Located in northern California, Lassen Volcanic National Park is a fascinating place full of natural wonders. The park is best known for being the location of Lassen Peak, which is the largest plug dome volcano in the world.
Long before Europeans arrived in North America, there were many Native Americans who called the area home. It has been reported that they knew about the peak and that it was full of fire and water waiting to explode. Throughout the 19th century, there were reports that the volcano erupted, however, it wasn't until 1914 when explosions were accurately reported. Lasting until 1921, the eruptions destroyed houses and resulted in the area being designated as a national park.
Weather at Lassen Volcanic National Park tends to stay on the cooler side. During the short summer season, temperatures can get up into the 80s, but only for a short time. No matter what time of the year you visit in your motorhome, you can expect the temperature to be near or below freezing at some point during your stay.
There are many recreational activities for you to enjoy, including hiking, birding, boating in the summer and sledding, skiing, and snowshoeing during the winter. If it isn’t already, Lassen Volcanic National Park should definitely be on your list of places to visit in your RV. There is so much to see and do, and when traveling on your own terms you’ll get to experience it all in the best way possible.
Bringing your RV (whether it is a rental or your own) is a great way to explore and experience Lassen Volcanic Park, even if you are new to RV camping. Few things are better than heading back to your rig after a long day out and about in the park. There are five RV-friendly campgrounds for you to choose from, and the peak season at Lassen Volcanic Park is during the summer months.
Located about three hours from Sacramento, California, Lassen Volcanic National Park can be reached by taking Highway 44 North or Highway 36 South. Before going all the way to the park though, be sure to fill up on gas since the nearest gas station is pretty far out. Manzanita Lake Camper Store sells gas from about mid-May to early October and is open 24 hours a day during this time.
During the winter season, be sure to check the road conditions before going. Some places in the park may be difficult to reach due to snow accumulation. Once you have all of that settled, navigating through the park by car is easy. There’s a main highway that goes through the park, along with three more roads that branch off to take you to more remote areas. Keep in mind that certain roads, like CA-89, drive through the mountains so be prepared for narrow, winding, and steep conditions.
Throughout the park, you can be guaranteed to find parking areas at each visitor center. You can also stop at various overlooks and viewpoints if you’re driving throughout the park. You’ll also find that the campsites are RV-friendly, allowing for an RV along with one other vehicle at each site.
Currently, there is no public transportation within the park, so taking your car is the best way to get around inside. If the weather allows, you could take a bicycle ride through the park. Just remember to stay on the paved areas and watch for vehicles.
Located between Shingletown and Viola, Mt. Lassen / Shingletown KOA is another RV camping option if you don't mind being based outside of the park. Sitting at an elevation of 3,900 feet, the campground has spacious RV sites that can accommodate both back-in and full-hookup pull-through rigs that are up to 65 feet in length.
All of the RV-friendly sites at Mt. Lassen / Shingletown KOA feature either electric and water or full hookups for you to enjoy, and each site also comes equipped with a picnic table and fire pit. Other amenities in the campground include a heated swimming pool, basketball hoop, volleyball court, horseshoe pits, laundry facilities, restrooms, showers, dog park, WiFi, and a dump station. Whether you want to explore volcanoes or waterfalls, or just kick back and relax at Mt. Lassen/Shingletown KOA, there's plenty to see and do.
Summit Lake Campground is split into two sections: Summit Lake North and Summit Lake South. Only the north section has RV campsites. As the name suggests, this campground offers easy access to aquatic adventures on Summit Lake like fishing, boating, and swimming.
There are 94 sites to choose from at both the north and south sides of the campground. RV’s and trailers of up to 35 feet in length are allowed in Summit Lake North. All of the sites at Summit Lake are primitive, meaning there are no water, electric or sewer hookups available. The amenities in the campground include potable water, flush toilets, vault toilets, and food storage lockers.
You can reserve sites on Loops B, C, and D, while Loops A and E are set aside for first-come, first-served camping. This campground is pet-friendly and is typically open from June to October.
Located one mile east of the Manzanita Lake entrance, Manzanita Lake Campground is the largest campground at the park. There are a total of 179 sites to choose from and RVs up to 40 feet in length are permitted.
All of the sites at Manzanita Lake Campground are primitive, so don't expect to find any hookups for your RV. Amenities within the campground include water collection points, flush toilets, food storage lockers, coin-operated showers, a camp store, a gift shop, kayak rentals, a dump station, and nearby laundry facilities. Pull-through sites are available. The campground is also pet-friendly so feel free to bring your furry friends.
Manzanita Lake Campground has reservations available for campsites located at Loops A and C. First-come, first-served sites are available on Loops B and D. The campground is open from May until winter.
