Travel to Lassen National Park, California – Episode 422

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Hear about travel to Lassen National Park in northern California as the Amateur Traveler talks to Dick Jordan about this spectacular if less visited destination.

Lassen is in northeastern California. It is just as easy to get to from San Francisco as Yosemite National Park but with fewer tourists and one more volcano. The park centers around the dormant volcano Mt. Lassen and features other geothermal active areas.

“About 4 million people go to Yosemite. Virtually all them come in the May to September time period an virtually all of them go only to rather small confining Yosemite Valley. So you are going to be there with a lot of your new best friends. Lassen, on the other hand, is about the same distance away and gets about a 10th of the visitation annually that Yosemite does. So it is a much more laid back, off the beaten path but still very scenic park that has geothermal features like Yellowstone. No big geysers but fumaroles and mud pots and a lot of sulfury smelling places as well as a very large mountain that you can hike up to the top of. You don’t have to be a mountaineer to climb it. So it presents a really interesting alternative to some of the better-known tourist destinations.”

“Lassen is a volcano. It is the southernmost volcano, I believe, in the cascade chain that runs north through Oregon and Washington, nearly to the Canadian border. ”

“There are different ways to see this park. You can do a drive-through in an hour.” But Dick recommends that’s not the best way to see it. “You can see some of the more interesting features of the park just by pulling off the road and walking a short distance. Bumpass Hell, which is the major geothermal area, is a 3-mile hike round trip and it’s easy enough for older folks and kids to do. So you could spend one day in the park but in my mind, because it is such a good place for day hiking, I would recommend staying a few days in the park or in one of the small resorts that are nearby. There is plenty of room if you are a camper. If you are a car camper odds are really good any time in the Summer that if you drove in without a reservation you could probably find a campsite somewhere. That’s way different probably from anyplace else in California.”

“The park road opens sometime usually around the middle of May. Last year it was around Memorial Day. Most people are probably not going to climb Lassen peak but there are a lot of good day-hiking trails. They are at 6-8,000 feet so if you live at sea level there’s some huffing and puffing sometimes involved. The King’s Creek Trail right off the park road goes down past some waterfalls. That one is quite nice. Bumpass Hell is something everybody should do.”

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Show Notes

Tales Told From the Road
Lassen Volcanic National Park
Bumpass Hell Trail
Lassen Peak Trail
Kings Creek Falls Trail
Juniper Lake
Drakesbad Guest Ranch
Audio Tours
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks
Crater Lake National Park
Oregon Shakespeare Festival
Bend, Oregon
Mount Shasta
Kings Creek Meadow
Cinder Cone, Lassen
Manzanita Lake Camping Cabins
Tales Told from the Road
Lassen: An Undiscovered National Park Gem


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by Chris Christensen

Chris Christensen is the creator of the Amateur Traveler blog and podcast, and a co-host for This Week in Travel podcast.

6 Responses to “Travel to Lassen National Park, California – Episode 422”

Ernest Brown


This seems like a good place to stay. How is the weather there and what is the best season to visit?



Much of the park does not open until Summer, so really Summer into Fall

Dick Jordan


Ernest, I’m the travel writer who Chris interviewed for this episode of Amateur Traveler.

As Chris said in his comment, although the park itself is open year-round, the main park park road doesn’t open until sometime near the end of May and mid-July, depending on how much snow falls during the winter. (It’s now open for this year.)

Drakesbad Guest Ranch expects to open on June 6 and close on October 13th this year. The Camping Cabins at Manzanita Lake opened on May 22nd and will close on October 12, 2014.

For more information on visiting Lassen Volcanic National Park, read this story which I wrote last year:



The comment about “Virtually all them come in the May to September time period…” is a little misleading. Only 2/3rds of the visitor visit during that time (68%, to be exact). A full 1/3 of the visitors arrive in the ‘off-season’.

That fact being corrected, I’d really like to visit Lassen and it has been on my radar for 10 years now. Thanks for the info!



Thanks for the stat Peter!

Dick Jordan


Peter, since the page on the Yosemite National Park Website with visitor stats that you referenced only goes through 2007, I decided to see if more updated data were available.

On the NPS Website, there is a page ( that will let you view a wide range of visitation reports for any national park, and includes data from January 1991 through April 2014.

NPS doesn’t use terms like “High Season,” “Shoulder Season,” or “Low (or Off) Season” in its reports. Yosemite is open year-round, but in my experience visiting the park in every season of the year, visitation begins to slow down around mid-September and ramps up again in May.

Yosemite park visits from May through September of 2013 amounted to about 68% of the year 2013 total. If you add in April and October, it jumps to 82%.

But if you look at the overnight stays (in hotels/lodges, campgrounds and the backcountry), the number is 78% for May-September and 87% for April-October.

As I pointed out in my interview with Chris, compared to Yosemite, Lassen seems rather quiet at the end of the day, and that may be partially due to the limited in-park lodging at Manzanita Lake and Drakesbad in Lassen.

Not only did Yosemite get nearly 10 times as many visits as Lassen from May-September in 2013 (2,594,885 vs. 366,666), but 49% of Yosemite visits included an overnight stay, while the number is only 20% for Lassen during that same time period.

So you can slice and dice the numbers anyway you like, but the main point is that the path to Yosemite is well-worn while that the Lassen is relatively little trod upon, and that it is not unusual to encounter few if any other park visitors when hiking trails in Lassen, while in Yosemite you’ll likely find many more people no matter which trail you choose.

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