Bubbling mud pools, pristine alpine lakes, unique volcanic features, and the Cascade Volcano- Lassen Peak all make up the diverse environment of Lassen Volcanic National Park. Scenic drives, short walks, strenuous hikes, and other activities make this a great vacation destination for all national park lovers.
Located about four hours northeast of Escape Camper Vans’ San Francisco location, Lassen Volcanic National Park is the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of the Bay Area and enjoy the natural wonders of this volcanic ecosystem.
Why Rent a Campervan for a Trip to Lassen Volcanic National Park?
Travel with ease and comfort in a compact and mobile campervan while exploring Lassen Volcanic National Park. Renting a campervan is better than renting an RV because you’ll avoid the struggles of parking a bulky vehicle that only fits in RV-friendly spots. In a campervan, it’s far easier to find a campground, and you do not need sewer or electric hookups. Additionally, with a smaller vehicle like a campervan, you will save money on gas since you aren’t towing around amenities you won’t use.
With Escape Camper Vans, you have everything you need: a place to cook, sleep, relax, and hang out. To make your trip even more comfortable, you can rent extra accessories like a door canopy, camp chairs, and a solar shower; it’s quite a glamping experience!
Preparing for a Trip to Lassen Volcanic National Park
Lassen Volcanic National Park is located in a remote area with limited services and practically no cell coverage. Every year snow heavily affects the park and since 2021 the Dixie Fire has made a huge impact on park function. It’s important to be up-to-date while planning your trip. Here are a few tips to help your Lassen Volcanic National Park trip run smoothly.
Check Park Road Conditions
Before heading into Lassen Volcanic National Park, check to see whether park roads are open. Receiving between 150 – 300 inches of snow a year, much of the park is closed from winter through early summer depending on snowpack. Lassen Scenic Highway, the main road through the park, sometimes opens as late as July. This can drastically alter travel plans so check road conditions before you head out.
Check Dixie Fire Updates
In 2021 the Dixie Fire burned 73,240 acres in Lassen Volcanic National Park, about 70% of the park. Burning a total of 963,309 acres in total, the Dixie Fire became the largest single fire in California’s wildfire history.
Due to the Dixie Fire, a large part of Lassen Volcanic National Park has been left devastated and in some areas, ash still blankets the landscape. While some areas of the park have been recovered, certain trails and campgrounds are closed indefinitely. Check the national park website for up-to-date information specific to Dixie Fire impacts.
There are no gas stations inside Lassen Volcanic National Park. Make sure you fill up on gas before heading into the park. The town of Mineral, just outside the southwest entrance of Lassen has a gas station. There are also a few places to fuel up in Chester in Chester, just south of the park.
Buy Your Groceries
Aside from the Lassen Cafe, located at the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center, there are no restaurants in the park. The Manzanita Camp Store has a few ready-to-go meals like sandwiches and snacks but other than that, plan on cooking your food while camping. After picking up your Escape Campervan in San Francisco, stop in the city of Redding before heading east into Lassen. Redding has multiple grocery store options.
Aside from a few random pullouts along Lassen Peak Highway, there is no cell service throughout the park. Download offline maps before you arrive to have a smooth time getting around. You’ll also receive a park map at the entrance station.
Get a Rechargeable Battery
Purchase a rechargeable battery so you can keep your devices charged during your trip. It makes life much easier especially if you’re using your phone to take photos.
Must-See Sights and Places of Lassen Volcanic National Park
Lassen Volcanic National Park is a diverse environment made up of many unique geological features. Alpine lakes, a large Cascade volcanic peak, a waterfall, and bubbling mud pools, are some of the notable spots you can explore. Here are some can’t miss sights and places to add to your Lassen Volcanic National Park itinerary.
The Manzanita Lake Area is located just inside the Northwest Entrance Station of Lassen Volcanic National Park. Manzanita Lake was formed 300 years ago when a large rock avalanche fell from Chaos Crags, damming Manzanita Creek and creating the lake. Manzanita Lake is a great spot to take reflection photos of Lassen Peak and to enjoy the surrounding forest. There’s also a trail to walk around the lake. Manzanita Lake Campground is located next to Manzanita Lake.
Lassen Peak stands 10,457 feet tall and is the southernmost volcano in the Cascade Range. Starting at the Lassen Peak Trailhead, this 5-mile round-trip hike gains about 2,000 feet in elevation by the time you reach the summit. It’s a strenuous hike but well worth the 360-degree views of the surrounding forests. On a clear day, you can even see Mount Shasta in the distance!
Hike out to the Bumpass Hell Pools on a 3-mile round-trip hike. The trail starts 7 miles up from the southwest entrance station into Lassen. Along the trail, you’ll wander through the largest hydrothermal area of Lassen Volcanic National Park. It’s important to stay on the established trails and boardwalks. Going off trail you risk falling through the thin crust that hides pools of acidic mud and boiling water which is highly dangerous to enter.
The Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center is located at the southwest entrance into Lassen Volcanic National Park near the town of Mineral. It’s open year-round and is a great opportunity to chat with a ranger about park information and explore the exhibit hall to learn about park history, the environment, and wildlife. There is also a gift shop and cafe next to the visitor center with free wifi available.
Lake Helen is a bright blue lake at the base of Lassen Peak. It’s one of the most striking spots in the park and a great stop along Lassen Peak Highway. Sitting at 8,200 feet in elevation, Lake Helen is frozen for much of the year. By late summer and into the fall, you can usually see Lake Helen clear of snow and ice.
Kings Creek Falls are 70-foot waterfalls in Lassen Volcanic National Park accessible via an out-and-back trail or loop hike. The loop hike is just under a mile long. The complete loop is 2.3 miles. Completing the whole loop you’ll gain and lose 500 feet in elevation. Kings Creek Falls are very different from other features in Lassen so they’re a cool spot to stop!
The Cinder Cone Trail takes hikers up to a unique formation in Lassen Volcanic National Park. The trail starts from the Butte Lake parking area. Along the hike, you’ll have incredible views of many volcanic features, including the Painted Dunes, Lassen Peak, and the Fantastic Lava Beds. The hike up the summit of the Cinder Cone is 4 miles round-trip and gains about 900 feet in elevation. The trail to the summit is very steep and difficult because you climb up volcanic sand that slides out under your feet while ascending. You can also just hike to the base which is 2.4 miles round-trip.
Sulphur Works is located right along the Lassen Peak Highway and is one of the best sites to easily see the unique hydrothermal features of Lassen Volcanic National Park. There is a short paved sidewalk that runs along the bubbling hot pools which are actually vents for the active Lassen Peak. Make sure you stay on boardwalks. The pools and mud are very hot and dangerous. Severe injuries have occurred traveling off-trail here.
Lassen Peak Highway or Route 89 runs from the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center, all the way through the park, and ends just past Manzanita Lake. Lassen Peak Highway is 30 miles long and takes about an hour to drive without stops. However, you’ll want to spend a whole day exploring because there are many beautiful sites to see.
Lassen Peak Highway is only open when clear of snow in the summer and fall. Snow clearing along the road starts in March or April. The opening date depends on how much snow the park receives. Sometimes it opens as early as mid-May, other years it opens in July. It closes sometime between October and December based on snow conditions. Check online for the most up-to-date road conditions.
There are plenty of fishing opportunities in Lassen Volcanic National Park. Trout fills many of the lakes and streams. Lake Manzanita and Butte Lake offer popular fishing options. Make sure you follow all fishing regulations and acquire a valid California fishing license to fish in the park.
Ranger-led programs are run year-round in Lassen Volcanic National Park. In the summer, enjoy activities, talks, and night sky viewing programs. On Saturdays and Sundays in the winter, ranger-led snowshoe hikes take place starting at the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center at 1:30. They are about 2 hours long. In extreme weather conditions, the hikes are canceled.
If you’re planning to visit Lassen in the winter then snowshoeing is the best way to see the park! Park services are very limited, campgrounds are closed, and most of the park is inaccessible by road but that doesn’t mean there’s no way to explore. You can hike to sweeping vistas from the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center or wander around Manzanita Lake for scenic views and sites of Lassen Peak on a clear day.
Camping at Lassen Volcanic National Park
There are seven national park campgrounds in Lassen Volcanic National Park. All the campgrounds are located close to multiple trailheads. Some campgrounds have services while others are primitive campsites. Since the 2021 Dixie Fire, three of the campgrounds, Southwest, Juniper Lake, and Warner Valley, have been closed through the 2023 season. There are currently no predictions of when they will reopen.
Manzanita Lake Campground is the largest campground in Lassen Volcanic National Park and is located just a mile from the Manzanita Lake Entrance. It has 179 sites, toilets, coin-operated hot showers, and a camp store with laundry, ice, and firewood for sale. Manzanita Lake Campground also has rustic cabins for rent. It generally opens around Memorial Day Weekend and closes in mid-October.
Butte Lake Campground sits in the northeastern corner of Lassen Volcanic National Park and it’s the only campground in that area. It has 101 sites with vault toilets and potable water. There are no showers or amenities. It’s open from mid-June through mid-October. Butte Lake Campground is about a 45-minute drive from the main park entrance at Manzanita Lake.
Summit Lake Campground is located right off of Lassen Peak Highway, fairly central in the park. It’s broken into a north and south campground with 95 sites between the two. The campsites have toilets and water but there are no showers. Summit Lake Campground usually opens in July and closes in late September.
Lost Creek is a small campground with 8 group campsites. It’s just south of Manzanita Lake. It has toilets and potable water. There are no showers or amenities. Lost Creek Group Campground is usually open from mid-June through mid-September.
