Lassen Volcanic National Park’s 166 square miles are a geologist and hiker’s dream! The volcano had a large eruption in 1914 and you can visit the site of the lava path as well as find volcano bombs all over the park. Love hiking? There are so many trails to explore in this park and neighboring parks! This was our first trip to Lassen and most definitely won’t be the last! We thought we would go in June to beat the heat and the crowds but in all of our planning forgot about the snowpack. It was big this year and not all of the roads to the trails were open so we were limited on hiking options. Not to worry! We had an amazing weekend there full of Lassen’s beauty and wonder at Manzanita Lake, Cinder Cone, Burney Falls, and Subway Caves!
Manzanita Lake Camping Cabins
Camping cabins? Yes, please! We stayed in the new camping cabins at Manzanita Lake as a treat and loved it! They are adorable bedroom size log cabins with a small porch out front with chairs and picnic table and fire ring outside. No bathrooms inside, just a platform bed and dining table for 2. Perfect! We could have stayed there an entire week and would have been so comfortable.
Receiving the code to get into the key lockbox from the park’s service meant we could show up anytime after the store closed and get into the cabin. It was just after 6 pm when we arrived and still had plenty of daylight. We unpacked, found the restrooms (did not want to search in the dark!), grabbed our cameras, and went out to explore Manzanita Lake.
Just a short walk from our camping cabin was Manzanita Lake. When we drove in, it looked pretty but didn’t look impressive from the road. Do not let that fool you! This is a gorgeous lake with amazing views! To walk all the way around Manzanita Lake it is approximately 1.6 miles and mostly flat. We walked clockwise from the camping cabins. The trail started off through smaller pines with intermittent views of the lake. The sun was just starting to go to sleep which made the light shine through the trees just perfect! As we walked around we came upon a great spot where the trail was next to the lake. We watched mama duck lead her baby ducklings around the fallen logs on the lake and got to see the little ducklings dive under with their little feet popping up!
Thinking this was an amazing spot and wondering if we should turn around and head back before sunset we ran into another camper who had been up here several times. He gave us some tips on the area, what to see and such, and then told us we could get an even better view of the lake just around another corner. Oh, man was he right! A snow-capped Mount Lassen with the full moon rising next to it was reflecting in Manzanita Lake!! It was gorgeous!
Standing in awe of the site before us we stayed there until the sky started turning pinks and purples. Fish were jumping in the lake and kayakers were heading toward the shore. We decided to walk the remainder of the lake as the sun was going down. The trail leads away from the lake a bit to a creek that flows from the lake out. We passed the entrance kiosk to the park and followed the trail all the way back to the campground having to use our phone flashlights the last bit of the way back.
By the time we reached the camping cabin, it was mostly dark so we turned on our lanterns and built our fire for the night. We enjoyed our burger and veggies with a bottle of Merlot by the fire and took a little time to relax.
The next morning we decided to go to Cinder Cone first which was about a 45-minute drive from Manzanita Lake, partly due to the slow going on 6 miles of a gravel road. Hiking Cinder Cone we were in awe of the snow on the lava beds, completely blown away by painted dunes, challenged by the hike up and thankful for the reward at the top…THE BEST VIEWS!!! The hike started off at Butte Lake which was gorgeous and much bigger than expected. People were just putting their kayaks in when we got to the parking lot. From here you hike through a pine forest that meets the Fantastic Lava Beds. So crazy that life is thriving right next to lava beds…lava beds that were partially covered in snow in June!
Be sure to make a donation and grab a park leaflet that tells the history of the park and what you are looking at. Cinder Cone was formed in the 1650s and is made of basaltic lava. The fantastic lava beds are similar to the basaltic lava that erupted from the top of the volcano as cinder and ash. We sound like we know what we are talking about right? It’s all in the leaflet! 😉
As we walked along the nice wide trail, we were shaded in spots by the Ponderosa Pines and Jeffrey Pines. They are gorgeous trees! A deer cruised behind us for a while not really caring we were there. She was in search of some much-needed food. Cinder Cone is always in the distance from here and looks amazing! We were anxious to get there but let the few groups of people pass us up because we knew it would be a bit of a climb. Hahahaha, a bit of a climb.
