None of us had ever been to Lassen Volcanic National Park. The only thing we knew for sure is Diana I wanted to go several years ago because the trails looked very easy to do with rewarding views. Both her and I had planned for a week of work for vacation time. However, initially it was not for going to Lassen Volcanic NP. As the week approached we soon found ourselves adjusting and tweaking our vacation. It went from driving mostly every day all week long down to where we ended up. Our final decision was a good one and we would leave Saturday to head to the Park.
All photos -> HERE
The plan was to leave by 7 am. The drive was going to take us 4.5 hours if we never stopped. Well that was not possible and the drive took longer. We also did not leave on time as life kept throwing things our way to delay our prep time during the week. As the time came around, we didn’t depart until 10:30 AM. Between breaks, getting gas, and eating food, we arrived at Lassen Volcanic National Park’s south entrance around 530 PM.
Our first camp site was reserved online and at Summit Lake (North). There we found our spot and pulled in. Jaden was so happy to be out of the truck, as we all were really, and we started setting up dinner. Eventually the food was cooked, camp was established, and we sat down for our meal. It was an easy delicious meal after driving all day. Once cleaned up, it was time to do some exploring around our camping area.
We explored the camping area by seeing what other sites offered. It was our first time, so maybe if we wanted to come back we should see other potential sites that looked good. Our evening walk also strolled over to Summit Lake. It was beautiful and we had seen some people swimming in it upon our arrival. Being a shallower lake, I could see why people would be enjoying this body of water. Bugs were out, but since Diana treated our clothes before the trip, they were not bothering us at all. A few photos and then it was off to bed. We would have to break down camp and find a new place before we could set out on our first hike as our reservation was only good for one night. We were hoping a “first come, first serve” camp was available at Manzanita Lake.
In the middle of the night we had discovered some bad news. Our truck bedz mattress had a hole and was slowly leaking. I eventually hit bottom by morning. Since it was 6 AM Jaden was awake too. We both left the truck and went to get breakfast. It was some cereal for Jaden and oatmeal for me. A cup of coffee followed suit for myself and then we cleaned up the area. It was still very quiet all around camp, so I decided to take Jaden exploring a bit away from all the sleepers.
The walked headed south towards the lake. There we watched as mist formed on the water. The breeze would move the mist across the surface of the water and then back again. It was neat to watch Jaden observe this for the first time. As we decided to make our way around the lake, as I wanted to grab some photos, we saw a birds nest on the shore. I showed Jaden who was happily surprised. We proceeded further east along the lake’s shore until we came across a trailhead.
A nice causeway was there to take users across the riparian area. To our surprise a doe was on the other side enjoying her morning meal. We walked slowly across the causeway as to not alarm her. I soon realized she was a regular around here and didn’t seemed at all spooked by us. When we were close enough for her comfort she turned and strolled away. We ended up taking a route in her direction which ultimately took us right back to our camp site. Upon our return more campers were up and eventually Diana was too. Breakfast was made for her and we cleaned up camp to move on to our next spot.
The drive was all new and very pleasant. We saw views of Lassen Peak and saw access to various trails. The Disaster Area was a self guided tour we would pass by many times. About 20 minutes later, we were at Manazanita Lake Campground where we quickly learned loop B is where we wanted to go. We drove through the area 2 to 3 times seeing several people leaving or some spots empty. We settled on B42 which we would really come to like. It was not close to a lot of people like in Summit and access to and from water, bathrooms, and the road in and out was easy. A perfect spot.
Now with our camping spot secured for several nights, we could put that one behind us. It was now time to check out the visitor center just down the street. Inside we spent about an hour watching a video of the park and its history plus checking out the displays. I picked up a Junior Ranger booklet for Jaden to work on while at the Park. We then went back to camp, packed up a lunch, and headed out to our first trail.
Our first trail was to head to a spot called Bumpass Hell. Apparently Mr. Bumpass was showing people the bubbling mud many years ago and broke through a part of “solid” ground, severely burning his leg. It was a big attraction and closed for the summer…at least the shorter route was closed. The area could be observed using the Cold Boiling Lake Trail then going up the back way to Bumpass Hell. This is the route we would take and arriving at the King Falls Day Use area, we had lunch before making our way.
It was early afternoon, which is not the best time to hike. However, this did not detour us and we pressed on excited to finally be hiking. Jaden enjoyed the signs along the way and read them all out-loud to us. Diana and I were curious what was meant by Cold Boiling. We would all so find out as it was our first destination along the way to Bumpass Hell.
Arriving at the lake we looked for the “boiling” part of Cold Boiling Lake’s name. Sure enough, a small sign was out in the wetland area and bubbling water was in the background. We would later learn that it was simply gas being released from down in the earth. By the time it got to the surface, there was no heat at all. It gave it a boiling look, which again was an illusion to being “hot water.”
Pressing on it was now time to climb uphill for a couple miles. The weather was getting warmer outside and we began to drink up our water supply. I did have a filter and we soon refilled all our water bottles. Another couple took some photos of the filter I was using and we pressed on up the hill. A group of people heading down said we would go through a few muddy stretches and they were right.
