Lassen Volcanic National Park is a California gem that boasts fewer crowds than Sequoia or Yosemite. Yet it offers all the scenery plus volcanoes. The legendary volcanic activity of the Cascade Mountain Range is just to the north. And Lassen is part of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. Sitting at the convergence of two mountain ranges, Lassen Volcanic National Park contains features from both. Read on for what to do in Lassen National Park with kids.
What to do in Lassen Volcanic National Park with Kids
- Drive through Lassen—Enter at the northwest or southern entrance and drive the Lassen Volcanic National Park Parkway for expansive views of Lassen Peak and the evergreen forests.
- Learn about Volcanoes—Kids love volcanoes so take the time and learn about them.
- Hiking—Lassen offers over 150 miles of trails, including a section of the Pacific Rim Trail.
- Summer Snow Play—Find a patch of snow in the summer. Playing in the snow in shorts is a must for kids.
- Night Sky Programs—Park rangers host night sky program during the summer with telescopes and tours of the night sky.
History of Lassen Volcanic National Park
Lassen started to erupt 825,000 years ago. Four different American Indian groups used Lassen during the summer months.
The Gold Rush brought settlers looking for gold. Then the Emigrant Trail passed through Lassen with more settlers looking for a new life on the West Coast.
It’s been over a hundred years since the last eruptions of Lassen Peak from 1914 to 1921. At the time, local Benjamin Loomis documented the eruption. He later advocated for the creation of a national park.
Lassen Volcanic National Park was created in 1916. It’s the fifteenth national park in the National Park Service.
Learn about Volcanoes
The big draw in Lassen Volcanic National Park is the volcanoes. Its namesake, Lassen Peak is one of the largest plug volcanoes in the world.
So take some time to learn more about the super forces of nature. My kids snooze during science class though mention seismic anything and they’re all ears, just like cuss words in a foreign language.
Find all four types of volcanoes in Lassen Volcanic National Park. Then look forvolcanic features throughout the park like mudpots and fumeroles, along with steam vents and sulphur springs.
- Shield—Mount Harness, near Juniper Lake
- Cinder Cone—Cinder Cone, near Butte Lake
- Composite—Brokeoff Mountain, near the southern entrance
- Plugged Dome—Lassen Peak
During your visit, kids can earn the Lassen Volcanic National Park’s Volcano Club patch (additional $2.50 fee).Pick up a booklet at the visitor center or Loomis Museum. Then complete seven of the 14 activities listed.
Start with a visit to one of the hydrothermal areas. And learn about the different types of volcanic rocks at the Devastated Area. Continue to learn about volcanoes as your family explores the park.
- Bumpass Hell–16-acre site with mudpots, pools and steam vents including the Big Boiler. Find a boardwalk to hike the 3 mile round-trip distance. Note this trail might be closed due to snow.
- Sulphur Works–Easy area to explore, one mile from the Southwest entrance.
- Cold Boiling Lake–Close to the Kings Creek Picnic Area see a bubbling lake.
Where to Hike in Lassen Volcanic National Park
With over 150 miles of trails in Lassen Volcanic National Park, take the family on a hike during your visit. The Pacific Coast Trail, long distance trail, runs through Lassen for 17 miles and marks the half-way point.
|Devastated Area Interpretive Trail||.5-mile||6,470 feet|
|Lily Pond Nature Trail||.75-mile||5,920 feet|
|Manzanita Lake Loop||1.5-mile||5,890 feet|
|Boiling Springs Lake||1.8-mile||5,640 to 6,020 feet|
|Crystal Lake||.8-mile||6,820 to 7,200 feet|
|Cold Boiling Lake||1.4-mile||7,380 to 7,420 feet|
Water Sports in Lassen
Find water recreation in Lassen Volcanic National Park, like swimming, boating and fishing. Though the water is cool, even in the summer.
- Swimming–Manzanita Lake, Summit Lake and Emerald Lake
- Non-Motorized Boating–Butte Lake, Juniper Lake, Summit Lake. Manzanita Lake offers kayak, canoe and SUP rental.
- Catch-and-Release Fishing–Manzanita Lake, Butte Lake and Horseshoe Lake offer trout. Requires a valid California Fishing License (16+).
Night Sky Activities in Lassen
Lassen Volcanic National Park is a dark skies park. Find park ranger programming during the summer to learn about the night sky. Or attend Lassen’s Dark Sky Festival for constellation tours and star gazing. Held nearly Manzanita Lake.
Lassen Visitor Centers
Stop by Lassen’s Visitor Center to learn more about the park, pick up a map or park newspaper or ask a Park Ranger a question.
Kohm Yah-Mah-Nee Visitor Center
At the southern entrance of the park, it’s the place to learn about the volcanic activity in the park with kids. Grab the Junior Ranger booklets and find answers in the interpretive display. See the short educational film too.
The visitor center also offers a cafe with salads, sandwiches, coffee drinks, soft drinks and ice cream.
Open year-round from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Located near Manzanita Lake, the Loomis Museum displays the original equipment used to document the last eruption. Find traditional baskets as well.
Open during the summer and fall only from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
People of Lassen
Four American Indian groups lived in the Lassen area. The Atsugewi, Yana, Yani and Maidu people moved to the area during the warmer months for hunting and gathering. Pine needles were woven into baskets. Find artifacts in the Loomis Musuem.
