More and more people are heading out to explore America’s national parks because of being cooped up in the house with the COVID-19 pandemic, to reduce their exposure by being outside, to avoid crowds and tight spaces while traveling, and for a new found appreciation of the ability to explore! If any of these reasons sounds like a driver for your trip, you are in the right place! Road tripping is one of the more economical and COVID-19 safe ways to travel, but I have noticed in the past year, its also getting harder. I am picking up where I left off on the 10 Day California road trip with Lassen Volcanic park. North of Lake Tahoe and Yosemite, it is less visited but still amazing. We actually visited Lassen before South Lake Tahoe on our way south of the east side of California. Keep reading to see our budget friendly and not so early planning of trip of Yosemite, and more!
Day 4 (24th July): Drove to Lassen Volcanic National Park (4-5 hours from Eureka).
We traveled through the Shasta-Trinity National Forest (route 299) and stopped along the road for a stretch and breathtaking views of the river. Shasta is a beautiful area, that in parts, has been badly damaged by fires. Be sure to stop to appreciate the beautiful river and the large pine cones. A great way to stretch the legs. In general, I want to spend more time in northern California, and next time Mt. Shasta and Burney Falls will be on the must-do list, with more time in Lassen.
I should mention that if you are camping like we did, there is a big Walmart along the way to load up on supplies and food. Warning- this is serious outdoors. Once you get near and into the major national parks, clothing, grocery, and supply stores are few or non-existent. And what you do find can be expensive. Speaking of expensive. Gasoline in California. If you are not from CA, you need to create a separate budget for gas and double whatever you normally pay for petrol.
Upon driving into Lassen Volcanic Park a bald Eagle flew right in front of us. It was majestic and the perfect beginning to an amazing American treasure. We headed in from the Manzanita Entrance and drove south before reaching our first and only “substantial” hike in Lassen- the King Creek Falls trail. There are 5 main areas of Lassen with levels of difficulty ranging from 1-4, so plenty to do and see, and something for everyone. We stuck to the Southwest area as we drove south out of the park for South Lake Tahoe.
Somewhere on the King Creek Falls trail we missed the path to the falls and ended up by ourselves high up in the mountains. Not that I am complaining. Fairly early on in the trail, I found one of my top 3 spots of our ten day trip. It was a valley with a small creek. It was beautiful and serene. Maybe 2 or 3 people when we came upon it and no one there upon our return. At least no person. There was a humongous, grizzly bear drinking from the creek bed. When we saw him or her, we were high up, so we could view the bear quietly from a safe spot. Make no doubt about it thought, there are bears! And you do not want to be near one. Stay away from the bears. You are not supposed to, but definitely do NOT take your dog on a trail.
One exceptional reason to visit Lassen Volcanic National Park over Yosemite (if you have to choose), is the thermal activity. Now we have spent a lot of time in New Zealand visiting thermal parks (top choice is Wai-O-Tapu) so seeing bubbling mud pots and steam vents was not a top priority, however, if you have not had to the chance to see something like this before, then you need to check out this park. Lassen is unique in that you get all 4 types of volcanos- a shield, composite, cinder cone, and a plug dome. Lassen Peak is itself a plug dome. If you haven’t caught on, Lassen is a great park to learn and teach a lot about landscapes, geo-thermal activity and diverse ecosystems. I am sure you are all also wondering right now, are these volcanos about to blow? The last explosion was in 1921. No one knows for sure when the next big one will hit, but science has paved the way for a more ample warning system. You might also be wondering if its dangerous? No doubt about it, if you stray, jump or fall off a boardwalk or trail, you may end up severely injured or killed by boiling acidic water. Like I said with the Grand Canyon, do not take your child if they are unruly and undisciplined. If they are a kid that tries to run away from you in a parking lot, darting in front of vehicles, this is a no go.
If you are a geothermal junkie, then you need to check out Bumpass Hell Trail.
One thing my son who has spent most of his childhood in Florida appreciated, was the snow! Patches of ice and snow were still to be found even in July, though you could comfortably hike in shorts and a t-shirt.
Lake Helen-named after the first white woman to make the summit at Lassen (I am guessing as oppose to Native American, American Indian or Indigenous native), has beautiful blue and aqua colors. Apparently it gets is color from a mineral but I can’t seem to find out which one. If I had to guess- limestone? Points to whomever can tell me which mineral and the history behind the name.
The drive from Lassen to South Lake Tahoe was 3 hours. However, it felt longer. And was pitch black as we entered into the winding entrance of South Lake Tahoe. Next time we camp and explore more.
I hope you enjoyed this blog and learned a little more about different options in California and Lassen Volcanic Park. Please feel free to leave your comments, especially with insider tips for our next trip here. Thank you! Coming up next…Yosemite!