Lassen Volcanic National Park 3-, 4- and 5-Day Itinerary

June 6, 2024

With its crystal-clear lakes, steaming fumaroles and stunning panoramic views, Lassen Volcanic National Park is a hidden gem of a national park. In fact, many travelers describe it as a miniature Yellowstone — all the natural majesty without the massive crowds.

Whether flying solo or traveling with family, let these ideas of things to do at Lassen Volcanic National Park help you make the most of your trip.

Lassen Volcanic National Park 3-Day Itinerary

This three-day itinerary takes you through a basic list of what to see at Lassen Volcanic National Park.

Day 1: Tackle the Must-See Areas

The first stop on the schedule is Bumpass Hell, the most popular hiking area in the park. It is only open during the summer, so get there early to ensure you get a parking spot.

An easy 3-mile trail with minimal elevation gain, Bumpass Hell is a great family hike through the park’s largest hydrothermal zone. While you walk, look out for:

  • Big Boiler: In addition to its status as the largest active fumarole in the park, Big Boiler is also one of the hottest in the world.
  • Brokeoff Mountain: The second-highest peak in the park, Brokeoff Mountain is one of the last remaining pieces of the ancient volcano Mount Tehama.
  • Basin: The boardwalk section of the trail takes you down into the heart of Bumpass Hell, where you can see fumaroles and other hydrothermal features up close.

Once you finish at Bumpass Hell, head to the nearby Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center to explore the permanent exhibits and grab a bite at the cafe to bring with you to your next destination.

From there, check out the Devastated Area Interpretive Trail near the park’s northwest entrance. This 0.2-mile loop is a self-guided walk through the devastation left behind after Lassen Peak erupted in 1915 — perfect for any history buffs in your group.

Picnic tables, a restroom and trash receptacles are available at the Devastated Area trailhead, so it is also a great place to unwind between hikes.

Sunset at Lassen Peak with reflection on Manzanita Lake, Lassen Volcanic National Park, California

Day 2: Explore the Manzanita Lake Area

On day two, take a day to soak in the beauty of Manzanita Lake and the nearby hiking trails.

The Manzanita Lake Trail is an easy 1.7-mile loop with a minimal elevation change, so it is suitable for most visitors. Throughout this Lassen Volcanic National Park hike, you will enjoy stunning views of the lake and Lassen Peak.

Manzanita Lake is also home to the Loomis Museum, a small gallery offering a glimpse into the region’s history. The museum is open during the summer from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is free to enter, making it a nice break from the hot sun.

If you are up for a more difficult hike, take the Chaos Crags Trail from the trailhead near the Manzanita Lake Campground. This trail will take you through various types of terrain to the small yet beautiful Crags Lake.

Night 2: Experience a Night Under the Stars

If it looks like a clear night is ahead, take advantage of the opportunity to stargaze. Some of the best ways to see the sky include:

  • Full moon hikes: The full moon provides enough light to safely hike some of the park’s trails while experiencing the majesty of the stars. Bring a headlamp with you for areas where light is less available.
  • Ranger-led viewings: Guided astronomy tours are available throughout the year for those interested in learning more about the different celestial bodies you will see in the park at night. These programs provide great educational opportunities for families with small children.
  • The Lassen Dark Sky Festival: The annual Dark Sky Festival takes place over three summer days and is a great opportunity to participate in fun astronomical and educational activities.

Day 3: Hike Lassen Peak

Now that you have had time to acclimatize, it is time to tackle one of the park’s most challenging trails: Lassen Peak. Named after Peter Lassen, a 19th-century gold prospector, the mountain is one of 60 volcanoes in Lassen Volcanic National Park.

Start at the Lassen Peak trailhead, located off the Lassen Peak parking lot in the middle of the park. The trail will take you up through a short forested section to a summit, which is a good place to take a quick break.

Once you reach this first summit, you have a choice — keep hiking to the true peak or descend into the crater. Both are excellent options with awesome scenery, and you can always circle back to take the other path if you want to keep hiking.

The trail takes hikers four or five hours to complete, so you will want to take a bagged lunch or some snacks with you to enjoy at the top of the peak. You will also be under direct sunlight the whole way up the mountain, so be sure to bring sunscreen, carry plenty of water and wear weather-appropriate clothing.

Finally, take plenty of pictures — it is not every day you get to say you climbed an active volcano!

Alternate Day 3: Enjoy Some Easy Trails

There are more than 150 miles of hiking trails in Lassen Volcanic National Park to explore, so you have plenty of options if you prefer something less intense.

Some of the best hikes for an easier day three include:

  • Ridge Lakes: Take some time to explore the Sulphur Works area, then head to the trailhead off the main park road. You will start climbing up right away and continue for about a mile until you reach the Ridge Lakes. Stop and enjoy the view, then turn around and go back the way you came.
  • Devil’s Kitchen: This moderate 4.2-mile trail begins at the Warner Valley trailhead with several other trails. You will walk through the Devil’s Kitchen hydrothermal area, which is quieter than Bumpass Hell but just as amazing.
  • Boiling Springs Lake: This easy 3-mile loop also starts at the Warner Valley trailhead, crossing through a wildflower-freckled meadow and evergreen forest before reaching the lake.

