. Cold Boiling and Crumbaugh Lakes, Conard Meadows, Mill Creek Falls, and Southwest Campground—5.3 miles one way, descending 800 feet. Off the beaten track, offering excellent wildlife viewing and wildflower displays, and the strange Cold Boiling Lake.

12. Kings Creek Falls—3 miles round-trip, 700-foot descent. Hike features lakes, forest, flowers—good for photographers. Be on the lookout for the bright red berries of Mountain Ash in August and September. The trail splits about half a mile down the way; take the left fork. The other one follows the cascades, and it's much easier to climb on the return trip.

13. Summit Lake to Echo and Twin Lakes—2 miles one way to Echo Lake, 3.5 miles to Upper Twin Lake, and 4 miles to Lower Twin Lake. One of the best trails for nature, crossing diverse habitat with a wide variety of plants, flowers, and birds. There's even a chance to catch a swim in late summer.

14. Summit Lake to Horseshoe Lake via Upper Twin Lake—7 miles one way. Grassy Swale Creek, Hike 15 makes a good return trip.

15. Summit Lake to Horseshow Lake via Grassy Swale Creek—8 miles one way, descending 700 feet, and then climbing up 500. This is the trail for lovers of open meadows. Great for flowers. Bring the bug spray.

16. Summit Lake to Cluster Lakes—You can either make a 10.5-mile loop around Bear Lakes to Twin Lakes and return, or go 6.5 miles to Badger Flat and junction with the Emigrant Trail. Climb and lose 700 feet over the first mile, then the trail levels out. Trail features many beautiful sylvan lakes.

17. Paradise Meadows—1.5 miles one way through one of the best areas in the park for wildflowers. Moderate climb of 600 feet. In midsummer, be on the lookout for gentian, scarlet gilia, columbines, monkshoods, penstemons, and more. Good views of Lassen and Reading Peaks.

18. Chaos Crags and Crags Lake—A good trail for lovers of distinctive landscapes. 1.8 miles one way going 700 feet uphill. Crags are tubes of extruded lava at the site of a 1690 landslide that covered 2.5 square miles. Trees that live here are small, though ancient. Some are over 300 years old.

19. Pacific Crest Trail—This is the west coast granddaddy of long-distance trails, connecting Canada and Mexico across the spine of the Sierras. The trail travels for 19 miles through Lassen Volcanic National Park , sharing the track of the Emigrant Trail for 5.

20. Manzanita Lake—1.6 miles round-trip, level, pleasant walk around the lake—flowers, wildlife, trees, and shrubs—very scenic.

21. Manzanita Creek—3.5 miles one way, steadily climbing 1,250 feet. Superlative wildflowers and views along a tumbling mountain creek.

22. Cinder Cone—2 miles one way. Another trail circles the southside of the cone, for a total 5-mile round-trip. There is also a short spur trail into the center of the crater. The trail climbs, sometimes steeply, 800 feet over fairly loose cinders. This trail is much appreciated by geologists and photographers.

23. Prospect Peak—3.5 miles to the summit, climbing 2,200. As the name suggests, this trail commands views of Lassen, Harness, West Prospect, Shasta, several lakes, and the crater of Cinder Cone.

24. Bathtub Lake—A 0.4-mile stroll to two wonderful swimming lakes.

25. Butte Lake (North and East Shores)—2 miles climbing gently 150 feet then leveling off. Beautiful views and options to continue on to other destinations at the end (see Hikes 27, 28, and 29, below). Hike 26, Widow Lake, branches off at 2 miles from this trail.

26. Widow Lake—4 miles one way. Steady climb of 1,000 feet after trail leaves Butte Lake. Good mountain views. After you reach the lake, you can continue on to Red Cinder Cone (6 miles) and Juniper Lake (10 miles).

27. Butte Lake to Snag Lake—Continuing on from Butte Lake Trail, this trail travels another 4.5 miles (for a total of 6.5 miles) to the south end of Snag Lake. Trail branches at one point: Go to the right to explore base of a lava flow. Go to the right for a walk through the forest. Trails join up again at Snag Lake. From there you go another 5.5 miles to Juniper or Horseshow Lakes, or venture around Snag Lake and the Cinder Cone back to Butte Lake, for another 8.5 miles.

28. Horseshoe Lake to Snag Lake—A connector trail traveling 3 miles one way, descending 600 feet. Trail follows Grassy Creek to Snag Lake, with options to continue on from there.

29. Juniper Lake to Snag Lake—3 miles one way, climbing 240 feet in first half mile, then descending 1,000 feet. Shady trail ending at Snag Lake, with options to continue on from there.

30. Inspiration Point—Climbing 400 feet over 0.8 mile to an awesome overlook: views of Lassen, Harkness, Prospect, Mt. Shasta.

31. Crystal Lake—Climbing 450 feet over 0.4 mile to what some consider the most beautiful lake in Lassen. Leg-stretchers don't get any better than this.

32. Mt. Harkness—4 miles round-trip, Enjoyable 1,300-foot climb, scenic with flowers and historic lookout. You can continue on down the west side of Mount Harkness, then turn northeast along the shores of Juniper Lake to complete a fine 5.5-mile hike.

33. Boiling Springs Lake—3 miles round-trip, easy climb of 200 feet—mud pots, flowers, and forest.

34. Devil's Kitchen—1.5 miles one way, gradually climbing 300 feet. One of the three main geothermal areas in the park. Mud pots, steam vents, and interesting wildlife.


Permits: A wilderness permit (free) is required for any overnight backcountry stay. Permits are issued for one trip at a time at park headquarters or contact stations. They can be requested two weeks before your trip by writing or calling the superintendent. Ask about closed areas.

Fires: Only self-contained stoves are permitted. No wood fires allowed.

Health: The park's high elevations may leave you short of breath. Take time to get acclimatized. Avoid exposed terrain during lightning storms. Tell a ranger your trip plans and expected return. Overnight backcountry use requires a wilderness permit.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 6 Jan 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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