Soon after putting our packs back on, the trail went through a meadow area. Here the seeping water found the trail and was flowing down it, thus creating all the mud. We all moved aside to let those descending through it pass by before making our attempt.
We made it through each one, one by one, and even crossed over the headwaters of the North Fork of the American River (flows 170 miles until it gets to Sacramento). That was cool to see and simply step across at that point. Anyway, views to the west were beautiful and we saw another lake down below on our way up to our destination.
The temperature was getting warm and we could all feel it. The last bit of uphill climbing lead us to a ridge, in the shade, and with a constant breeze. It felt refreshing and cool, but there was one issue. It stank! We knew we were getting close and proceeded onward. The landscape was changing colors and the smell of sulfur was getting stronger and stronger (rotten eggs smell).
It was now time to head downhill, but just for a little bit. The path was lined with rocks and we could now see steam rising in the air. Soon we could peak through the brush and down into Bumpass Hell. Bubbling mud was easily visible. The water was clear, but the light grey soil and deposits were giving the water a cement look. The trail dead ended by a sign staying stay out for repairs purposes.
Of course we took photos, pointed out things we though were cool, and then it was time to head back. It was about 3:30 pm at this point and we had about 2.5 miles to hike before getting to the truck. It was time to go uphill for a bit more and then downhill for most of the trip back.
Our destination was behind us and going downhill was a nice break for awhile. We both wished we had our trekking poles soon into the hike. It would have made the mud crossing easier too. Anyway, even though it was an easier walk it was still hot. We took breaks along the way.
Wildflowers were out and I took advantage of the breaks to grey and get a few shots. Grant views of the southern Cascades were nice too. Diana would point out things of interest along the way down the trail.
The mud spots were back and so the easiest way was to carry Jaden. In order to speed through and not get his boot dipped in mud, this is what we did. It was not hard and actually I think it may have helped ground me on the rocks I stepped out to as I passed.
Eventually we made it back to the truck. Jaden was tired, but did a great job. He had hiked 5.4 miles! We were very proud of him and suspected he would sleep very well tonight. The drive back was quiet as we were all hungry and ready to eat dinner. We just had to cook it and didn’t start until we arrived back at our camp around 6 PM. Dinner was quick and with full bellies, we relaxed in camp a bit. This pretty much ended our first full day in Lassen.
Both Jaden and I were up again by 6 AM. The night sleep was better in the since that Jaden was not karate kicking us both in his sleep, but the mattress leak was worse. We slept on the riveted bed of the truck all night from about 1 am onward. Nevertheless, Jaden and I grabbed breakfast again and watch the sunrise in camp.
Being that it was a Monday, this reminded Jaden of trash day back home. He was bummed he would miss it. Diana was up at this point and we were getting ready to go to the visitor center to work on Jaden’s Junior Ranger badge when we saw something. Low and behold it too was trash day in the campground. Jaden was so excited and waited for the trash truck to pass by. He then watched them empty the bins by hand and move on. I think it made his day. We then went to the visitor center to learn more about the park and work on his tasks before going to Kings Creek Falls.
It was about 11 AM when we arrived at the trailhead. This hike was going to be much shorter then last time. The trail was a lot flatter too, which was perfect after yesterdays adventure. I wondered how Jaden’s legs felt after doing so many miles at this age. He appeared to be fine and energized as we proceeded down the trail.
We arrived at our fist sign about a mile into the hike. We only had 0.6 miles left to go, but we knew most of it was a drop down to the falls. This in turn meant it would be a hike up. Undeterred by this idea we pressed onward. The trail was starting to descend more at this point. The creek could be heard nearby as we approached yet another trail sign. This time though it was different than other signs.
The sign show how many miles as usual. The difference was it told you to only go to the left. It was a one way loop and going the other way was strongly discouraged. Jaden read it all to us and we proceeded up the steps to start the loop.
The hike up was rather simple and provided a nice vista of the surrounding area. As we approached the top user trails started going a couple places. Likely photo points or areas to “get away” from the trail’s many users. We stayed on the main trail. It was at this point the trail started to dive down to the creek.
There were a few switchbacks to break the descent up rather nicely. We crossed a small flowing creek about two to three times on the way down. Jaden found that interesting. The trail then leveled out and we crossed a couple wooden trees that made up a causeway. I let Jaden go first and I think he found it pretty cool. Once across we could hear the sound of waterfalls.
We had arrived at Kings Creek Falls. A few photos were taken and then we decided it was a great spot for lunch. The sound of the flowing water helped keep things pleasant. Many users hiked by admiring the view and then noticing us eating in the opposite direction.
Lunch was soon devoured and a few minutes later it was time to climb out. We did not know the trail would parallel the entire length of the falls. It was very cool to walk up close and beside it. The trail shrank in size down to a narrow one way going along the rocks. I could see why they wanting this loop to be a one way. It would be a nightmare having to deal with people going in both directions.
We just ate our lunch, so taking it slow was gladly welcomed. Plus the temps were increasing and reflecting back off the rocks. I let Jaden stay in front of me so I could keep an eye on him. He did great with staying to the trail. We stopped in the two shaded spots along the way up to hydrate. Then we continued on until we made it to the top where we hydrated and cooled down some more.
