Why You Should Visit Lassen Volcanic Park (Instead of Yosemite)

When planning a trip to Northern California, people tend to go for the big names: Lake Shasta, the Redwood National Forest, and of course, Yosemite. Some even look further north and head to Crater Lake in Southern Oregon. While these parks promise spectacular natural beauty, they also promise huge crowds and high entrance fees. If you are looking to visit a National Park with plentiful opportunities for outdoor adventure but fewer tourists, look no further than Lassen Volcanic National Park. This off-the map treasure located near the small town of Chester offers crystalline lakes, stunning mountains, steaming fumaroles, flower-filled meadows, and the striking volcanoes for which the park is named. Though it is lesser known, this Park is certainly worth the trip. Here’s why.

1. A Rich Volcanic History

Lassen Volcanic Park boasts a fascinating eruptive history that has dramatically shaped the landscape of the area. There are numerous volcanoes within the park as well as a wide variety of geothermal areas, including roiling fumaroles, mud pots, boiling pools, and steaming ground. These geothermal areas form when water falls from the sky and is soaked into the ground where it is then heated by hot rock and molten lava. From there, the steam rises from the ground and creates the boiling pools and mud pots. Lassen Park is also our only National Park with all 4 types of volcanoes–Shield, Composite, Cinder Cone and Plug Dome–within park boundaries. In fact, Lassen Peak is the largest Plug Dome volcano in the world. Lassen’s volcanic past has formed a landscape like nothing you will ever see. Visit to learn more about volcanism and feel its history beneath your feet.

2. Excellent Ranger Led Tours

Lassen is well-known in the region for its world-class ranger programs. At Lassen, you will find some of the most passionate and informed rangers in the country. They are always eager to answer questions, make recommendations, and lend a helpful hand. Sign up for a ranger led tour to take full advantage of their incredible knowledge and insight. They offer snowshoeing tours, public bird banding demonstrations, astronomy programs, trips to Bumpass Hell, and for the kids, a junior firefighter program. For more information on these programs, visit Lassen Park website.

3. Unparalleled Views of the Starry Night Sky

Lassen Volcanic Park is one of the last parts of the country where you can enjoy a completely clear view of the starry night sky. Because it is located far from any major hub of civilization, Lassen has not suffered from light pollution like many other parts of the globe. This makes it a great destination for star gazers, astronomy lovers, or anyone who simply likes to admire the night sky. Lassen offers some great astronomy programs as well as the annual Dark Sky Festival, a three-day festival every August dedicated entirely to the night sky. If you prefer to go out on your own, head to Bumpass Hell parking lot after dark for some pretty stellar views.

4. Beautiful Lakes

Lassen is known for its volcanoes and geothermal areas, but we also love its incredible lakes. Lassen’s lakes are great places to swim, fish, kayak, or sunbathe. And there are many campgrounds and cabins near the lakes if you would like to stay overnight. Manzanita Lake, located in the Northwestern corner of the park, offers some of the most iconic views of Lassen Peak. Head to Butte Lake for great views of Cinder Cone, the newest volcano in the park, and a unique landscape that looks totally different from anywhere else in the region. There are also many great hikes near Butte Lake, including the challenging climb to the Cinder Cone summit. Juniper Lake is the largest lake in the park, with many smaller lakes branching off from it. Its crystal clear, snow-fed water makes it the perfect place to swim, kayak, or lounge on the beach.

5. Fewer Crowds

Over four million people visit Yosemite every year. Half a million visit the Redwoods. Over 750,000 visit Crater Lake. While these parks are undeniably beautiful and historic, their huge crowd levels can detract from the experience. About 400,000 people made their way to Lassen across all four seasons, significantly less than these other famous parks. If you come to Lassen, you won’t have to fight for a campsite, squeeze by other visitors on the trails, or worry about a stranger making their way into your photos. If you want to skip crowds and truly escape from society, Lassen is the perfect park for you.

Despite its natural beauty and amazing opportunities for outdoor adventure, Lassen Volcanic Park is one of the lesser known National parks in the region. Head to Lassen to admire its magnificent landscape, learn from expert guides, and escape those pesky crowds. But you better book your trip fast. That could all change very soon.

Planning a trip to Lassen Volcanic Park? Book a stay at the St. Bernard Lodge for warm hospitality, a great location, and easy access to the park.

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