Lassen Volcanic National Park simmers with life. Fumaroles steam and mudpots sputter. Crisp mountain lakes and wildflower meadows enliven the landscape. Lassen is one of the few places in the world where four types of volcanoes exist, a region of volcanic activity for roughly 3 million years. Bring hiking shoes and a love of the outdoors, Lassen is all about wilderness.
The toughest part of getting to Lassen Volcanic National Park is getting out of the city and into the landscape. Once you're across the bridge and out of view of the Bay Area, point north on I-5. With Redding on the signs you're set until you reach Red Bluff (30 miles south of Redding), where you'll turn east on Highway 36.
At 4 hours, 30 minutes the drive is long enough to try to lose your voice rocking along with your fave road trip soundtrack and let the breeze into your hair. But it's short enough to let you splash down in a mountain lake by lunch time.
The Green Gables Motel & Suites in Burney offers selected suites with hot tubs and spa baths. All rooms come with free WiFi, free continental breakfast, free parking, and free use of a community barbecue grill. An 18-hole championship golf course is 10 minutes away, and Lassen Volcanic National Park is a 40-minute drive south through mountain peaks and forest.
The Best Western Rose Quartz Inn in Chester is a short walk from Lake Almanor in the heart of the national forest. It features an outdoor hot tub, 24-hour gym and suites with a microwave and refrigerator. Suites have a separate living room with sofa, two cable TVs, a DVD player and free Wi-Fi.
The Burney Motel is a quaint launch point for adventure a 40-minute drive north of Lassen Volcanic National Park. There is free WiFi, cable and parking. Some rooms offer added seating area. And if you're a grill master, ask about the barbecue grill on-site.
Lassen Café and Gift in Mineral is a great low-key spot for lunch, if you're looking to stay within the park and within easy reach of an afternoon with the volcanoes. Cap off a simple lunch with a micro-brew, ice cream cone or a shot of energy from the espresso bar.
The Highlands Ranch Resort Restaurant in Mineral is a top notch restaurant that has quality food at great prices. They are open for breakfast, lunch and diner with menu options such as delicious spinach and mushroom omelets, spicy taco salads, and blackened Ahi.
Thirsty Trout Pub in Chester serves up cold beer, outdoor seating with views of the mountain life, and a menu that includes sliders and the unexpected, like Asian Tacos. Stopping in on a Wednesday night? It's a pub. Bring your trivia night rally cap and a friend who has the answers.
At nearly 10,500 feet elevation, Mount Lassen is a peak among peaks in the Lassen Volcanic National Park. It is the only active volcano in California and is heralded by locals for its beauty, trails and quieter life than its more famous equals to the south in Yosemite.
Bumpass Hell rates only behind Mount Lassen in its appeal for hiking in Lassen Volcanic National Park. Start at the Bumpass Hell parking lot. The 8,000 feet elevation is significantly lower than nearby Mount Lassen, and the modest three-mile hike is rated as easy, with a 300-foot-descent, giving way to views of steaming lava beds as you go.
The Kings Creek Falls trail leads to a large, roaring waterfall draped in ferns and other greenery. Start at the Kings Creek Falls trailhead, with options for a 2.4-mile hike along the creek or a 3-mile hike along the horse trail. The elevation of this hike starts at 7,300 feet elevation. There is a gradual 700-foot descent along the horse trail and a steeper, rockier descent via the creek edge. Either bringing you to the breathtaking natural beauty that makes it worth your efforts.
Steam vents in Boiling Springs Lake keep the water jumping. With a constant temperature of 125 degrees, the mud pots on the southeast shore are among the best in the park. To hike around Boil Springs Lake, start at the parking area west of Warner Valley Campground. The trail is an easy three miles, and at a lower 5,800 feet elevation, it will let you catch your breath after some of the hikes in the higher reaches.
Chaos Crags and Jumbles serves up a well-worth-it four-mile round trip hike. It starts at Manzanita Lake in the northwest corner of Lassen Volcanic National Park. The trail runs through a dense forest of pine, leading to sweeping views with the peak of Chaos Crags North reaching overhead. Be sure to read the interpretive sign that tells the story of the crags and jumbles. (We don't want to spoil the secret.)