The one-way loop was now complete and we were a mile away from the truck. Discussion came up about the next trail. It was going to be about 0.25 to 0.5 miles of uphill climbing to then be rewarded with a lake and view of the northern side of the park. About half way done with the mile, Jaden was done hiking. I figured his muscles were sore and we did not want to make this activity an unpleasant one.
Deciding not to push it any further, we arrived back at the truck and drove back to camp. It was time to solve the leaky mattress issue and finish the last task for Jaden’s badge. We would just have to come back another day to see more of the park.
I stopped for some photos of the peaks on the way back. We decided once the mattress issue was fixed and the badge earned, we could do some easy hiking around Manzanita Lake itself. The sunset would be great lighting, as advertised for photographers in the Park’s newpaper, so that sounded great. Upon arrival to camp, we went to work getting the last bit tasks done for Jaden’s badge.
Jaden ended up getting all of this tasks complete. The Ranger Austin then let him wear a hat and swore him in as a Junior Park Ranger for Lassen. He was excited a nervous, but did it just fine. In fact a small audience gathered to watch before heading inside the visitor center. When it was over everyone clapped and the badge was given. The hat was returned of course.
On the way back to camp, a beetle decided he needed a lift. As I drove he remained on the hood of the truck the entire time. I thought for sure he would not hang around but he did. We were all surprised, but left him alone as we went to fixing the mattress.
Prior to getting to camp to fix the mattress, we stopped at the general store. I refueled the truck while Diana and Jaden went inside to get some dinner supplies. Plus they could check out the store. I pulled around front as soon as the fuel was done and paid for the dinner supplies. We ended up each getting ice cream. Yummy! Now it was time to go back to camp. There was a problem to solve!
Unfortunately no matter what we tried, we could not find where the air was leaking. We needed a pool or soapy water. Thankfully, we brought our 4 person tent. The sleeping gear ended up going in there for the night in hopes that the ground would be a little softer. Time flew by trying to solve the problem that we ended up eating dinner late. Thus we did not go on our walk around the lake. Tired and smelling the need for a shower, we headed back to the general store. Here there were showers to use.
The showers were small and had two screens for each shower room. The main room was a waiting area on one side while the 6 showers were on the other side. Once available one would open the curtain and shut it behind them. Get undressed, put money in the machine, and then slide back the next curtain to the shower. It reminded me of fire camps, minus the machine, so it was not that bad. Jaden and I were done in less than 3 minutes in the men’s shower. It was very refreshing and welcomed! Now back to camp to get ready for bed. Hope, though a glimmer, was there for a better night’s sleep.
Sleep was not any better. I did like the extra room though and never really felt Jaden’s movements. My hips were sore though once I was up and moving around. Jaden was a little cold just before we got up at 6 again. Believe it or not, it was sleeping in for me as we were all going to bed at 9 PM.
It was our final half day in Lassen. The morning was quiet and peaceful. Jaden enjoyed another round of cereal. I had cereal this time around along with a couple of cups of coffee. Yes, it was colder that morning so Jaden was bundled up and I was in my down jacket. The cold was welcomed as it would soon be very hot back home. We left the camp site at 830 AM to start making our way home. However, we had two stops to make before leaving the park.
One of the stops was to get a family photo with Lassen Peak in the background. There was a nice place just past Kings Creek Falls. Many had parked here before to get their photo taken and we did the same. Another photo would soon be taken of Lake Hellen and Lassen Peak.
Lake Hellen was beautiful. There was a slight haze around the peaks and likely from the fire we saw a few days back coming into the Park. Jaden and Diana stayed inside for this one as I quickly snapped several photos to make a panoramic. Nobody else was there at 9 AM so that was perfect. We soon continued on down the road to Sulfur Works and the visitor center.
Jaden started to feel a little sick in the stomach. We did not take any chances and so pulled over in a large parking area. There we waited outside for some fresh air. As the sun continued to rise, so did the smoke. It was apparent the fire was getting bigger and the smoke was making its way up into the park. As soon as he felt better we were back in and driving once more.
Sulfur Works is a cool place. You can walk right up to the thermal activity and watch it boil crazily. Yes, the air is quite strong with the sulfur or “rotten eggs” smell, but you do get used to it. Maybe you begin to tolerate it is more appropriate.
We then decided to cross the road to see the last bit of the area and read the information. Jaden was having fun looking for smaller areas of boiling mud. We did spot one or two across the way. People were arriving and the crowd grew. Thus, seeing everything there, it was time to go to the visitor center.
The southern visitor’s center was larger than the northern one. It was way more interactive and had a built in cafe. It was a nice one and we spent some time there before heading out. Before we left though, we grabbed a snack. It was 1030 AM by the time we left the Park.
We made great time coming home and the valley was full of smoke. The County Fire as it became known grew so quickly and put of plenty of smoke. Sacramento was thick with it. We stopped just south of there to grab a bite to eat before continue all the way home. The first family trip was great, a good learning experience, and we know what to improve on next time.