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Lassen Volcanic National Park

Visiting Lassen Volcanic National Park


Lassen Volcanic National Park

Mount Lassen View

© 2008 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

In 1915, Mount Lassen erupted, blowing ash up to 30,000 feet in the air, flinging house-sized boulders miles away and devastating a large forested area. As you might expect, part of today's landscape was formed by this event, with lava flows and a devastated area still clearly visible. The area is also active geothermally, with steam vents, boiling pools and a geyser.

About 400,000 people visit Lassen every year, most of them in summer.

Scenes from Lassen

Enjoy some of our best shots in this Lassen Photo Tour

Things to Do at Lassen Volcanic National Park

  • Auto Tour: The most common way people see the park is on a driving tour. It's roughly 25 miles from one entrance to the other and takes about an hour with no stops. Stops include Manzanita Lake, the devastated area, Bumpass Hell (a 3-mile hike with 300-foot elevation gain) and Sulphur Works. The road's high point is 8,512 feet. The visitor center near the south entrance has a small cafe if you're hungry. There's also a small store near Manzanita Lake and the north entrance.

  • Hiking: The Pacific Crest Trail passes through Lassen for 17 miles and it has more than 150 miles of trails total. Overnight hikes require a free permit. The climb to the top of Mount Lassen is 5 miles with almost 2,000 feet elevation gain and it takes 4 to 5 hours.

  • Fishing: You'll need a California fishing license and if you bring a boat, motors (including electric ones) are not allowed.

Lassen Volcanic National Park Review

We give Lassen Volcanic National Park 3.5 stars out of 5 for its interesting volcanic and hydrothermal landscape. Hikers tell us it has lots of great trails, but if you're not the hiking type, you may not find a lot to do.

Where to Stay in or Around Lassen Volcanic National Park

Eight campgrounds are located inside the park, all of them above 5,650 feet elevation. Amenities vary, but some have running water and pay showers. Some have RV sites but none have hookups.

Drakesbad Guest Ranch is at the end of an unpaved road near the south entrance. It's open in summer only, offering horseback riding and a hot spring-fed swimming pool. Some people love it and making reservations far is advance is recommended, but it's not for everyone - rooms have no electricity and the place barely has telephone service.

If you want to go camping at Lassen but hate to set it all up - or if you don't own all that gear - check out the RentMyTent program. Reserve a camping spot and pay a (very reasonable) extra fee and you can find a tent and basic campground equipment set up and waiting when you arrive.  All you have to do is make a campsite reservation at www.recreation.gov n “A or C Loop” of Lassen Volcanic National Park’s Manzanita Lake Campground. Then go to www.lassenrecreation.com to purchase and schedule the RentMyTent package. All you'll need to bring is sleeping bags, bedding and cooking gear (or you can rent those, too).

Manzanita Lake Camping Cabins offer 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom units with bed(s), a propane heater, lantern, bear proof box, fire ring, and picnic table. Central restrooms and showers are located nearby.

Other options for places to stay are available within a 30-minute drive of each entrance in Shingletown, Redding, Red Bluff or Chester.


  • Hours: Park is open all year, but snow may close roads from fall through late spring
  • Cost: National park entry fee - exceptions below1
  • Location: About 50 miles east of Redding or Red Bluff about 170 miles west of Reno, Nevada. Driving directions below
  • How Long: Allow a half day for a leisurely drive through the park, longer if you hike or fish
  • Best Time to Visit: Summers are short, with snow lingering into May and starting again as early as October. Wildflower season peaks in early summer

Getting to Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lassen Volcanic National Park
Lassen Volcanic National Park Website

The main park road runs north and south. The north entrance is from Highway 44, 50 miles east of Redding or 180 miles west of Reno, Nevada via US Hwy 395 and CA Hwy 44. The south entrance is 45 miles east of Red Bluff on Hwy 36 or 160 miles west of Reno, Nevada via US Hwy 395 and CA Hwy 36. Check road status online or call call 530-595-4480.

Three other dead-end roads go to Butte Lake, Juniper Lake, and Warner Valley (location of Drakesbad Guest Ranch)

If You Liked Joshua Tree National Park, You May Also Like:

  • Mt. St. Helens which erupted in 1980 makes a good place to compare how a landscape recovers
  • Mount Shasta: Lassen's nearest neighbor in the Cascade Range.

1 During the annual National Parks Week, held in April entry fees are waived in more than 100 parks nationwide, including Lassen Volcanic National Park. Get more information at the National Parks Week website. Entry is also free on selected other days that vary by year. You'll find the current year's list here.

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