10 Day California road trip cont…Lassen Volcanic National Park!

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.

Somewhere along Rte. 299.
King Creek Falls Trail

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.

I spy with my big brown eyes a big, brown bear! Do you?
Zooming In. Notice I didn’t say a closer view.

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!


As you can see from my chicken scratch below, my initial plan was pretty ambitious. But you should have seen it before when I was planning a Washington to Santa Cruz trip! But with all travel, especially when you are traveling with children, flexibility is key.

Below I offer an outline of our

10- day California itinerary:

Day 1 (21st July): Flew into San Francisco- Explored San Fran. See below 10 day itinerary for our day details in San Francisco;

Day 2 (22nd July): Drove up the west coast on Route 1 stopping at or through Mt. Tamalpous, Muir Woods, Mendocino Beach and the Avenue of the Giants (Humboldt Redwoods). Night in Eureka, CA;

Day 3 (23rd July): Explored the Redwoods. Hiked Lady Bird Johnson Trail then visited Fern Canyon. Camped at Patrick’s Point State Park (total $42.99- Abalone site).

Day 4 (24th July): Drove to Lassen Volcanic National Park (4-5 hours). We traveled through the Shasta-Trinity National Forest and stopped along the road for a stretch and breathtaking views along the river. We hiked the King Creek Falls trail at Lassen Volcanic Park (from Manzanita Entrance) then traveled down to South Lake Tahoe (3 hours). Night at Hotel.

Day 5 (25th July): Hiked Eagle Falls Trails to Eagle Falls Lake. Camped the night at Emerald Point (total $32.99 tent site at Lower Point). Dinner in town at @bluedogeatstahoe We had pizza and my partner discovered his new favorite beer, Great White from @LostCoastBrewery in Eureka, CA.

Day 6 (26th July): Hiked on the Rubicon Trail from Emerald Point campsite to Vikingsholm and Kayak Tahoe. Drove to AirBnB (Coulterville) outside of Yosemite.

Day 7 (27th July): First Day in Yosemite. Hiked the “4-Mile Trail” and visited Bridal Veil Falls. Stayed the night back in Coulterville at AirBnB.

Day 8 (28th July): Second day in Yosemite. Drove down to Mariposa Grove and hiked the Mariposa Grove Trail to the Mariposa Grove Cabin. The evening camped out at Cedar Bluff inside the Sierra National Forest (total cost- too much-charged for 2 sites).

Day 9 (29th July): Drove to Santa Cruz and straight to AirBnB. Explored Santa Cruz Wharf and harbor. Dinner at The Crow’s Nest and night at AirBnB.

Day 10 (30th July): Drove to San Francisco and flew home 😦 Depending on your flight time, there is the possibility to do at least one hike in Santa Cruz or highlight in San Fran.

Mariposa Grove Trail, Yosemite

Be sure to check out my other posts for more in depth details about each stop along the way!

Cost Breakdown

This is the first time I have posted a cost estimate of my trips but for this trip I kept better notes on expenses and I want to show people that you can accomplish a lot with a little, even in an expensive state like California (gas prices were insane!). This is not an exact price list but it can give you a good idea for a starting budget.

  • Plane tickets from Florida to San Francisco- $ 394.30 /per person
  • Travel Insurance for flight – $51.26
  • Car Rental for car pick up and return at San Francisco airport (10 days) – $ 440.44 (not including insurance, insurance was included with my personal car insurance policy);
  • Total accommodation costs including 3 camping sites, 1 hotel and 4 Air BnB’s (1 for two nights) – $1335.06;
  • America The Beautiful National Park Pass– $80.00

Day 1- San Francisco!

Day 1 (21st of July): Fly into San Francisco- We arrived at 9:40am and went straight to the Golden Gate Bridge. We hired a rental car from the airport and compared to Tampa, FL, the driving was stressless. We checked out Fisherman’s Wharf and grabbed an expensive but delicious panini from the Round House Cafe, right near the visitor center.

It was July and it was windy/cool, so bring a jacket. There is a mild hike near the bridge and we did see one homeless person but other than that, it was beautiful, and we felt safe. This was the only homeless person we saw btw. I think San Fran gets a bad rap for homeless people but I honestly have seen a ton more homeless people in San Diego. I only say this for any safety concerns. Personally, I use it as a teaching lesson.

Next, we met up Kara from Chinatown Food Walk: Tea & Dim Sum experience from AirBnB. This was the first time I tried an AirBnB experience and we really enjoyed it. Of all the things we did for 10 days, my son said this was his favorite! Granted, he is a foodie like me. We went to a tea shop, a temple, THE Fortune Cookie Factory and three food stops. We tried dim sum, a moon cake, pork roll, boba tea and tons of tea! From this experience, my son and I became hooked on Boba Tea. I thought it was like Thai Tea and I find Thai Tea too sugary so when we tried traditional, Chinese black boba mile tea, I was pleasantly surprised. You don’t know unless you try things! When we got home we immediately scoped out the best Boba tea shop in Tampa. I won’t specifically name where we went on the tour, you’ll need to contact Kara for that 😉 https://www.stretchy-pants.com/sf-food-tours/chinatown-food-tour-san-francisco/

Pork Roll. First stop. Not Vegetarian.

Side note: this tour is not for vegetarians. Contact @stretchypantssf if you would like them to try a vegetarian menu. They might be able to accommodate. I generally don’t eat meat but I make exceptions for special occasions. My child has a shrimp allergy and they were able to help us with this.

After our tour we went to our AirBnB. Unfortunately, we couldn’t stay out late due to flying in from the East coast and London so we were exhausted. We stayed at Jonathan and Sally’s AirBnB in the Twin Peaks area. Not much to eat within walking distance but a nice and safe area. The home was clean and cozy and offered a rare, second closed bedroom for an AIrBnB.

Next morning we hit the road up Route 1!

Tips and Tricks

If you don’t read any more of my posts about this trip I wanted to make you aware of a couple key things that you may not see on any official website or in a book.

At the San Francisco airport the cell phone waiting lot is not at the airport! It was about 6 miles away further down the interstate. Don’t make the mistake I did!

Showers are NOT included in the price of your camp fee at California State Parks. Some required quarters, some tokens- one had no shower at all (though it might have been a federal camp ground?)! So please, please do yourself a favor if you are camping and contact each campsite to see what they require to take a shower.

Gasoline prices are no joke. In areas outside of major cities, like Shasta, the cost per gallon was pushing $5.

Not all restaurants have bathrooms. Not sure how they got around this but we learned this to be true. AND the public restrooms at gas stations are NASTY. The majority of ones we stopped at didn’t even have soap. I can’t imagine the situation now with COVID-19. So while you are at stopping for supplies, grab some toilet paper, disposable wipes, soap, gallon of water and hand sanitizer!

Please continue reading my other “10 Day California Road Trip posts” to see fun photos, honest reviews and good details from each major stop!

Thanks for reading and please feel free to ask questions in the comment section. Happy travels!

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