Bumpass hell of Lassen Volcanic National Park.

Lassen Volcanic National Park 4-Day Itinerary

Four days gives you more time to explore the park’s natural areas, so feel free to linger a little longer in your favorite spots. After you hit most of the main tourist areas on days one through three, take your final day to enjoy the more laid-back sections.

Day 4 Option 1: Hike Cinder Cone Trail

Although cinder cones are the most common type of volcano found in any of the country’s national parks, Lassen Volcanic National Park is home to one that you simply have to see.

Cinder Cone Trail is a challenging hike that will take you up the park’s cinder cone past two iconic landmarks — the colorful Painted Dunes and the Fantastic Lava Beds. You will find the trailhead at Butte Lake, in the northeast corner of the park. From there, hike a 4-mile loop up and around the side of the cinder cone, which last erupted more than 350 years ago.

Fair warning — this trail is steep and sandy, making it more difficult than some hikers anticipate. Bring hiking poles and good boots to tackle this one.

When you descend from the trail, you can either spend the rest of your day relaxing at Butte Lake or hop on another of the nearby trailheads:

  • Bathtub Lake: If you are looking for an easy walk with minimal elevation gain to round out your day, the wildflower-lined Bathtub Lake trail is a perfect option.
  • Snag Lake: This long backcountry trail takes you around Butte Lake and past the Fantastic Lava Beds, ending at Snag Lake. While the full trail is too long for most day hikers, it is a popular starting place for backpacking trips.

Day 4 Option 2: Spend the Day at Butte Lake

Whether coming down from Cinder Cone or hoping to do something other than hiking, Butte Lake is the perfect spot to unwind.

The Butte Lake Day Use Area offers various activities for visitors of all ages, including:

  • Fishing: Butte Lake is an excellent spot to fish for rainbow trout. Note that you will need to obtain a valid California fishing license before your visit.
  • Boating: A boat launch is available near the lake’s parking area for nonmotorized boats like kayaks and canoes. You can fish from your boat as well.
  • Swimming: Butte Lake is typically warmer than many of the park’s other lakes, making it the perfect place to take a dip after a long week of hiking.

Bright green grasses grow along Butte Creek as it exits Butte Lake in Lassen Volcanic National Park.`

Lassen Volcanic National Park 5-Day Itinerary

Feel free to mix and match the activities for the previous days — five days gives you lots of time to see everything on your list.

Day 4 Option 3: See Kings Creek Falls and Take a Scenic Drive

In addition to its hydrothermal wonders, Lassen Volcanic National Park is also home to many beautiful waterfalls. On your fourth day, take this intermediate hike past Kings Creek Falls.

The 2.3-mile loop takes you past Lower Kings Creek Meadow and up along the Upper Cascades, then descends until you reach the Kings Creek Falls overlook. You can then either turn around and go back the way you came or follow the loop back to the trailhead. The trailhead is located on Lassen Volcanic National Park Highway near the southwest entrance. Parking fills up fast, so be sure to get there early if you want a good spot.

As with the rest of the park, it is strongly recommended that you stay on the trail at all times. The ground is slippery at the base of the falls, and hikers have gotten injured while attempting to hike around the fence there.

After returning from the falls, give your legs a break with a long, idyllic drive along the Lassen Volcanic National Park Highway. This drive takes you 30 miles around Lassen Peak and connects the park’s northwest and southwest entrances.

Although the drive typically takes around an hour without stops, account for extra time so you can get out and take a few photos. You can also listen to a 16-part guided audio tour from the National Park Service to learn more about the park during your drive.

Day 5: Explore Redding, California

What better way to end your trip than to explore the many things to do near Lassen Volcanic National Park? The small town of Redding, California, is just 47 miles from the park and offers activities, food and shopping for everyone in your group. Some great stops include:

  • Behrens-Eaton House Museum: Step back in time to 19th-century Redding in this preserved Victorian house. The museum is free to enter, and you can schedule a tour on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.
  • Sundial Bridge: This pedestrian bridge, which connects the north and south campuses of Turtle Bay Exploration Park, doubles as a real sundial from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. It is also the best way to get from downtown Redding to the Sacramento River Trail system if you still want to get some walking in.
  • Schreder Planetarium: If you did not get enough of the stars while you were in the park, visit Redding’s Schreder Planetarium for an immersive and educational evening program suitable for all ages.

End your visit on a high note with some ice cream at Taste & See Creamery or a refreshing pint at Fall River Brewing Company.

Frozen Manzanita Lake, Lassen National Park

Travel Tips for Visiting Lassen Volcanic National Park

Although trip planning rarely goes exactly as anticipated, keeping these tips in mind can make the process a little smoother.

When to Visit

Autumn and summer at Lassen Volcanic National Park are beautiful — the best time to visit Lassen Volcanic National Park is from late June through October. By this time, most of the snow will have melted, so hiking should be safer for everyone who has the proper equipment.