Open from June to October, Butte Lake Campground is fairly remote, offering access to Butte Lake and nearby hiking trails. There are a total of 101 sites for you to choose from that are suitable for RVs up to 35 feet in length.
None of the sites at Butte Lake Campground have access to electric, water, or sewer hookups, so be prepared for primitive camping. Amenities include water collection points, vault toilets, and metal food lockers. Butte Lake Campground is also pet-friendly but be sure to check the rules and regulations.
If you choose to stay at Butte Lake Campground you’ll also be close to Old Station / Hat Creek, where you can buy other things that you may need or have forgotten. Reservations are available for sites within the B loop only and can be made up to six months in advance or four days prior to your arrival.
There are a few options for first-come, first-served camping at Lassen Volcanic National Park. Certain loops at the Manzanita Lake Campground, Summit Lake Campground, and Butte Lake Campground are set aside for first-come, first-served camping. There are also many tent camping options to choose from.
The Volcano Adventure Camp, also known as VAC, is specifically designed for youth groups such as school/educational groups and scout organizations that visit the park. In order to get in, you must apply and be accepted. At this camp, you’ll find cabins filled with cots, a few tent campsites, showers and toilets, picnic pavilions, campfire circles, and even cleaning supplies. Those who stay at the Volcano Adventure Camp will also be able to participate in plenty of ranger-led programs.
If you’re looking for something that has a bit more of a homey feel when you visit this park, you can choose from up to 20 cabins to stay in at Manzanita Lake. There are three different styles of cabins available: two rooms, one room, or a bunkhouse-style cabin. Reservations for the cabins can be made up to six months in advance.
If you’re willing to leave your RV elsewhere, you can try tent camping within the park. Juniper Lake, Warner Valley, and Southwest Walk-in are great campgrounds for tent camping. All of these sites are on a first-come, first-served basis, so pack your tent and go have some fun!
Drakesbad Guest Ranch is a full-service, concession-run resort located inside Lassen Volcanic National Park. To stay at Drakesbad overnight, reservations must be made. However, if you only want to visit for the day, you can do that too. When you stay overnight, you can choose between the historic lodge, cabins, or bungalows. You can also choose from all sorts of fun activities to do like horseback riding and archery.
Lassen Volcanic National Park is home to all kinds of interesting wildlife. While you may not want to go out searching for the black bears and mountain lions that reside here in the park, there are so many majestic creatures that you may be able to see during your stay. These include newts, salamanders, frogs, toads, raccoons, coyotes, foxes weasels, and skunks.
If you don't check out Lassen Volcanic National Park at night time you are really missing out. Lassen Volcanic National Park is one of the few places left where the natural darkness of night is still protected, and when you look up at the night sky you’ll be amazed at all the stars that you can see. If you are looking to do more than just stargazing alone you can also join a ranger-led Starry Night program to learn all about the night sky.
At Lassen Volcanic National Park, there are over 150 miles of hiking trails for you to explore. The trails can range in difficulty levels from easy to strenuous, so there really is a trail for everyone. The locations where you’ll find the trails are split up into four sections: The Southwest area, Northwest area, Butte Lake area, and Warner Valley and Juniper Lake areas. This does not include the long Pacific Crest Trail which spans for 17 miles throughout the park.
Love photography? If so, you really should check out the Nature Photography Workshop. This workshop is two days long and is a great way to discover the beauty of the park. Not only will you get to take it all in, but you’ll also get to learn the best ways to capture all of the beauty with your camera. Photographers of all skill levels are welcome, especially beginners.
Another great way to capture the lovely scenery around you is to paint it. At this workshop, you’ll get to learn the basic techniques of watercolor painting and use your new skills to capture the wonderful views that are all around. This workshop is three hours long and is great family fun for kids over the age of 10.
Interested in learning more about Lassen Volcanic National Park and the surrounding area? If so, you must pay a visit to the Loomis Museum near the northwest park entrance. There are plenty of fun things to do at the museum, including the chance to check out some exhibits on volcanic activity within the park, speak with park rangers, see an orientation film, and shop at the Lassen Association Store. During the warmer months, it is also the meeting place for some of the ranger-led interpretive programs so check out the event schedule to see if something is on that is of interest to you.
If you want to tag along with someone who knows more about hiking and the park itself we recommend taking a couple of guided hikes. Whether this is your first time hiking or you’re exploring all the time, taking a guided hike can be a lot of fun. You can choose to take the guided hike around Manzanita Lake or to Mill Creek Falls. Either way, you’ll be guaranteed to have a good time.
There are plenty of lakes within Lassen Volcanic National Park, so if you like to go boating you will have plenty of options. Some of the most popular places to go boating are Manzanita Lake, Butte Lake, Juniper Lake, and Summit Lake. You can even rent canoes, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and catarafts nearby. All rentals are on a first-come, first-served basis. Please note that there are no motorboats allowed on any of the lakes.