William Nobles and Peter Lassen developed a pioneer trail through the Lassen area. And emigrants used the trail during the Gold Rush to get to California.
Benjamin Loomis documented the 1914-1915 eruption by photographing it. See his work in the Loomis Museum.
Kids at Lassen
The Junior Ranger Program is the go-to program for families to learn more about a National Park Service site. It’s free and takes about two hours to complete. My kids love the badges that the Rangers present them after completing their booklet.
Since a ranger station is located at both entrances, pick up the Junior Ranger booklets at either entrance. Complete the activities based on age while exploring the park. Lassen Volcanic National Park hands out patches, instead of plastic or wood badges.
Additional Junior Ranger Badges
Lassen Volcanic National Park offers additional Junior Ranger badges.
Junior Ranger Nght Explorer–Earn at a Night Sky Program or work on it during your stay.
Junior Firefighter Program–An opportunity to learn about the important work of the U.S. Forest Service along with the NPS.
Lassen Volcanic National Park Volcano Club–Pick up a Volcano Card at the Visitor Center and complete the required activities.
Camping in Lassen National Park
If the kids are begging to camp, Lassen Volcanic National Park offers some options from traditional tent camping, RV camping, camping cabins along with glamping.
Drakesbad Guest Ranch
For an exclusive experience, stay at the Drakesbad Guest Ranch for a rustic lodge decorated in pine furnishings. Enjoy a mineral water pool, fly-fishing in Warner valley, horseback riding or pony rides along with campfire s’mores, archery and arts and crafts for the kids.
Open form early June until early October and reservations are a must.
Manzanita Lake Camping Cabins
During our visit, I reserved a camping cabin. It’s a favorite for families, all the camping kids love with the roof, door and electricity Mom needs. Even find bunk beds for the kids.
Bring the gear for a cookout, like a stove and lantern. Then add the sleeping bags to throw on the mattresses. And don’t forget the marshmallows.
Each cabin features two rooms, one room outfitted with a futon and a small table and two chairs. The other room has two sets of bunk beds with mattresses. The cabin also features a front porch.
Outside, enjoy dinner under the stars with a standard picnic table, a fire ring with grate and a bear box for food storage. A water spigot is nearby and the bathhouse is within walking distance.
Campgrounds in Lassen Volcanic National Park
Find traditional camp sites at the following campgrounds. Each site offers a picnic table, fire ring, bear box, potable water nearby and toilets (vault or flushing).
Campgrounds are open from early June until the snow closure in the fall (October). No hook ups in the park though find a dump station at Manzanita Lake.
- Butte Lake—101 sites
- Juniper Lake—18 sites
- Summit Lake North—46 sites
- Summit Lake South—48 sites
- Warner Valley—18 sites
Manzanita Lake Camper Store
Forget something, then stop by the camp store and find s’mores kits, soft-serve ice cream along with apparel. Rent kayaks for Manzanita Lake too.
The only gas pump in the park is behind the store. Find showers and a coin-operated laundry next to the camper store too.
Open seasonally from May until early October.
Where’s Lassen Volcanic National Park
Located north of San Francisco, Lassen Volcanic National Park is 50 miles east of Redding. Redding is the largest city located north of Sacramento so it offers all the services and supplies for road trips.
Getting Around Lassen
Lassen Volcanic National Park is open 365-days a year and 24-hours a day. Use an America the Beautiful annual pass ($80) or purchase a 7-day pass for $30 per vehicle.
The main road through Lassen National Park closes for snow. Lassen Volcanic National Park Highway usually opens up in late May or early June and closes in late October or early November.
Be Bear Aware
Lassen Volcanic National Park is home to about 30 bears. The National Park Service recommends the following guidelines to reducing encounters.
- Make noise when hiking, kids are good at this.
- Be aware of the possibility of bears at streams.
- Store food when not eating or preparing in the bear-proof storage lockers.
- Keep 100 years between you and bears.
- Put all trash in a bear resistant trash container.
Be on the lookout for acute mountain sickness when traveling over 8,000 feet. It’s caused by a lower amount of oxygen at higher elevations. Look for the following symptoms.
- Rapid heartbeat
- Shortness of breath
- Insomnia, or restless sleep
If anyone in your group is exhibiting any symptoms, then head down 2,000 feet and definitely below 10,000 feet.
To prevent symptoms, head up into the mountains at a gradual pace, especially if you live at sea-level. Spend a day at 5,000 to 7,000 feet, take it easy and drink lots of non-alcoholic fluids.
I have a child who suffers for Altitude Sickness and I didn’t know it was an issue until a trip up Pike’s Peak in Colorado (14,000 feet).
He instantly got a severe headache and started crying. It was a short trip and the cog train leaves after 45 minutes at the top. He fell asleep on the way back down and felt better at a lower elevation.
Then we had to cut short a ski trip on a 10,000-foot mountain. Now we realize that he can’t go over 9,000 feet and it hasn’t been an issue since. Though I remind him to drink lots of fluids and keep track with a graduated water bottle.
Know Before You Go
- Stay on boardwalks and established trails in thermal areas.
- Cell service is limited. And data is non-existent.
- Watch your children at all times, many features have barricades kids can climb over.
- Wild animals are unpredictable, give them space and don’t feed them.
- Bring food and refillable water bottles for your visit. Food service is limited.
- Know your personal limits and the limits of your equipment.