Recently, we were asked to suggest an off-the-beaten-path travel gem in the western US. We looked at each other and simultaneously said, “Lassen!”
Lassen Volcanic National Park — just east of Redding, California — is relatively unknown, even to many nearby residents. But it is pretty spectacular! Inside its boundaries are 10,000′ Lassen Peak, volcanic cinder cones, forests, miles of hiking trails, beautiful lakes, and campgrounds. Although Lassen Peak last erupted in 1917, the area is still geologically active: its geothermal areas contain mudpots, fumaroles, and boiling pools similar to those you might encounter at Yellowstone.
A trail leads to the summit of Lassen Peak, another leads to the summit of Cinder Cone, and excellent hiking trails criss-cross the park, offering a variety of day hikes and backcountry camping experiences.
Picturesque Manzanita Lake offers kayaking and fishing, and its nearby campground offers easy access to the lake and a visitor center. Cabin rentals are also available. Other campgrounds can be found at Butte Lake, Juniper Lake, and Summit Lake.
Nearby Lassen National Forest is home to Subway Cave, a lava tube that offers a walkable 1/3 mile underground trail … in the dark. Bring a flashlight or two!
Far from any urban light pollution, Lassen’s dark night sky is perfect for stargazing; it’s been one of our go-to destinations to view August’s Perseid meteor shower (our favorite time of year to visit Lassen!). Plan your trip wisely, though — Lassen gets over 500 inches of snow each year, closing the park road well into spring!
Visiting the park is inexpensive — $10 per vehicle per week or $25 per year.
While we’ve traveled to Lassen several times from our hometown of Portland, Oregon, we’ve found that even many Californians that we encounter on our way to Lassen are unfamiliar with the park. Yet, it’s one of our favorite US national parks — and we’ve visited 42 of the 59!
What’s your favorite hidden travel gem? Wherever it is, enjoy your week or your weekend there!
Are there places to stay nearby or camping only?
There is a lodge in the park, and there are a few motels, hotels, and B&Bs near the park. Check out this link for details:
Enjoy your week or your weekend in Lassen! 🙂
So pretty and worth the trip! We stayed there and can’t wait to go back…
BTW, have you seen my latest project for camping??? It’s a 1963 travel trailer – totally trashed inside but I’m hoping to have it up and running by next summer. Tent on wheels for the old back! 🙂
Sara – we’ll have to meet at a campground somewhere next summer to celebrate your “new” travel trailer! 🙂
Another lodging option is Airbnb – I almost went to Lassen in June but the timing didn’t work out. I found a very friendly and informative Airbnb host who had a reasonably priced room really close to the park.
Seeing your post makes me regret not making this trip happen. What’s the drive time from PDX?
Jeff says maybe an 8-9-10 hour trip. You should really do it! Airbnb is a good option. We’ve had good luck w/ them.