My husband absolutely loves the national parks! As a child, his family drove all over this beautiful country in a retrofitted school bus, and visited as many national parks as time and budget would allow. When Mark was a young man, he dreamed of becoming a park ranger, and we were so excited to find out that it’s still a possibility once we are both retired! Now, we have hopes to visit all but the most remote national parks over the next ten years.
If you are looking for a clever way to keep track of the national parks you’ve visited, let me direct you to WayPoint Wanders. I purchased this amazing scratch-off National Parks Bucketlist poster for Mark, and it was his favorite Father’s Day gift! It’s not only a beautiful piece of art for our wall, but a wonderful way to showcase our goal to visit all 58 national parks.
(I took the poster to Hobby Lobby, and asked them to mount it on foam board– which they did while I waited. Then, I purchased an “off the rack” black frame, and voila! We were ready to start scratching!!)
One of the lesser-known national parks is Lassen Volcanic National Park. It’s located in northeast California, about an hour and a half east of Redding. Lassen Peak Volcano is the show-stopper, and it was still mostly snow-covered when we were there in mid-June.
The last eruption of Lassen Peak was in 1917, although the largest eruption was in May, 2015. During this eruption event, ash was spread almost 300 miles away, and chunks of glowing lava could be seen tumbling down the side of the volcano in towns 20 miles away.
One important thing to note about Lassen Volcanic National Park is that the road connecting the north and south entrance is closed most of the year due to snow. Even in mid June, the road was closed from Hot Rock to Lake Helen. I recommend checking the park website for road closure information several days before you are set to arrive as this will greatly impact your ability to travel in and around the park.
Another thing to keep in mind is that Lassen is VERY remote, and there is only one place to stay inside the park. We ended up booking an AirBnB in Cottonwood, CA which is about an hour to an hour and a half from both entrances.
We can’t say enough how much we appreciated our host’s attention to detail– it was the most well-stocked and thoughtful AirBnB rental we’ve experienced to date. Not only were the accommodations clean and comfortable, but our sweet host left us drinks, snacks and a wealth of information about local restaurants/attractions.
The South Entrance:
Before we drove into the park, we stopped for dinner at Highlands Ranch Resort. We ordered off the bar menu as it was still too early for dinner (dinner service begins at 5:00 PM), and our burger and fish tacos were delicious. The restaurant has a lodge feel, and a huge deck and lawn with outdoor seating.
The restaurant was just a short drive past the south entrance, so after dinner we doubled back and drove in to Lassen Volcanic National Park.
Right away we could see why the roads ahead were closed, because there was so much snow everywhere.
We stopped at the Sulphur Works to see the boiling mud and hydrothermal area.
While on a much smaller scale, these reminded us of Yellowstone. Lassen has quite a few areas like this (and a geyser), but we were not able to access them due to the snow cover. Up the road from the Sulphur Works is Emerald Lake and Lake Helen. While almost completely frozen over, they were so, so beautiful.
We drove past Lake Helen, to where the road was closed. It’s really amazing to see this much snow, in such deep drifts in the middle of June.
The North Entrance:
Just past the entrance to the park, the Loomis Museum and Visitor Center is an easy stop for information and national park collectibles. We left our car parked there, and headed off to explore the trail around Manzanita Lake. It’s an easy mile and a half hike with jaw-dropping views.
After hiking around Manzanita Lake, we drove to the Camp Store for some lunch. It’s a well-stocked store, with park memorabilia, snacks, drinks and soft serve ice cream. We ordered the pull-pork and turkey sandwiches with potato salad. There were surprisingly yummy, and hit the spot after a morning outdoors.
Even though the road was closed, and we weren’t able to drive as far as we wanted to, we did see beautiful scenery along the portion that was open.
If we ever make the trip to Lassen Volcanic National Park again, we will plan to arrive in August. By then, the roads are normally open all the way through the park and we will be able to make the hike to Echo Lake and explore Bumpass Hell. This area is so beautiful, and we relished the opportunity to see an area so remote and untraveled!
As always, we rented a car for our travels, and this time made sure to get a small SUV. Some of the roads around Lassen were quite bumpy and it was smart to have the extra clearance. Sometimes, a car just isn’t high enough to take on the “road less traveled.”