Volcano Love – Lassen Volcanic National Park Field Report

Dec 6, 2021 | 0 comments

Think of Lassen Volcanic National Park in two ways: Mt. Lassen – the volcano itself – and the surrounding area of 106, 452 acres.

Spring wildflowers at Summit Lake

Driving over Mt. Lassen: there are two entrance stations at Lassen Volcanic National Park – one at the Southwest entrance (on the Chester side) and one at the Northwest entrance (on the Manzanita Lake side).

Mt. Lassen always impresses: view from all angles throughout every season.

As soon as enough snow melts to allow the road over the top to open, I like to plan a road trip. I typically like to visit again in Autumn, and often go up at least once in the winter to snowshoe.

The first time I towed my travel trailer over the volcano there was still snow on the peak.

When the snow melts at my cabin, I’ve taken friends to snowshoe at Mt. Lassen.


Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center

This year-round visitor center was remodeled in recent years and is nice. It’s located one mile from the Southwest Entrance. The visitor center offers an information desk, exhibit hall, auditorium, amphitheater, park store, dining area with fireplace, patio, and a gift shop and cafe. And, there has been a policy change: people in RV’s and travel trailers can now pay to stay overnight in the parking lot! (Verify this before making plans in case it has changed again).

21820 Lassen National Park Highway
Mineral, CA 9606

For those who appreciate geography and geology, Lassen Volcanic National Park boasts the unique experience of viewing all four types of volcano within one park: plug dome, shield, cinder cone, and stratovolcano.

The trail head to the Cinder Cone is at Butte Lake Campground.


There are seven campgrounds within Lassen Volcanic National Park

See the website for sites at each campground.

  • Tent camping is allowed at most of the campgrounds.
  • Traveling with an RV or trailer? Camp at Manzanita Lake, Butte Lake, and Summit Lake Campgrounds. There are no hook-ups in the park. A dump station is available at Manzanita Lake.
Summit Lake: the campgrounds up here fill fast – reserve your site early.

Group camping, camping with pack animals, and dispersed camping are allowed in designated areas.

Butte Lake is a fascinating kayaking location for me because the lake is surrounded by lava rock.


Check the website for amenities available at each of the campgrounds.


Camping: varies from $12 – $101: see chart on website for specific information about each camping option.

Entrance fees to Mt. Lassen (check website for dates):

When they open the road after snow melt: Vehicle Entrance Fee $30

Winter – you can drive to the Visitor Center: $10

Lassen Annual Pass $55

The stunning clarity of Emerald Lake is something to behold – be sure to stop and take it in.


Remember, most of the park doesn’t usually open until June.

  • Most sites require a reservation, which must be made through Recreation.gov at least four days in advance.

First come, first serve might be available when things first open in June. After that, plan to make a reservation because the campgrounds fill up fast.

Lake Helen: the color is brilliant at all times of year, ranging from an unbelievable blue to unique shades of green.
I usually stop at Lake Helen for a picnic lunch. Plan to take you time along the way.


I encourage you to study the website before you visit. Gain a basic understanding of what you will see: geology at the different locations, the Hydrothermal pools at Bumpess Hell, the 20 lakes within the park, and the incredible diversity of wildlife in this area. It is a spectacular location.

A popular postcard depicting the 1915 eruption of Mt. Lassen.

I request people enter the park with reverence for the Native American Tribes who lived here: Atsugewi, Yana, Yahi, and Maidu.

Keep in mind, this is a National Park, so dogs aren’t allowed on the trails.

My solution when I had my little rescue Brussels Griffon. He loved the backpack!
If you visit Bumpass Hell, stay on the trail and respect the warning signs: the pools are hot and dangerous.
There are many pullouts on the road that goes over the top of Mt. Lassen.

The road can get busy July – September. The pull outs get full in the busy season, so travel-trailer towers and RVer’s might need to be strategic. There is a parking lot at the trail head to the peak.

If you have trouble getting a reservation at the campgrounds inside the park, or, if you have a larger travel trailer or RV, there is a KOA in Shingletown not too far from the North Entrance of the park. This is a great place to camp with kids.

Make reservations months in advance if you plan to stay at the Shingletown KOA.

Near the South Entrance to the park, there are camping options around Lake Almanor and Chester.


I have had many memorable times within the boundaries of Lassen National Park. One of them was the first time I tent-camped at an area not far from the Visitor Center. My camping buddy wanted to stay at camp and read after breakfast. I decided to hike and got to see a bear drinking from the creek. I sat down and watched the bear as it drank, walked around a bit, and then played in the water. This was the first time I saw a bear in the wild. I cherish that experience and look forward to seeing my first bear every spring.

I live on the border of the Lassen National Forest. Every Spring, when the snow melts, I look forward to my first bear sighting. One evening at dusk, while photographing birds, someone exciting stepped into the meadow!


Lassen National Park has so much to offer! I know the big rave in California is Yosemite – and with good reason! However, Lassen is referred to as one of the best kept secrets in Northern California. This volcano looming on the horizon welcomes me home every evening. Its powerful presence never looks the same two days in a row as light and clouds paint the view anew every day. It simultaneously captures the moment and embodies history.  

The trail head to the peak takes one up a lunar-like landscape.


Lassen National Park covers so much acreage and includes so many hiking trials, I could probably hike there every weekend for the rest of my life and not see it all. Trail difficulty ranges from easy to exceedingly difficult, so there is a trail for every level. Learn more about the hiking trails here: Lassen Hiking Trails

There are so many hiking trails in the park, you could explore them for the rest of your life.

In the winter, I like to snowshoe from the Visitor’s Center. There is usually lots of activity with people playing with their children, snow boarders hiking up and zooming down, cross-country skiers and other snowshoers. They do offer beginning snowshoe lessons at the Visitor’s Center and you can rent snowshoes as part of the lesson.

I like to visit Lassen in all seasons because I love to photograph this volcano and all the surrounding scenery.

A unique shot of Mt. Lassen from the North side.

From full moon hikes to the peak, to wine tasting at the Visitor Center, to field classes: check the website for a full list of activities. Note: the people I’ve talked to who have done the guided full-moon hike to the peak say it is incredibly windy up there and you should dress in layers to prepare for getting warm on the hike up and being cold at the top.

Near the North Entrance at Manzanita Lake, the museum, cabins, and rock walls are of visual and historical interest.
An impressive snow bank borders the road to the Visitor Center in the winter months.

I started going to Lassen National Volcanic Park shortly after getting my driver’s license and still look forward to every visit today. I still have a lot of exploring to do in this, one of our National Treasures. Like all National Parks, this land belongs to us, and I encourage you to enjoy all this park has to offer.

Article and photographs by: Catherine Goggia, Northern California Chapter Guide

To see the complete list of my articles, click here: https://girlcamper.com/northern-california/articles/

My awesome pocket camera with 25x zoom and good video: Canon Powershot

Follow the Girl Camper Northern California page: Girl Camper Northern California

Subscribe to Girl Camper Magazine here! Award Winning Design


Submit a Comment

Our Partners

Go RVing - Girl Camper Partner Camco - Girl Camper Partner Lippert - Girl Camper Partner

Pin It on Pinterest