Southwest Campground sits at the southwest entrance into Lassen Volcanic National Park. It’s usually open from June to October with walk-in sites on a first come, first served basis. Camping in self-contained vehicles on the premises is permitted year-round with a camping fee. From November to May oversnow tent camping is permitted.
Currently, all of Southwest Campground is closed due to the 2021 Dixie Fire.
Juniper Lake Campground is a small campground located in the southeastern corner of Lassen Volcanic National Park. It is a remote campground located 13 miles up a paved/gravel road. Juniper Lake Campground has 18 sites and toilets, but no running water. It’s currently closed due to the 2021 Dixie Fire.
Warner Valley Campground sits in the south of the park and is accessible from the town of Chester. It’s a long, 17-mile drive up the road to this campground so it’s not recommended for trailers. There are 17 sites, toilets, and water, but no showers. Warner Valley Campground is currently closed following the Dixie Fire with no predicted reopenings.
Lassen Volcanic National Park Camping Info
The Lassen Volcanic National Park camping season is short because of the amount of snow the park receives throughout the year. With the Lassen Peak Highway being closed until mid-summer, some campgrounds open as late as July.
Some park campgrounds try to open in May for Memorial Day Weekend or by mid-June but this depends on the season. Campgrounds start closing for the season from mid-September through October depending on snow storms. Check the Lassen Volcanic Campground website for the most up-to-date campground information.
Reservations vs. Walk-In Sites
Reservations are recommended throughout the summer when camping in Lassen. While many campgrounds have walk-up sites these fill up quickly on weekends and during nice summer days.
Food Storage Lockers
All campsites in Lassen Volcanic National Park have food storage lockers. These are large lockers meant to hold ALL scented food and toiletries. Lassen is located in Bear Country and bears are very active throughout the campgrounds.
All food and personal items with a scent – including toothpaste, body wipes, hand sanitizer, etc. must be properly stored in food storage lockers. Always keep the lockers locked even if you’re only walking away for a minute because critters are quick to get in.
There is very minimal to no cell coverage in Lassen Volcanic National Park and in the campgrounds, most people have no service at all.
Lassen Volcanic National Park is home to around 50 black bears. They live in the park year-round munching on berries and insects from the spring through the fall until they go into a shallow state of hibernation in the winter. It’s very important to give bears their space, staying at least 300 feet away from them. It’s also very important to properly store all food and scented items when sleeping at night. Habituated bears enter campgrounds because they’re familiar with high-calorie human food. Visitors must be on their A-game with food storage because “a fed bear is a dead bear”.
Follow the Leave No Trace Principles
The 7 Principles of Leave No Trace provide a guideline on how to recreate in Lassen Volcanic National Park while minimizing your impact and protecting the environment, wildlife, and others.
Camp in designated campgrounds at Lassen Volcanic National Park. Use trash cans and toilets to properly dispose of all human waste and trash.
Respect wildlife by giving them space. Do not approach or feed wildlife. Give larger animals like bears at least 300 feet of space.
Be considerate of other campers and hikers. Obey quiet hours, drive the speed limit, and keep music and sounds at camp to a minimum.
Only have fires at permitted campgrounds when legal. Up-to-date fire regulations are posted at campgrounds as they change throughout the season. Follow all fire laws to avoid pricey fines and jail time.
When is the best time to visit Lassen Volcanic National Park?
Lassen Volcanic National Park is technically open year-round 24 hours a day, 7 days a week but during snowy months, much of the park closes. However, there’s always something to see in Lassen with each season offering a different experience.
Summer is by far the most popular and best time to visit Lassen Volcanic National Park. Most roads throughout the park open by June, although in some years it takes until July. Wildflowers bloom throughout the summer and when all roads are open you can explore all the remarkable sites of the park.
Fall is also a great time to visit Lassen. Temperatures begin to cool off a bit, especially at night, but the fall leaves add a nice touch of color to the landscape. The park is also far less crowded after Labor Day weekend compared to the summer. It’s a great time to hike while trails are still free of snow. Lakes are free of ice making great photo opportunities. All park roads are usually accessible throughout most of the fall.
Winter in Lassen Volcanic National Park offers a special experience. Most of the park is blanketed in a thick layer of snow. Snowshoeing is a popular activity during the winter. Keep in mind that most of the park roads are closed except for around Manzanita Lake and at the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center. When Lassen Peak Highway is closed the drive from Manzanita Lake to the visitor center is a bit over an hour.
Spring in Lassen Volcanic National Park brings warming temperatures but most of the park remains blanketed in a thick coat of winter snow. It’s not until late April through May that park roads begin to open up. Springtime still offers great snowshoeing opportunities.
Reserve with Escape Camper Vans for your trip to Lassen Volcanic National Park
Now that you know everything about exploring Lassen Volcanic National Park it’s time to book your campervan and start your adventure! You can easily pick up your vehicle at the San Francisco Escape Campervan location and hit the road. Providing comfort, fun, and convenience all while living out of your vehicle, Escape Camper Vans are the best way to explore this bucket list national park destination.