Lassen Volcanic National Park is truly a unique and awe-inspiring place worthy of National park status, yet the number of visitors to this park remains relatively low. Perhaps it’s due to the remote location of this park with no other famous attractions nearby, as well as the limited time the park is accessible. Although Lassen is open year round, access is limited due to snow on the roads. This year the 30 mile road through the park wasn’t cleared until mid June and some years the weather closes the road as early as October, making this a small window to visit this park. For me, the lack of crowds is what makes Lassen appealing and is one of the reasons why we chose it as one of our multi-day destinations during the busy summer months. Here, even during the high season in July it is still possible to find solitude on a popular hike.
On day 2, we had reservations at Summit Lake North campground which was 20 minutes east of Manzanita Lake. Basically, we had a list of hikes and places in the area we wanted to check out, but no set plans. We spent a little too much time watching all the wildlife around our campground at Manzanita Lake before packing up and leaving. Two of the cutest golden-mantled ground squirrels (not chipmunks apparently) ran all over our campsite and distracted us to no end. Even though the campground was full, the campsites on the edge of the loops felt open with a forest in your “backyard” and a trail to the lake. I really liked this campground and would be happy to camp here again when we visit Lassen in the future.
As we were driving out we caught a glimpse of the sparkling blue water of Lake Manzanita, and decided that we HAD to kayak this lake! There is a kayak/canoe rental outfit right on the water (end of the turn around in the boat launch area) and my hubby and daughter jumped at the chance. Normally, I wouldn’t miss the opportunity to kayak, but that morning I wanted to have some time to do some watercoloring. The scenery around the lake with Lassen Peak in the background is just unreal. So, they kayaked while I walked around the lake filling my watercolor pad and taking pictures. Since the lake wasn’t very big, I could see them on the lake and feel connected as I enjoyed my art time.
About 30 minutes after they headed out on their kayaks, I saw my hubby head toward the boat rental place on his own. He was rowing swiftly and purposefully, head down and determined. I knew there was something wrong when he ignored my wave. He later told me that his kayak was sinking, the bottom half of his body was soaked! He was actually kayaking in a double kayak (because that was all that was left at that time), the one that I would have been on in the seat that was underwater had I chosen to kayak that morning. Glad I decided to watercolor! He was back kayaking on the lake (this time on a single kayak) in no time and assured me that there would have been no need for me to jump in and rescue him at any point. If you can get a kayak that doesn’t sink, then we highly recommend adding this activity to your Lassen itinerary.
Before we left the area we grabbed a soft serve ice cream at the camp store, which ended up being pretty darn good! At the next campground we stayed in I heard two young kids asking their dad if they could please (so polite) get some ice cream at the camp store and then being totally disappointed (loved the melodrama!) when their dad told them there was no camp store at the campground. They had to ask their poor dad many more times to make sure there was actually no soft serve ice cream for them. After awhile they started asking if they could go back to the other campground because that one was WAY better. See, the ice cream was that good!
We continued east on Hwy 89 stopping at the Hat Creek parking lot to have some lunch and dip our feet in Hat Creek. We were thinking of hiking to Paradise Meadows (2.8 miles round trip) since the trailhead was across the street from the parking lot, but we wanted to get situated in our next campsite and it was getting quite warm by then. So, we put that hike on our ‘next time’ list and continued on.
Summit Lake North Campground
Summit Lake was beautiful and they have a great day-use area, but I wasn’t the biggest fan of the campground. The spaces were really close together and I felt kind of claustrophobic camping here. Our site was B17 and although it was at the edge of loop B with a pond in the back of the site, the site next to us was very close. Close enough to hear conversations pretty clearly. Also, the pipes carrying water to the campground were broken so the restrooms were closed (they did have port a potties by the entrance). It didn’t impact us, but we were glad we filled the campervan up with water at the Lake Manzanita campground fill station.
The day-use area, however, was great with picnic tables in a large shaded area along the banks of the lake. My daughter braved the cold water and went for a swim. She made many interesting faces as she walked deeper into the lake acclimating to the temperature of the alpine lake. She didn’t stay in too long, but claimed that it was refreshing through chattering teeth. This would be a great lake to explore on a floatation device! As the daytime temperature cooled down, we started talking about an evening hike and picnic dinner. We decided on the Echo Lake hike since the trailhead was right by the campground. We grabbed some water, picnic food, jackets and mosquito repellent then made our way to the trailhead on the east end of the campground past the boardwalk. The Echo Lake hike is a 3.6 mile round trip hike to an alpine lake through some amazing scenery. 3.6 miles doesn’t sound so bad, but when you factor in the altitude (7,136 ft at the high point) and the elevation changes, it’s a bit more challenging and takes longer than you would think. The uphill sections were tough, but this was a beautiful hike that took you through many different types of terrain and it was fun to have a destination to walk to. Definitely worth the workout! The hike took us about 2 hours including a small break to admire the lake. We were surprised to have encountered only one other couple on the trail the entire time. Loved the feeling of having the place all to ourselves.
We returned to the campground tired and hungry, but happy to have experienced the hike. We finally had our picnic dinner that we carried with us on the hike…back at the campsite…inside the mosquito free campervan.
If you’re interested, check out our first day at Lassen at Manzanita Lake Campground and our visit to Subway Caves and McArthur-Burney Falls (Lassen Volcanic National Park, Day 1), also our driving tour of the park (Driving Tour of Lassen Volcanic National Park).