California has everything: beaches, deserts, forests, mountains, islands…and volcanoes and hydrothermal basins! Tucked away in northeastern California’s remote wilderness, it’s easy to forget that a mini Yellowstone with active fumeroles, mudpots, and bubbling ponds actually exists in California. Even with its lesser known name and comparatively unspectacular hikes, I knew I had to check off this national park off my list. It is in my home state after all.
By now we’ve become experts at road tripping, especially in the United States, and we were delighted to easily find boondocking turf literally outside of the national park thanks to the myriads of old logging roads. As we drove in from the south, we turned off of CA-89 onto 29N22 West, and immediately found the perfect spot to spend the night. It was only 3.5 miles from the pay station and Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center. For our second night after driving through the park at Manzanita Lake, we turned right at the stop sign to head north on CA-89, drove 2 miles, turned right at Forest Rte 32N13, and discovered plenty of free camping spots. Spending 2 nights outside of the national park saved us at least $40!
During our weekend visit to Lassen, we marveled at the park’s largest hydrothermal basin via Bumpass Hell, climbed the park’s highest peak, Lassen Peak, and strolled the perimeter of scenic Manzanita Lake. Because Lassen is a relatively small park by national park standards, a weekend is sufficient time to explore the park.
Bumpass Hell is an easy 3-mile out and back hike from the parking lot and the most popular hike at the park due to its geological features. But because we got an early start that morning, we practically enjoyed the thermal basins all to ourselves.
This massive rock was placed in the current Bumpass Hell parking lot by a glacier.
Beautiful and stinky.
After our pleasant stroll through the active basin, we headed over to the Lassen Peak parking lot, just a short drive up the road and also the highest point of the road in the park at 8,512 feet. Lassen Peak caps out at 10,457 feet, making it almost a 2,000-foot elevation gain. At only 5-miles round trip, it was definitely the easiest mountain we’ve summited; it took us 1 hour and 20 minutes to summit and less than an hour to return. Plenty of families with children and even babies summited just as easily.
Mount Shasta as seen from Lassen:(Funny, we only summited the majestic Mount Shasta one year prior!)
Perfect lunch break from the summit:
Once on the road again, we drove through the park and made a quick stop at the Devastated Area to observe the giant rocks strewn about from the avalanche of Lassen’s latest eruption in May 1915.
And finally, a scenic shot of Manzanita Lake, with the iconic Lassen Peak and its reflection:
Generally I found Lassen to be quite small but still pretty, and with enough fascinating features to make it a worthy getaway from the Bay Area.