Last summer my husband and I were able to visit Lassen Volcanic National Park in Northern California. We were camping at near-by Eagle Lake and this seemed like the perfect day trip for us. We had been to this national park in the past, I am guessing in 1996. This time we were going to take in the highlights and hike a few easy trails.
Of course, stopping at the visitor center was a must since we needed to get some suggestions for hiking and to see the exhibits. We spent a few minutes talking to the ranger at the information desk about how to make the best use of our time. Equipped with some ideas, we set off on the road through the park, traveling south to north. The entire road through the park is about 29 miles.
The first place we stopped was the Sulphur Works. The signs were very helpful and told both about the geology of the area and the history.
Here is another view of the Sulphur Works area. The hydrothermal features of Lassen are not as extensive or impressive as the ones found at Yellowstone National Park but still very interesting.
From the same parking lot, you can take off on a hike up to Ridge Lakes. If we had more time, we would have hiked the two mile round trip trail to see the lakes. The first section of the trail was beautifully bordered by ferns and wildflowers galore. Gorgeous!
The next major stop on the road is the parking lot and trailhead to Bumpass Hell. We have done this trail before and would be a MUST SEE for any first time visitors. We took our very young children on this hike so I know it is possible to do this as a family. The reward is a view that is rare and unique. You need to note that this trail is only open for part of the year so check the national park website for opening and closing dates.
You must watch this video on YouTube: Lassen Volcanic National Park – Bumpass Hell.
We chose instead to have a picnic lunch at Lake Helen.
This is an amazingly blue lake with crystal clear water. We sat in the sunshine on this day and marveled at all the geological history surrounding us.
Here is another view of the lake. Believe it or not, there were some people who came and jumped in this lake for a swim. The water was ice cold making it hard to understand the attraction but we enjoyed watching them swim across the lake and back.
The drive through the park included some amazing vistas. We took our time and explored this meadow a bit and then headed to the devastated area.
We walked the nature trail here at the devastated area, reading the signs and imagining the volcano’s eruption last century. This is a perfect place to learn about this particular volcano and see some rocks and other geological features up close.
The nature lover in me thoroughly soaked in the information about the rocks and geology shared on the interpretive signs. This is the perfect place for families to visit before, during, or after a study of the earth’s rock cycle.
Near the entrance station, there is a wonderful lake to stop at and walk around. Manzanita Lake was a busy place on this particular day with picnickers, fishermen, and walkers.
We sat at the lake’s edge long enough for me to sketch the scene in my nature journal. What a perfect way to end our day!
I hope you get to visit this national park sometime with your children…put it on your list!
Things You Probably Want to Know
- Entrance fee is $10 for the day
- Seven campgrounds: four are first come, first served
- I would suggest Redding, California as a place to day trip from (48 miles).
- Distance from San Francisco is approximately 250 miles or four hours of driving.
- The visitor center has a small gift shop and cafe.
- There is a Junior Ranger program for children.
- Prepare for your visit with resources available on the NPS website.
You can read more of my national park tips in these entries:
- Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
- Redwoods National Park (California)
- Channel Islands National Park(California)
- Death Valley National Park(California)
- Crater Lake National Park (Oregon)
- Grand Canyon National Park (Arizona)
- Hot Springs National Park (Arkansas)
- Mammoth Cave National Park (Kentucky)
- Great Basin National Park (Nevada)
- Petrified Forest National Park (Arizona)