Lassen Volcanic National Park
California, USA

From volcanic activity to meadows, boiling water to cool lakes, this is a park that truly has a little of everything. The well-equipped Kohn Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center should be your first stop for the exhibits. There are areas for trout fishing, biking, and boating, but most people opt to head right to the Hydrothermal area.

Yellowstone-like features about in this area, and you must use caution and stay on the paths. The easiest hydrothermal feature to see is the Sulphur Works. This area has steam vents and boiling mudpots visible from the road, remnants of an eroded volcano. As you continute driving Lassen Volcanic National Park Highway, you'll come to the Bumpass Trailhead. The Bumpass Hell Trail is my favorite walk in the park. It's a 3-mile round trip that decends into a basin and has a boardwalk that passed by amazing hydrothermal features. It's the largest such area in the park and full of colors. The trail also offers scenic vistas of Brokeoff Volcano.

Next on your journey comes the Lassen Peak Trail. While just a 5-mile round trip, the elevation gain of 2,000 feet and strenuous switcbacks make it suitable for advanced hikers. Most people head to the Kings Creek Picnic Area for the 1.6-mile round trip walk to Cold Boiling Lake, which is a peaceful, slowly dying hydrothermal area. Further along the road is the Kings Creek Trailhead which has the popular 2.3-mile loop hike to Kings Creek Falls. An overlook provides a view down the 30-foot waterfall. Some longer trails lie ahead on the road, but you should at least make time for the family-freindly half-mile Devastated Area Trail. This interpretive trail explains the remnants from an earlier explosion and shows the recovery process in action.

Lake Manzanita should be on your itinerary. You can rent a kayak here and paddle in serene wilderness. Or, you can visit the historic Loomis Museum, which has interesting exhibits and the park film. The Manzanita Lake Trail departs nearby. This 1.7-mile flat round trip hike is full of scenic views, especially of Lassen Peak near sunset. Birds and deer are frequently viewed from the trail. The half-mile Lily Pond Interpretive Trail is good for families. For a longer hike in the area, try the Echo Lake Trail (a 4.4-mile round trip). This leaves from the Summit Lake area. Enjoy Lassen Peak views before encountering the gorgeous Echo Lake for a relaxing nap or refreshing swim.

The middle of the park features Warner Valley, which has some great trails to more thermal features. The Drakesbad Guest Ranch is here, which is the only lodging in the park. The east side of the park holds the Butte Lake and Juniper Lake. While less populated, they offer numerous trails and great watercraft opportunities.

The park has seven campgrounds, scattered about in all the areas discussed above. Camping in Lassen is great because it is a dark-sky park, meaning that you'll be able to see a lot in the night sky. That's one of my favorite parts about staying in the park!

Happy Travels!