If you’ve never heard of parkcaching, it’s an outdoor game where you must find objects or information throughout the park by using GPS coordinates. You can do this physically or virtually, and it’s a great way to get everyone interested in exploring the park. Join in on the Highway Parkcaching Challenge when you visit. The parkcaches will be removed at the end of October or whenever snowfall occurs.
These two ranger-led programs are a great way to learn about wildlife and the importance of certain plants and wildlife for birds. An evening program is held to give information, while a demonstration is held so that you can watch and see what happens. The park is all about protecting and preserving wildlife, and this includes birds.
This is a ranger-led program that teaches about fire safety, the role of fire in the parks, and the role of firefighters. This 45-minute program is a great way to learn and is perfect for kids of all ages. Participants will be able to receive a junior firefighter patch when they go, what a bonus!
Thanks to the untouched wilderness that surrounds Lassen Volcanic National Park, it is a very popular place for stargazing. You can join astronomers and stargazing enthusiasts to celebrate the stars above at the annual Dark Sky Festival in August. View the heavens above in the solar scope, take a tour of the constellations, or learn about the cosmos at special presentations. If you are RV camping with children, this is a great family-friendly event with hands-on activities and a Junior Ranger Astronomy program.
Lassen Volcanic National Park offers all kinds of wonderful views, making it a perfect place to go auto touring. You can take the main highway all the way through the park, or turn off onto one of the three roads that branch off and dive deeper. All roads are closed during the winter months, but they open back up in the springtime. April is a good time to start checking for updates on road conditions.
The 100 miles of trails that are open to stock users are also open to horseback riders. Many horseback riders love to take advantage of this opportunity to go for peaceful rides here, and there are plenty of miles to allow for a change in scenery each time you visit the park.
At Lassen Volcanic National Park there are over 100 miles of trails available for those that wish to bring their stock. This includes any horses, mules, burros, and llamas that you have. Your animals will be thankful to get out and be able to roam for a bit here in the park, so if you live close by you should bring them.
There are plenty of places to go fishing within the park, whether it’s on the shore or in a boat. Trout are naturally very popular in the area and can make for a fun fishing day. Just remember that all fishing is catch-and-release only, and be sure that you are following all rules and regulations in order to keep the park wildlife peaceful.
Backcountry camping is a great way to get to know the park. Get up close and see all of the cool lakes, great mountains, and beautiful meadows. Before you go backcountry camping be sure to get a permit. You can do this by sending an application through email or in-person at one of many park locations, including the Lumis Museum, the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center, and many of the ranger stations throughout the park.
Once you arrive at Lassen Volcanic National Park, one of your first stops should be at the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center, near the southwest entrance to the park. You can check out interesting exhibits, grab a bite to eat at the cafe, buy a souvenir at the gift shop, or obtain a wilderness permit.
There’s no better way to say “I love you” to your sibling than chucking a snowball at them when they least expect it. In the wintertime here at Lassen Volcanic National Park, you can expect lots of snow, so you should make the most of it while you can and have some fun!
If you want to go snowshoeing, you have the option of going on your own or joining others in a ranger-led snowshoe walk. There are routes that vary in levels of difficulty when you go by yourself. If you choose to participate in the ranger-led program, you’ll get to learn it all as you go, including how to put on the snowshoes and how to move around in them.
Backcountry skiing or snowboarding is recommended only for the most experienced skiers and snowboarders. All backcountry terrain falls within avalanche territory, so skiers and snowboarders should be completely aware and prepared for the worst by bringing the proper gear. Remember to bring your gear in your motorhome if you plan on exploring the backcountry of the park.
Sledding is a fun activity at Lassen Volcanic National Park in the winter due to the heavy snowfall that the area experiences. It is important to keep in mind though that sledding is the number one cause of injury at the park during this time of year. Be sure that you pick a slope that’s right for you, and be extra careful. Eskimo Hill is a popular spot to go sledding and is located on the north side. For more experienced sledders, there are steeper slopes on the south side.
During the winter, the highway that goes through the park is closed off, and this makes for the perfect place to go skiing. It’s a great opportunity for beginners to try skiing for the first time. There is also the McGowan Cross-Country Ski Area to try out if you are looking for more skiing to do.
If you love to go birding during your RV adventures than you will love visiting Lassen Volcanic National Park since 216 species call this area home. You'll have the chance to spot all sorts of birds from bobolinks and American pipits to Golden eagles and ospreys. Bald eagles, Peregrines falcons, and Bufflehead ducks have habitats in the area. One of the best spots to go birdwatching is near Manzanita and Butte Lakes.