With 1.2 million acres of space, the Lassen National Forest in northeastern California was named after the pioneer, Peter Lassen who explored and promoted the area in the 1850s. You can find a great deal of recreational activities here from boating to hiking to caving. With two rivers and dozens of lakes you will surely find a spot that is your new favorite. Whether you are coming to boat, swim, fish, or do some sunbathing on the beach, the huge number of bodies of water give you plenty of choices.
If you are more interested in staying on land, there are miles of trails for hiking, biking, horseback riding, and OHV riding here. The Pacific Crest Trail, which is over 2,600 miles long, goes right through the Lassen National Forest. Hunting is also a popular pastime in these woods, and you can find deer, bears, antelope, and small game like squirrels and rabbits as well. However, check with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife for the rules and regulations.
You can also do some rock and mountain climbing, picnicking, explore the Subway Cave, or just kick back by your RV in one of the beautiful campgrounds in the forest. Lassen National Forest boasts 29 RV-friendly campgrounds spaced out over three districts. We have highlighted our top three favorites below.
Just 80 miles from Red Bluff, 43 miles from Redding, and 124 miles from Sacramento, Lassen National Forest is bordered by the California Central Valley to the west, Modoc Plateau to the east, the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range to the south, and the Modoc and Shasta Trinity National Forests to the north. The forest is divided into three wilderness areas, which include the Thousand Lakes, Ishi, and Caribou Wilderness Areas.
Whether you are coming from the west, north, or south, Interstate 5 will get you to one of the highways that will take you into the Lassen National Forest. From the east, you will need to take Highway 395 or Interstate 80. Most of the roads into the deeper parts of the forest are well taken care of. However, once you get closer to your campground you may start seeing gravel and dirt roads that can be treacherous, especially for those who are pulling a trailer or driving a big RV.
It is best to drive slowly and carefully no matter what since there are so many wild critters roaming the woods that cross the roads sometimes. Also, you will get to see more of the California scenery along the roads if you drive slower and your passengers may be able to get some pictures to share on Facebook or Instagram. Once you get to your campsite, it is a good idea to leave the RV and walk to where you want to go.
Near the small town of Susanville in the Eagle Lake Recreation Area, Merrill Campground has 172 campsites open from mid-May until Labor Day. Of these, 51 are basic primitive sites with no hookups, 64 partial hook-ups with water and electric, and 57 sites with full hookups. Each site has a picnic table, fire ring with grill, and a spacious area for hanging out. The pad lengths run from 45 to 75 feet long, so just about any RV will fit in these sites. Around the campground you can find water spigots for drinking water, modern flush toilets, and several vault toilets.
Right next to the 22,000-acre Eagle Lake where the Cascades meet the Sierras, you can find this park on the Modoc Plateau of the Great Basin. There is a paved bike and walking trail that goes through the campground and to the Eagle Lake Marina where you can buy supplies, do laundry, and take a shower. The north side of the campground has a boat ramp and is closer to the lake. Boating, rafting, swimming, and skiing are some of the favorite activities here. You can also try your luck at fishing at the lake where you can catch trophy-sized salmon. Make your reservation well in advance to get the spot you want and go ahead and bring your pooch. They are welcome as long as you keep them restrained and accompanied at all times during your stay.
About a dozen miles from Chester, Almanor Campground has 101 campsites open from June until mid-October. Each good-sized site has a campfire ring with a grill and a picnic table. Tucked into the forest of mature pines and fir trees, there are two overlapping rings, north and south, which are all part of the same campground. These are basic primitive sites with no hookups but there are 29 potable water hydrants around the park as well as quite a few vault toilets.
The beach is a bit rocky but does have some sand and there is a boat ramp by the north loop where you can launch your boat or fish for some trout, catfish, salmon, and bass. You can also swim, sail, and go waterskiing, or just do some sunbathing on the beach. There is a 11-mile trail that takes you around the west side of the lake. Make your reservation early so you can get the spot you want. Pets are welcome as long as you keep them restrained and accompanied at all times.
In a mixed coniferous forest next to Hat Creek by Old Station, the Hat Creek Campground has 72 campsites that are first-come, first-served so make sure you get there early to get a good spot. There are five loops in the shade of the mature pines, but this is known as the sunniest campground in the area, so do bring the sunblock and hats. They are open from May until Labor Day and provide tables and fire pits with a grill as well as a cleared space for hanging out around the campfire. The park provides 20 potable water spouts and vault toilets in various spots and a waste station for RVs. Parking pads are from 20 to 38 feet long so getting here early is important, especially on weekends and holidays.
The creek has three different types of trout you can fish for and it is an awesome place to splash around with the kids or pets. Dogs and cats are welcome, but you need to keep them restrained and accompanied during your stay.
In the city of Old Station on Highway 89, Subway Cave is an underground lava tube that attracts thousands of visitors every day. This is a self-guided tour where you can read the many signs along the way that provide information about the cave’s history. There is no light here so bring a flashlight and a jacket because it is a cold 46 degrees all year long. With 1,300 feet of winding lava tube, the total length of the trail is one-third of a mile. Make sure you pack your caving equipment in the camper before heading out.
Hook the boat trailer to the RV now. With dozens of lakes, two major rivers, and hundreds of creeks and streams, the Lassen National Forest has a plethora of choices for you to pick from. Many of the larger lakes such as Lake Almanor and Eagle Lake allow motorized boating, but the smaller ones only allow electric motors or paddling. Whether you are looking to go fishing in the deeper waters, want to find a secluded beach to swim with family and friends, or just want to boat around the lake surrounded by mountains, you will find your spot in Lassen.
Take a trip down the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail, which is the most popular trail in the western United States. While the trail is accessible to hikers, bikers, and equestrians, those with four-wheelers, side-by-sides, and other off-road vehicles can enjoy the trail as well. Of course, you will not want to do the whole trail since it runs from Canada to Mexico, but you can do the 64 miles through the Hat Creek Ranger District on your OHV with no problem. You will travel along mountain ridges, thick woods, and open meadows filled with wildflowers as well as over creeks and around lakes. The views of Mount Shasta and Lassen Peak are amazing so make sure to pack the camera in the RV.
The Lake Almanor Recreation Trail is an easy hike that is about 20 miles all together starting at road 27N52 and Highway 89 by the Almanor Campground. You can do the entire route or cut it down to a four or five-mile trip between two of the campgrounds. If you want to learn something, try the one-mile Locherman Interpretive Trail with an outdoor classroom at the amphitheater. The four-mile Hat Creek Trail and two-mile Spatter Cone Trail can be accessed from the Hat Creek Campground and are both easy and fun to do.
Eskimo Hill is a fantastic sledding hill for everyone from kids to grandparents. In fact, it is the most popular sledding hill in this part of California. Located about 13 miles south of Old Station, you can sled from dawn until dusk from December to March. Pack your sleds, rafts, or whatever you want to sled on and go have a blast. You can even do some snowboarding here if you like. There is plenty of parking for all types of vehicles and several vault toilets around the park.
Just about 10 miles from highways 89 and 44 near Old Station, Ashpan Campground and Day Use Area is the only groomed snowmobile area in the Hat Creek Ranger District. The staging area is open from dawn until dusk from December until April and has 35 miles of groomed trails to enjoy. There is a warming hut and restrooms here for public use. Some of the trails go into the Latour State Forest, which is also a great way to see views of the upper Sacramento Valley and Mount Shasta as well as the Lassen Peak.