When my children were about nine months old, my best friend, Chrissy, and I thought it would be a good idea to strap them to our chests and go hiking in Lassen Volcanic National Park. Turns out, it wasn’t a good idea, it was a GREAT idea! We had a wonderful day exploring the geothermal features of the park while introducing the kids to the first of many National Park adventures. Lassen is off the beaten path but well worth the drive. Here are some of my tips for visiting Lassen Volcanic National Park with kids:
WHEN TO GO: The park is snowed in until June so my recommendation is to plan for a mid-June to mid-September visit unless you are in to snowshoeing. We went in June and while all the roads were plowed, there was still quite a bit of snow on the ground which was a surprise to us. After all, we were wearing t-shirts and shorts!
WHERE TO STAY: We stayed near the town of Chester, in a cabin by the shore of Lake Almanor. It was close enough to drive back and forth to the park every day, but much more practical for us than camping inside the park with a couple of infants. Lake Almanor is a popular summer vacation destination and there are plenty of cabins for rent in the area. If your family loves to camp, there are 6 campgrounds (3 of them are group sites) within the park.
WHAT TO DO: I think every trip to Lassen Volcanic National Park should include a hike to Bumpass Hell. It is a beautiful 3 mile hike over the side of a mountain and into a stinky, hydrothermal wonderland filled with steaming pools, bubbling mud pots, and multicolored streams. Make sure to keep your children on the boardwalk so they don’t break the fragile crust on the ground surrounding the features. Mr Bumpass made the mistake of walking too close to the features and slipped through the crust, scalding his leg in the process!!!
Those with older children who are up to the challenge can take the 5 mile RT hike to the top of Lassen Peak. On May 22, 1915, Mt Lassen experienced a large volcanic eruption and the effects of the volcanic eruption can still be seen throughout the Devastated Area. Views from the trail leading up to Mt Lassen are nothing short of spectacular.
Another fun (and short!) hike is to Cold Boiling Lake. This trail is only .8 miles RT and leads to a lake with gas bubbles coming up which give it it’s boiling appearance. For an even more incredible boiling lake experience, take the easy 3 mile RT hike to Boiling Springs Lake where the water temperature is 125 degrees due to a number of hot springs under the surface of the water.
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