Before we reached the base of the trail up Cinder Cone we caught our first glimpse of the Painted Dunes. This was so amazing to see! It looked like the old bottles of colored sand that you would layer and display (back in the ’80s when color was a big deal). The Painted Dunes are pumice fields that formed from layers of oxidized volcanic ash. Mother Nature was having a creative moment here and painted these in different hues of pinks, purples, and oranges. Take a moment to enjoy the beauty from here and maybe stretch your legs a bit before you start the strenuous climb up Cinder Cone.
Hiking Cinder Cone
Have you climbed sand dunes at the beach? Imagine doing that climbing 670 feet in .5 mile with a 40% grade at high elevation and in full sun…10 steps up, pause for the views (and to catch our breath), then 10 steps up and repeat. That’s how we got to the top! So happy we kept going!
The views on the way up were stunning! We could see Lassen Peak and Butte Lake and everything in between! People on the way down kept encouraging all of us heading up. Lovely souls!
Reaching the top of Cinder Cone you might wonder if you landed on Mars. Seriously. There were very few forms of life except us crazy humans up there. We found a windswept tree with a rock next to it to have our snacks and enjoy the shade and cool breeze coming off a lake. Some groups hiked down into Cinder Cone but we stayed up top admiring their endurance. The views of Painted Dunes and Lassen’s peak were way too inviting to leave this spot!
After a good rest and a ton of photos, we headed back down. Oh, man was that easy! Your feet just sink into the lava sand and just keep going. At the bottom, we dumped all of it out of our shoes and headed back to the truck. We encouraged people that were on their way up and told them to hug the side to make it easier and that it does get better and the views at the top are totally worth it! If you are thinking of doing this hike, you totally should! Just know that it won’t be a piece of cake but the reward will be ALL worth it!
With limited time in Lassen Volcanic National Park, we tried to make the most of it and headed over to Burney Falls. This is a state park that has a ton of visitors to what was once called the 8th wonder of the world. It’s an incredible 129 ft waterfall that is just a short 1-mile walk from the parking lot. It’s totally worth stopping here to see this amazing place!
We spent about an hour here admiring the natural beauty and then hiked back up to escape the crowds.
Ever wonder what it would be like to walk through a lava tube? On your way back to Manzanita Lake stop off at Subway Cave and cool off in this completely dark 1/3 mile lava tube! We had our headlamps and our phone flashlights and those weren’t enough to light up the area. You can’t get lost in these which is good because it is literally pitch black in there and you can only see right in front of you. The ground is uneven and the top of the lava tube dripped at times. There are interpretive signs you can read that tells you what you are looking at. It was creepy and interesting all at the same time in there! Reaching the end, we felt a slight sense of relief seeing sunlight and fresh air. The bosslady isn’t a fan of confined spaces so she was extra relieved!
Back at the campground after a full day of exploring we started the fire, cooked, and played cards until we were too tired to yell Uno anymore and went to bed. The next morning we packed everything up after breakfast and decided to have one last adventure in Lassen and drove up until the road was closed. The furthest we could go to was Devastated Area. We walked the short .5 mile interpretive walk and learned about when Lassen last erupted and were able to see the path of the lava. So great to see the land recovering after about 100 years and also to see that the lava path did not take everything out. The Visitor Center has a great gift shop and rangers available to answer all of your questions. Highly recommend stopping in here at some point during your visit!
Things We Love:
One thing we don’t love is mosquitoes! We had stopped in at our local natural foods store and asked what would be good to use on our camping trip. We didn’t want to have to wear deet the entire time and were hoping to find something natural to repel the little bloodsuckers. They recommended the Para Kito Mosquito repellent that clipped onto our pants or backpacks that uses essential oils to mask our smell. Weird…we smell? We think it worked. There were a ton of flying bugs everywhere and they mostly stayed away from us! When we walked around Manzanita Lake we had this hooked to our jeans belt loop and when we hiked it was hooked to our backpacks. The bosslady is not a fan of chemicals or smells so this worked great! Check out the link below to get some for your next outdoor adventure!
Cinder Cone had free parking at Butte Lake, restrooms in the parking lot, the hike up Cinder Cone was 4 miles with 856 elevation gain/loss. The toughest part of the hike is fully exposed to sun and wind. We would rate it as moderate to strenuous.
All Trails Stats:
Where else can you find us?
Don’t forget to check out the video of the hike on our Hike Then Wine YouTube channel!