Lassen Volcanic National Park

Scenic Driving
Main Park Road, Lassen Volcanic National Park
Main Park Road, Lassen Volcanic National Park (National Park Service)

The park's main road was laid out for scenery rather than efficiency. The drive is 35 miles long, and loops around three sides of Lassen Peak. Starting at the park's southwest entrance, the first stop, after about a mile, is a park information center and the Lassen Chalet, which offers basic visitor services. This is also the headquarters for winter sports in the park.

In another mile you'll find the trailhead for Sulphur Works, the most accessible thermal area in the park. You'll definitely want to follow the short trail that will lead you past mud pots, hotsprings, and fumaroles. A ring of peaks surrounds the Sulphur Works—Brokeoff Mountain (9,235'), Mount Diller (9,087'), Pilot Pinnacle (8,886'), and Mount Conrad (8,204'), as well as Mount Lassen (10,457').

Back in the car, the drive circles around Diamond Peak and the next stop is Bumpass Hell, the park's largest thermal area. Like Sulphur Works, to see it requires a short hike. The area was named after the site's white discoverer, who accidentally lost a leg when he broke through the crust around a hot spring. Lake Helen, a beautiful glacial lake, lies near the Bumpass Hell parking lot. The Lassen Peak trailhead is reached after another mile. This is a strenous, 2.5-mile trail with a gloriously rewarding view at the end. Plan four hours for a complete trip.

On the road again, the drive soon drops over the mountain's southeastern flank. The views are good all the way through here, with views of mountain meadows and distant peaks. Be on the lookout for wildflowers. Just past the parking area for Hat Lake, the drive enters the Devestated Area, where evidence of the destruction from the 1915 eruption of Mount Lassen is still visible. The drive at this point follows the Nobles Emigrant Trail, which is an old pioneer trail from the 1850s. Landmarks along the way include Hot Rock, a large granite boulder carried down by the 1915 mudflow that took a long time to cool off.

You'll come across Reflection Lake and Manazanita Lake near the end of the park drive. Reflection Lake offers a perfect reflection of Lassen Peak. Manazanita Lake is a popular recreation lake, a good opportunity for swimming, fishing, or taking down your rooftop canoe. The campground here is very pleasant. When you're finally ready to leave, the park entrance is just a short distance farther.

But at least spend some time exploring the surrounding area. The scenic drives in Lassen National Forest are exceptional.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 7 Jan 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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