Mt. Lassen Volcanic National Park On a BudgetLocated in northeastern California, Lassen Volcanic National Park is one of those places you don't hear too much about, yet it is a one-of-a-kind park boasting all 4 volcano types, hydrothermal areas, and over 150 miles of trails. Lassen Peak is the most popular attraction, a cinder cone volcano, which is open for visitors who wish to hike to the top. From here you can see sweeping views of the surrounding valley, clear mountain lakes, flower spotted meadows, and even other volcanoes in the Cascade Range like Mount Shasta.
Lassen Volcanic National Park actually started as two separate national monuments designated by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1907: Cinder Cone National Monument and Lassen Peak National Monument. Soon after, because of the area's stark volcanic beauty and Lassen Peak's eruptive activity, the place was declared a National Park on August 9, 1916.
SightsLassen Peak is by far the centerpiece of the park. The cinder cone looms above it all, still active but dormant deep beneath the surface. The last eruptions occurred in a series from 1914 through 1921, releasing lava, a great deal of ash, and forming a crater near its top. Taking the hike up to Lassen Peak is well worth the effort, as you begin to see gorgeous views unveil themselves the higher you climb. The trek is about 5 miles round trip, reaching an elevation of 10,457 feet at its summit. There are many switchbacks and the trail can be steep and rocky at times, so be sure to wear good hiking shoes and bring plenty of water. Once you reach the top, you will be rewarded with some of the most spectacular views to be seen in the park.
NeighborhoodsThe national park is designated as being located in the town of Mineral, Californiapopulation 100 or so. As the town is mostly made up of the national park, there is very little to it, except for the Mineral Lodge, which serves as a comfortable place to stay for tourists visiting the little community and the surrounding areas of the park.
The closest town that features the most amenities is Chester, located on Lake Almanor on the southeast edge of the national park. Chester's primary industries are lumber production and tourism, and the lake itself is a popular destination for hunting, fishing, and boating. The area is also home to many seasonal and year-round resorts and restaurants that cater to the locals and summer tourists. Wintertime tends to be quieter and the town often becomes a waypoint for people traveling to ski resorts at Mount Shasta and Lake Tahoe.
ActivitiesIn addition to the hike up Lassen Peak, the surrounding areas of the park have much to offer in natural phenomena. Bumpass Hell, for example, is the largest hydrothermal area in the park, existing as a 16-acre bowl of hot mud pots, bubbling pools, and roaring steam vents. The hike through this basin is about a 3-mile descent for those wishing to explore.
The clear mountain waters of Manzanita Lake are another popular destination with visitors. The lake is a prime fishing spot (with a catch and release policy), and also allows non-motorized boats with kayak rentals available nearby. Offering scenic views of Lassen Peak and radiant sunsets reflecting on its waters, Manzanita Lake is conveniently located just a walk away from Lassen National Park's largest campground. The campground is also located just a mile south of the Loomis Ranger Station, Loomis Museum, and a discovery center where educational programs and activities are held. The museum also houses artifacts and photos from Lassen's long history and previous eruptions.
In the summer months the park is a prime location for hiking, camping, fishing, boating, backpacking, and birdwatching, while the winter months are great for skiing and snowshoeing. The park is also well known for its starry night sky. Far from the light pollution of civilization, the place encompasses a natural darkness perfect for stargazing. Join a ranger-led tour of the night sky or see the park's website for information on the annual Lassen Dark Sky Festival.
Food and DiningHaving been awarded the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence, the best place to grab some grub in Lassen National Park seems to be JJ's Cafe in Old Station, California. JJ's offers good food, burgers, and sandwiches, right in the middle of nowhere. A few other places to grab a bite throughout the park are the Lassen Mineral Lodge, Mill Creek Resort, and Lassen Café & Gift in Mineral. The closest restaurants outside of the park can be found in the town of Chester mentioned above. If you plan on camping during your stay, your best bet may be to pack picnic supplies and campfire gear to truly enjoy the rugged living of the great outdoors.
TransportationThere is currently no public transportation serving Lassen Volcanic National Park, and so the best way to navigate the attractions of the park is by car. There are five separate entrances to the park, and one Main Park Road which runs North-South through the park.
The nearest major airports include Sacramento, California (165 miles away) and Reno, Nevada (180 miles away).