There are winter activities you can do in the surrounding area, but much of the park closes down around November due to snowy conditions. Bumpass Hell, for example, is only open during the summer.

What to Bring

Here is a quick breakdown of the essential supplies:

  • Water: Always bring plenty of water while hiking around the park. Much of the park is in direct sunlight and at a high altitude, and staying hydrated is important for preventing heatstroke and altitude sickness.
  • Snacks: Make sure you have something on hand to munch on in case you get hungry on the trail. While the park has several stores where you can grab a quick meal or pick up bagged lunches and snacks, options are limited.
  • Sun protection: In many areas of the park, shade is hard to find. Make sure you have broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, a hat or visor, sunglasses and appropriate clothing.
  • Hiking equipment: Good hiking boots are essential for navigating the park’s 150 miles of trails. You may also want to consider bringing poles when tackling the more challenging hikes.
  • A camera: Whether bringing a professional DSLR camera or using the one on your phone, make sure to take advantage of all the amazing picture opportunities at Lassen Volcanic National Park.

If you are planning on visiting in the winter, snowshoes are another good item to pack — you will need them to hike the trails that are open.

Getting Into the Park

You will need to pay an entrance fee of $30 per vehicle if you visit the park from April 15 to November 30. If you are going in the winter, though, your entrance fee is $10 per vehicle. Planning on returning throughout the year? Purchasing an annual park pass for $55 is a great value.

Additionally, you must obtain a wilderness permit if you plan to camp overnight in the park’s backcountry. You can apply for a permit online up to 90 days before your trip, so try to take care of this step as early as possible to ensure you get a spot.

If you plan to bring your pets with you, make sure you know the rules for where they can go in the park. Generally, pets are allowed anywhere cars can go, including the following areas:

  • Picnic areas
  • Campgrounds
  • Along roads
  • Parking lots

However, you will need to leave your pets behind if you plan to explore:

  • Any hiking trails.
  • Scenic overlooks.
  • The park’s backcountry.
  • Any body of water.
  • Visitor centers and other park facilities.

These restrictions help protect your furry friends and the local wildlife, so following them is a requirement — not just a recommendation.

What and Where to Eat

Incorporating your meals into your Lassen Volcanic National Park itinerary is a smart choice, as food options are limited in the park’s natural areas.

That said, there are a few places you can grab food in the park:

  • Lassen Cafe & Gift: Lassen Cafe & Gift is conveniently located in the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center. You will find plenty of healthy grab-and-go and dine-in options here, including fresh fruit, sandwiches, soups, salads and even espresso drinks.
  • Manzanita Lake Camper Store: Located in the Manzanita Lake Campground, the Camper Store is a great place to grab snacks and picnic supplies, including ready-to-go meals and beverages.
  • Drakesbad Guest Ranch: For a full-service breakfast, lunch or dinner, the Ranch is an excellent choice. You can also purchase sack lunches to bring with you on the trail. Availability is limited for non-guests, so be sure to call before you go.

Note that most dining areas change their hours and menu offerings in the off-season, so it is always a good idea to check what is open before you go.

Where to Stay

Lodging options in the park are limited, though you can camp in the backcountry with a wilderness permit. Check out some options for places to stay near Lassen Volcanic National Park:

  • Mt. Lassen / Shingletown KOA Holiday: Located about 14 miles from the park, the Mt. Lassen / Shingletown KOA Holiday is the perfect family getaway. You will find plenty of recreational activities and amenities for campers of all ages to enjoy, from fishing and birdwatching to pancake breakfasts and basketball courts.
  • Burney Falls / Hat Creek KOA Holiday: Located around 19 miles from the park via CA-89 S, the Burney Falls / Hat Creek KOA Holiday is the perfect space to unwind with your family after a long day of hiking.
  • Red Bluff KOA Journey: Visiting during the off-season? The Red Bluff KOA Journey is 50 miles from the park and offers many excellent amenities, including an off-leash dog park, a resort-style pool and beautiful views of the Sacramento River.

Enjoy the Great Outdoors With Kampgrounds of America

Are you visiting Lassen Volcanic National Park soon? Let KOA be your host!

Roll up in your RV, pitch a tent or reserve a cabin — there are options for every camper. Plus, KOA furnishes each campground with the amenities you need for a truly relaxing stay, including clean bathroom and laundry facilities, fun playgrounds and a general store for all your last-minute needs.

Choose KOA for the best in outdoor hospitality. Use a campground locator to get started planning your trip to Lassen Volcanic National Park today.

About the Author: Kampgrounds of America

Kampgrounds of America is the largest system of open-to-the-public campgrounds in the world, with over 500 locations across the United States and Canada. Founded in Billings, MT in 1962, KOA’s family of campground brands – KOA Journey, KOA Holiday and KOA Resort – today serve more than a million camping families each year. KOA is dedicated to “connecting people to the outdoors and each other” by providing people with a variety of camping experiences and the information they need to make the most of their camping trip. Read more of their camping and travel resources by visiting

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