Driving Tour of Lassen Volcanic National Park

Day 3 of our Lassen trip started out with us deciding to cut our Lassen trip short (just by a day). Although we were thoroughly enjoying our time in Lassen, the house move weighed on our minds. Before heading home, however, we were going to make the most of the day by taking a driving tour through the rest of Lassen on Hwy 89 (Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway). On the Lassen National park website there is an audio podcast that you can download (no reception at the park) and listen to at each stop of a self-guided tour of Lassen. Each podcast was only 1-2 minutes long, so it was a nice (and succinct) way to get more information about the park and its main attractions.

We had one last look at Summit Lake before we left the Summit Lake North campground. The day-use area at Summit Lake is really a great place for a picnic and for water activities. I can see why the picnic tables were already starting to fill up mid morning.

DSC_7108DSC_7098DSC_7106From Summit Lake we headed south and passed by the Kings Creek parking area. The parking is for the Kings Creek Falls trail (2.4 miles round trip), which is on our ‘to do next time’ list. Soon after we passed this very busy stretch of road (parking is on both sides of the road), we came upon the most gorgeous meadow, Kings Creek Meadow, complete with snow covered mountains and Kings Creek passing right in the middle. I mean really! We took way too many pictures and then stood there silently staring in awe trying to etch the scenery into our memories forever.



A little further down the road we pulled into the Kings Creek picnic area. Another great place for a picnic and the start of the Cold Boiling Lake trail (as well as a variety of other hikes). We started on the Cold Boiling Lake trail, but one look at the pristine white snow prevented us from going any further. It’s not like we’ve never seen snow before, but it is just so captivating…and so fun to throw!



The view of Kings Creek Meadow from aboveDSC_7183There are many pullouts along the road and we took advantage of many, especially when there was snow.DSC_7188DSC_7197DSC_7192Continuing on we pulled into the Lassen Peak parking lot. This hike was the one we were planning on doing if we weren’t going home that day. It is a 5 mile round trip hike that is supposed to take 3-5 hours with a 2000 feet elevation gain! It’s one of those hikes you feel happy that you did AFTER you’re done and curse yourself for attempting it DURING the hike.DSC_7203

Just a quick walk to the peak – NOT!

Immediately after the Lassen Peak parking lot, Lake Helen appears and takes your breath away. You have to see the color of the lake yourself to understand how deep the blue is and how many different hues of blue there are in the lake.

Helen Lake
Snow surfing with flip flops
Helen Lake

Emerald Lake is a great name for this lake to redirect from the fact that the color is green due to the algae thriving here. DSC_7234One of our last stops was Sulphur Works to view the famous hydrothermal features of Lassen. Here you could see the fumaroles (steam and volcanic gas vents). Everything was visible from the sidewalk near the parking lot. The smell that hits you when getting out of the car assures you that you are in the right place. Although it was a small area and right by the road, the boiling mud pot was impressive and the information on the signs was helpful to understand how this was all related to Lassen’s volcanic activity. Lassen is considered an active volcano which last erupted in 1915 (the largest in a series of eruptions). According to the nps website the volcanoes in this region tend to erupt infrequently, like centuries or even millennia infrequently. I was good to go after reading this.


Boiling mud pot
Looking down the ravine at some hot spots and rising steam
Information signs everywhere


Bumpass Hell (3 miles round trip from the parking lot) was another place you could see hydrothermal features. The hike was open that day, but closed the day before, so the sheer number of cars and people at the parking lot was astounding. There was no way to even get in the parking lot. This was another hike for next time preferably early morning to avoid the crowds. The park ranger at the Visitor Center actually suggested that Devil’s Kitchen was her favorite area to see hydrothermal activity because the hike was much more scenic and a lot less crowded. She even referenced Lord of the Rings in her description, how cool is she!

Our final stop was at the Kohm-Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center before our drive home.

Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center


Lassen has over 150 miles of trails and is a great place to explore on foot, but many of its attractions are visible on the 30 mile road through the park. I love that this park is accessible to people with different levels of abilities. This short trip was a great introduction to Lassen for us, more than we ever expected. We definitely want to come back and explore more of the park and tackle the long ‘to do next time’ list. I hope you have a chance to visit Lassen which has been called “the West’s most beautiful, least visited wonderland” by Sunset magazine. So fitting!

If you’re interested, check out our previous days exploring the park (Lassen Volcanic National Park, day 1 and day 2).


8 replies to “Driving Tour of Lassen Volcanic National Park

  1. Your photos are so gorgeous! The colors you captured in Helen Lake blow my mind. It’s the kind of tropical blue I associate with beaches–in an alpine lake–what? Amazing! I’m putting that one on my must-see list for next year. Your pics make me even more excited to visit!Thank you, too, for the tip about downloading the audio podcast at home; I didn’t realize you needed to do that beforehand, so that’s an awesome tip. Also, anything LOTR automatically goes on the list, so Devil’s Kitchen, here we come! So glad that you were able to take a break from moving for a while. So happy that you guys had an amazing weekend! Lassen looks crazy beautiful!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s so great that you have CA on your radar for next year!! LOTR all the way- we eat our hiking snacks based on Pippin’s recommendations: breakfast, second breakfast, elevenses, luncheon, afternoon tea.. OMG, I’m such a nerd!
      Thanks for the comments!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What an amazing park with a variety of ventures. Gorgeous pictures!! Ill do the ride and a short walk and bet your family does a long one next time. Thanks for the fabulous sharings. Super..

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Beautiful pictures! 2 days ago we did one of those hikes you mentioned that you’re happy you did it AFTER, but not DURING. It was a long one at Glacier, but so worth it! The hot pots reminded me of Yellowstone. When we make it to CA in our travels, I’ll have to get advice from you about all these places we should see.

    Liked by 1 person

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