On our last day at Lassen, we packed up camp early to check out the main part of the park. We took it easy after our big Cinder Cone adventure, but there was still so much to see and do! In just one day, we were immersed in a lava tube, had a leisurely lunch by the lake, earned two Junior Ranger badges, played in a bit of snow near Lassen Peak, and witnessed boiling mud in the park’s hydrothermal areas. What an amazing place! If you’re looking for a less crowded family-friendly National Park to experience, we highly recommend checking out Lassen with kids.
You can find more information on our first stops in the Lassen area, including Burney Falls, Butte Lake Campground, and hiking Cinder Cone, in the following posts:
- Camping Trip with the Kids at Lassen Volcanic National Park (Day 1)
- Hiking Cinder Cone with Kids at Lassen National Park (Day 2)
Lassen Volcanic National Park Overview
- Main Entrances: Lassen has two entrances to the main part of the park, accessed via Hwy 44 (North) or Hwy 36 (South). For GPS, use the addresses of the Loomis Museum (North) or the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center (South). Hwy 89 connects the two entrances through the park.
- Loomis Museum: 29489 Lassen National Park Hwy, Shingletown, CA 96088
- Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center: 21820 Lassen National Park Hwy, Mineral, CA 96063
- Vehicle Pass: $30 per vehicle, good for 1-7 days.
- Hours: 24 hours per day, but road access may be limited Nov – May. Be sure to check conditions before you go.
- Lassen Park Map
- Lassen Park Audio Guide
- Dog Friendly: Dogs are not allowed on hiking trails, in water or backcountry areas, in visitor centers or other park facilities.
- Covid Updates: Remember to check the Lassen Volcanic Park Page for updates related to Covid-19 safety guidance.
The Subway Cave is located just north of the Hwy 44/89 junction that leads from the Butte Lake Campground to the northern entrance of Lassen Park, so we had to make a stop on the way. After all, how often do you get to explore an underground lava tube?
A self-guided 1/3 mile trail leads you through the cave. It’s completely dark and a bit chilly, so remember to bring a flashlight and coat! The kids were a bit nervous as we approached the entrance, but they LOVED this experience. With their curiosity piqued, they actually asked me to read every interpretive panel on the path.
After you exit, a short but lovely trail takes you back to the parking lot above the cave. From there it’s a quick 20 minute drive to the North Gate Entrance to Lassen National Park.
When visiting Lassen with kids, we highly recommend the Park’s Junior Ranger program. We had printed the worksheets at home, and worked on it a little each day. After arriving in the main part of the park, the first thing JJ wanted to do was to turn in his completed booklet. We found Ranger Carly outside of the Loomis Museum. She was wonderfully patient as JJ overcame his shyness to share all of the rocks he had observed to and from Cinder Cone.
The kids loved their cool Lassen badges featuring – what else – an erupting volcano!
With their badges proudly pinned on, we were ready for our picnic lunch at Manzanita Lake.
There were noticeably more people on this side of the park, especially near the popular Manzanita Lake campground, but most of the people we saw wore masks, and everyone kept a respectful distance.
When I planned our stop at the Manzanita Lake picnic area, I thought we’d be at the spot I’d seen in photos with an awesome view of Lassen Peak over the lake. This was not that part of the lake, the Peak isn’t visible, but it was still a nice place to pause lakeside.
If we had more time, I think the 2 mile Manzanita Lake Loop trail, which features those well-known views, would have been a fun addition to our day. Here’s some trail logistics from AllTrails.
Lassen Peak Trailhead
After lunch, we followed Hwy 89 as it wound through the park. There were amazing views in every direction, and we wished we had more time left to explore. At the park entrance, we were given a map with numbered points of interest along the highway. We decided to stop at the Lassen Peak trailhead which is near the road’s highest elevation point at 8,512 feet. There’s not much to do here outside of the trail, but we were curious to see the peak up close.
It was late June, but there was still enough snow for a surprise playtime for JJ. When you visit Lassen, remember to bring lots of layers, even mid-summer!
Geothermal Activity at Sulphur Works
The famous Bumpass Hell Trail was closed due to snow during our visit (it reopened on July 13), so we continued on to Sulphur Works to witness some of the park’s geothermal activity.
Sulphur Works isn’t a trail so much as geothermal features highlighted from the main roadway. It was a great quick stop for the kids, who were getting tired but still found the natural phenomena pretty fascinating.
You can smell the sulphur as soon as you open your car door here, so everyone but Bug happily wore their masks the whole time!
Highway 89 leads to the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center and the Southwest Park Gates shortly after Sulfur Works. We all said goodbye-for-now to Lassen, knowing there was still so much to see and explore. In just a few short days we experienced some spectacular waterfalls, splashed around two lakes, hiked a challenging volcano trail, braved a spooky walk through a subterranean lava tube, inhaled some stinky geothermal activity, and even made a snowball or two!
Lassen truly has something for everyone, and we can’t wait to go back for more.
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.