Looking for an off-the-beaten path getaway full of fun, adventure, and … volcanoes!? Lassen National Park is an awesome getaway with kids! In 2019, 517,000 people visited Lassen National Park compared to Yosemite’s 4.5 million! This summer, that quietness is part of Lassen’s allure. The following is the story of our first day camping in the Butte Lake Campground in Lassen, and our stop at Burney Falls on the way.
You can find more information on our second and third stops in the Lassen area, including hiking Cinder Cone, Subway Cave, and our day driving through the main section of the park, in the following posts:
- Hiking Cinder Cone with Kids at Lassen Volcanic National Park (Day 2 of 3)
- Exploring Lassen Volcanic National Park with Kids (Day 3 of 3)
Stop 1: MacArthur Burney State Park
- Burney Falls Entrance: 24898 CA-89, Burney, CA 96013
- Parking: $10 per vehicle day fee
- Hours: Sunrise – Sunset
- Park Brochure and Maps
- Dog Friendly: Dogs allowed only in parking lot, paved roadway, campgrounds. Dogs not allowed on trails or day-use areas.
- Stroller Friendly: Carrier is a better option here. There are stairs down to the falls, and the trail was a bit narrow for our Bob.
- Park Features: Camping, fishing, hiking, Lake Britton, and – of course – the gorgeous waterfalls
- Trails We Visited: Rim Trail, Falls Loop Trail
- Our Visit Elevation: 229 feet on the Rim Trail, Approx. 130 feet on Falls Loop Trail
- Remember to check the Burney State Park page for updates related to Covid-19 safety guidance.
A Picnic at Lake Britton
When I was growing up, my aunt lived just outside of Burney. We made the 5 hour drive north at least once per summer, but I hadn’t been back in over 20 years. The morning of our trip I felt just as giddy as I did when I was JJ’s age, excited for our big summer vacation.
We reserved a campsite in the Butte Lake Campground on the northeast side of Lassen National Park and decided to stop at the McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park on the way. My aunt recommended that we take the short hike from Burney Falls to Lake Britton, so we took a local’s advice and shook off the long drive with a short hike to the lake for lunch and beach time before heading back to the Falls.
After a picnic lunch near the shores of Lake Britton, we walked to the beach for a bit of play time. The small beach was more crowded than expected, but there was still enough room to carve out a little corner of the shore for ourselves.
After the beach, we headed back to Burney Falls, the main attraction of this State Park. The plan was to take the Burney Creek Trail back, but part of the trail was temporarily closed. Instead, we returned on the Rim Trail, and picked up Bug’s carrier at the car on the way to the Falls Loop Trailhead. We were so proud of him for walking the two miles to and from Lake Britton! We made up new volcanic versions of “Going on a Bear Hunt” to keep him engaged, but it was ultimately “Fight Song” that kept him going. He kept us laughing as he sang, “This is my fight song, take back my rice song!” Nothing worse to our 3 year old than the threat of rice removal.
We descended the switchbacks on the Falls Loop Trail with views of the Falls all the way down. I’d forgotten how spectacular these waterfalls are up close! Unfortunately, the word is out on Burney Falls and the main Loop Trail was CROWDED. Go early or late to enjoy the view without the crowds.
JJ surprised us by saying that he really wanted to go out onto the rocks below the falls, so he and I ventured out to do some rock scrambling. He was a little nervous at first, but then got the idea to use his “spidey-sense” to help. And yes, he was still wearing his favorite Spiderman pajamas! I was feeling some mom-shame at not making him change into regular clothes after our long drive, but he was pretty proud of himself. And even more so when he heard another little kid say, “Look! It’s Spiderman!” Go figure.
After our visit to the falls, it was time to head back up for one more hour in the car on the way to the Butte Lake Campground.
Stop 2: Lassen National Park, Butte Lake Campground
The Butte Lake Campground is located in the northeast corner of the park, six miles south of Highway 44. Those last six miles are on an unpaved gravel road. The campground is considered remote with few of the amenities of the more popular campgrounds in the main part of the Lassen National Park, such as Manzanita Lake. Because of this, it’s often overlooked as a spot to camp at Lassen with kids. To us, that was part of the appeal. We chose it specifically because it was the most remote campground in one of our more remote National Parks.
The campground has first-come, first-served campsites in the A-Loop and reservable sites in the B-Loop. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out which of the available sites might give us the most space, but I chose one of the worst spots in the campground (B26). We ended up closely sandwiched between site B34 and Group Site A. No one was excited about the proximity!
If you’re looking to reserve a site, I highly recommend those closest to the Ranger Station. Site B1 was my favorite as you can see the lake through the trees from the picnic table. All of the sites near the front of the B Loop (closer to the lake) were more spacious and private than ours. We would have spent much more time at the lake, had we booked one of these sites!
S’mores and a Campfire
Nevertheless, the campground was beautiful and we enjoyed ourselves despite the fact that we could see and hear our neighbors. By the end of Day 1 we were excited to explore Lassen National Park with the kids. Besides, s’mores and a campfire always make us feel better, especially at the end of a great day on the road.
A note on our approach to travel during Covid:
We believe that it’s important to get outside and experience the positive emotional and physical health benefits of being in nature during these unprecedented times. We are doing our best to enjoy these beautiful places responsibly by social distancing, wearing face masks indoors and when others are around outdoors, and moving aside on trails to let others pass. When we do travel overnight, we bring as much of our food and supplies from home as possible so as to avoid crowding local stores.
Let’s all do our part so that we can continue sharing the beauty of our outdoor spaces while protecting our families and the folks that are local to these areas. Hopefully, if we work together, we’ll be able to move on to better times as quickly and safely as possible.