Get All the Backcountry Glory With None of the Crowds at Lassen Volcanic National Park

Backpack a knee-trembling route through an active geothermal zone.

Photo: Anna French

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  • Distance: 17.7 miles
  • Time: 2 days

While California’s other parks soak up most of the glory, Lassen Volcanic National Park quietly offers world-class backcountry with none of the crowds or permit competition. We’ve covered Lassen a few times, but only for dayhikes and its section of the Pacfic Crest Trail. Shameful. This overnight is so spectacular, you might even feel the earth move: The 10,457-foot volcano hasn’t spewed since 1921, but it occasionally rumbles.

This 17.7-mile lollipop route starts on the Summit Lake Trail, heading 7.3 miles to a spur leading to a campsite on Horseshoe Lake (free permit required). Then, continue counterclockwise to Snag, Rainbow, and Upper and Lower Twin Lakes.

The Volcano

Throughout the entire 20th century, only two volcanoes erupted in the contiguous United States. One was Mount St. Helens, which killed 57 people when it blew in 1980. The other was Lassen Peak the largest plug lava dome in the world, which experienced a series of eruptions between 1914 and 1921, but didn’t cause any deaths.

Maps USGS quads West Prospect Peak, Reading Peak, Mount Harkness, and Prospect Peak