One of the highlights of our week-long motorcycle loop through Oregon and California was spending a couple days in Lassen Volcanic National Park.
I had never heard of this park until I started looking at a map of national parks within some proximity to where we live in Spanaway, Washington. I don’t know how long we’ll live here, so I am very mindful to prioritize trips that are more accessible or in some way benefit from our current location and set up.
That has included hitting all of the national parks within a couple days driving distance – at least, I can say that now that we’ve been to Lassen!
We entered the park through the northern Manzanita Lake Area and spent the day riding through to the southwestern entrance and on to our accommodations at the nearby Mineral Lodge. Of note: there are limited fuel, dining, and lodging options around the park. Brian had to do quite a bit of research and planning to make sure we knew the last possible place we should fill the bikes with gas so we could make it to all of our planned rides and excursions and get to the next gas station before we ran out. Plan accordingly!
I was floored at the geographic diversity of this park – from forested lakes, to rugged mountains, to boiling mudpots and sulfur streams!
Lassen Volcanic National Park illustrates Earth’s powerful forces. Every rock originated from volcanoes, and all four types – shield, composite, cinder cone, and plug dome – can be found here … Rain and snow feed the hydrothermal (hot water) system that lies deep underground. Heated by molten rock, the water rises to the surface creating the remarkable features found in the park. These features are evidence of active volcanism and indicate the potential for future eruptions.Lassen Volcanic National Park brochure
We took in all of this and more while riding through the park. In addition to enjoying the changing scenery from the bikes, we stopped to hike in several areas to get a feel for things. Here are some of our favorite hikes.
Manzanita Lake Trail
The Manzanita Lake trail is an easy 1.5-mile loop around the lake that you can access immediately after entering the park from the north. There’s ample parking, and the flat trail is very family-friendly.
I had read this was supposed to be an ideal spot for viewing Lassen Peak – which we were planning to summit the next day! – and that was definitely the case. Our hike around the lake included some forested sections, where we saw deer and magpies along the trail, as well as some clearings where we had stunning views of the mountains.
King’s Creek Trail
The King’s Creek trailhead is accessible off the Lassen Volcanic National Park Highway about half-way through the park. There were lots of cars parked along the side of the road so it was easy to see where we needed to pullover and try to squeeze in the bikes.
We decided to hike the 2.2-mile roundtrip trail to King Creek Falls. Of note: There are a couple of ways to complete the loop, one of which involves a one-way section of trail. We hiked to the split, followed the path to the left to arrive at the falls, and then took the steep, one-way trail back to the split to return to the trailhead. Alternatively, you can take the left at the split to the falls and then return to the split that same way. That option is less steep than taking the one-way trail, and everyone we encountered took that route (except us!).
On our hike through the woods to the split, we came across a group of people quietly staring off into a meadow along the trail. We stopped to see what they were looking at, and sure enough there was a bear lumbering around, enjoying a meal! It was a comfortable distance away, and I was glad I had my camera so I could get a reasonable picture before we moved along toward the falls.
The river and falls were lovely – we ended up having the overlook to ourselves. I wasn’t sure how much water would be flowing given how hot and dry it was, but there was enough to impress me!
We had a hot, steep climb up exposed rock steps on our one-way hike out, and when we returned to the meadow the bear was gone. This was a really nice hike with lots of flowers, vistas, woods, and water along the way.
Just past the King’s Creek trailhead is the park road’s highest point, which is technically 8,512 feet.
We found a sign along the road noting the 8,000-foot mark and had to snap a quick photo. That’s the highest elevation I’ve ever had my bike!
Our last big hike of the day was a really hot one – I’ll go ahead and admit I was more than a little grumpy about climbing into our gear and riding through the remainder of the park to get to our accommodations after this one.
That said, this was an incredible hike, and I highly recommend it. I’m glad we did it, even if it was a little painful at the time!
Our roundtrip hike to Bumpass Hell on the Bumpass Trail ended up being 3 miles roundtrip. There were a couple places to park – we were at the farther option a bit south of the trailhead – and the first section of the hike from the parking area is along an open path hugging the rocks with sweeping views of the surrounding area.
After you reach the viewpoint overlooking Bumpass Hell – the area full of mud pots, turquoise pools, and sulfurous springs – the trail begins to wind down about 200 feet to a series of boardwalks throughout the hydrothermal area.
Bumpass Hell got its colorful name from a gentleman named Kendall Bumpass, who explored the region in the late 1800s. While showing the area to local dignitaries one day, Bumpass slipped and fell into one of the boiling mud pits, severely burning his leg — hence his endearing reference to the spot from then on!https://napavalleyregister.com/sports/columnists/guy-carl/bumpass-hell-the-name-says-it-all/article_1bf6cb1b-bffb-5d16-bf77-593aebb5b006.html
Our hot and sweaty hike out of Bumpass Hell and back to the motorcycles did have one positive point – an exceptional view of Lassen Peak, which we were planning to summit the next day!
Here we are – happy to see our next day’s destination and happy to be heading to the Mineral Lodge to clean up and cool down after an incredible and full day in Lassen Volcanic National Park!
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