Lassen Volcanic National Park
Lassen Volcanic is a hidden gem among the US National Park system. I say this because unlike places like Yosemite, Yellowstone, and Glacier, you can experience relatively mild crowds all year round in comparison.
During the winter Lassen Peak Highway 89 that runs north to south through the park is closed, and this was the case during our visit. Even though my visit was in the middle of June, because of the area’s record snowpack in 2019, the park still hadn’t had the opportunity to completely clear the road. That was a little annoying because we had to drive out to Redding and back just to reach the north side of the park, but I think the lack of crowds made it worth it.
Either way many of the best things to see in the park are actually right along the Highway 89 drive for pullover destinations like Lake Hellen and the short walk to Bumpass Hell. However, if you have the time there is some great hiking that I would highly recommend.
What could have been a pretty normal hike was actually made much harder on us because of the record snow. Instead of following the normal trail, the first half of it we were forced to put on crampons and gaiters and make our way straight up the snow slope that is normally used for skiing because the trail was essentially non-existent in the middle of June. Hopefully this is not your situation because the hike is only 4.4 mile round trip, and roughly 2,000 feet of elevation gain from the parking lot. If that sounds bad, trust me it’s pretty mild with the switchbacks compared to straight up a snow covered ski slope when you don’t know where the trail is!
Overall, this short hike is absolutely stunning! For sunrise I started at roughly 2:40 in the morning to make it up for a 5:30 sunrise because I didn’t know how hard the snow conditions were going to be. Sunrise is a great way to do Lassen Peak, one because likely you’ll be the only one hiking, and two there is almost no shade on the whole trail. At the top you’ll get great views of the rest of the park as well as Mount Shasta.
Cinder Cone & Painted Dunes
If you have more time on your trip making the drive out to Butte Lake is absolutely worth it. There is a short but steep Cinder Cone trail that I would also recommend for another sunrise hike. And when I say steep mean really STEEP! This is why I say go when it’s cool out. From the top you’ll get the best views of the Painted Dunes which is the photo posted above.
Just to the top of the cinder cone is only 1.7 miles which is mostly flat until you reach the base of the cone. When you get to the cone there is actually two trails leading up. The obvious one that you will see first after hiking in from the parking lot, and then one on the back toward the Painted Dunes. Absolutely DON’T go up the back way! If you think the main one looks steep the back is much shorter and even steeper! However, it does make for a nice hike down and around the whole cone once you’ve already made it to the top. The total length of this hike can be variable depending if you decide to hike into the cone (which is allowed), but overall it isn’t terribly long.
The one thing I can stress about safety is be careful if you’re hiking in the late season with snow like us. In many of the spots it wasn’t snow but actually ice which made it extremely dangerous to get back down. I took about 30 minutes alone on the last slope before the car! This is also bear country which means if you’re planning on hiking carry bear spray. All being said, this blog is for information purposes only and I ACCEPT NO RESPONSIBILITY FOR ANY INJURY, LOST INDIVIDUALS, OR LEGAL TROUBLE ENCOUNTERED WHILE FOLLOWING THE INFORMATION POSTED HERE.
My last note is don’t throw anything into the Sulfur Works. If you don’t know what that is, you will when you visit, and it’s extremely disrespectful when people put trash in such a beautiful natural feature. As this should be common sense with leaving trash anywhere you go.
As always find the most up to date information and conditions on the official National Park website.