Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lassen Volcanic National Park is a 100,000 acre national park located at the southern edge of the Cascade Mountain range. Lassen Volcanic was designated as a national park in 1916, making it one of the oldest national parks. From mountain views to boiling fumaroles, Lassen Volcanic National Park offers a glimpse into unique ecosytems that continue to fascinate the many visitors who enter the park boundaries every year.

While most of us know about Yellowstone’s hydrothermal features (every heard of “Old Faithful”), discovering the boiling mud pots and sulfur scents of Lassen Volcanic is a new experience for many of us. And you can explore Lassen Volcanic without the same crowds that flock to Yellowstone. For reference, Yellowstone National Park receives around 4 million visitors a year. Lassen Volcanic National Park receives around 500,000 visitors a year.

The hydrothermal features are fed by water from rain and snow. Once deep underground, the water is heated by hot or molten rock beneath Lassen Peak. The boiling water then rises to form boiling pools and mud pots. Super-heated steam releases through fractures in the earth to form fumaroles. All of these features are the result the active Lassen Peak volcano and are indications of potential for a future eruption.

A boiling mud pot in Lassen Volcanic National Park.

Dog-Friendly Activities at Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lassen Volcanic National Park is like most national parks when it comes to pets. So you may have already guessed that pets are basically only allowed where a car can go. This includes roads, road shoulders, campgrounds, picnic areas, and parking lots.

Pets are allowed to be left in vehicles as long as conditions are not hazardous to their safety. For more information on pet policies at Lassen Volcanic National Park, check out the official NPS site

Despite the restrictions, we enjoyed our drive through Lassen Volcanic National Park. Stopping at roadside mud pots and pulling into parking lots to enjoy the mountain views. But our best dog-friendly experiences in this area were located outside the national park boundaries. Keep reading or just scroll down to our section on activities outside the national park.

Camping at Lassen Volcanic National Park

Several camping options exist within the boundaries of Lassen Volcanic National Park. There are a total of 7 campgrounds ranging from primitive to developed. Note that even the developed campgrounds do not have hook-ups, but there is a dump station near Manzanita lake. Of these campgrounds, 4 take reservations, while the other 3 are first come, first served.  Find out more about Lassen Volcanic’s campgrounds on the official site.

While we are sure the campgrounds in Lassen Volcanic National Park are lovely, we elected to camp where our dogs could hike. So that meant exploring one of the surrounding campgrounds in Lassen National Forest.

Dog-Friendly Activities in the Surrounding Areas

I have shared this sentiment before, but truly many of the best national parks to visit with dogs are the parks surrounded by national forests. The rules and regulations regarding dogs are much more relaxed in national forests. And Lassen National Forest is no exception. This national forest offers plenty of fun hikes to explore the changes that the Lassen Peak eruptions from 1914 to 1917 made in the surrounding area.

A little bit of trivia, the eruption at Lassen Peak on May 22, 1915 was the largest of the eruptions from 1914 to 1917. Volcanic ash rained as far away as 200 miles to the east. Lassen Peak is the southernmost volcano in the Cascade Range. The eruptions here were the last to occur in the Cascades before the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens.

Hat Creek Campground

Just 20 minutes outside of Lassen Volcanic National Park, is Hat Creek Campground. This campground is located in a mixed coniferous forest and is adjacent to Hat Creek. Only $16/night at the time of our visit, we chose this first come, first served campground for its proximity to the Spattercone Nature Trail.

The Spattercone Nature Trail is a self-guided interpretive trail that walks you through the area of the Hat Creek Lava flow. There are spatter cones, craters, and beautiful views of Hat Creek Valley. These views including some stunning glimpses of Lassen Peak in Lassen Volcanic National Park.  While the Spattercone Nature Trail is a loop that is only 1.7 miles in length, it also provides access to the Pacific Crest Trail.

A view of Lassen Peak from the Spattercone Nature Trail.

For those of you not versed in thru-hiking, the Pacific Crest Trail is one of the 3 backpacking trails that make up the “Triple Crown of Thru-Hiking” in the United States. The Pacific Crest Trail spans 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada, through California, Oregon, and Washington.

Another fun attraction near Hat Creek Campground, is Subway Cave. Dogs aren’t allowed in the cave itself, but if you have someone to take turns watching the pets, don’t skip this stop. This cave is a lava tube created by lava from the eruption of Lassen Peak. This means you can walk in one end and out another.  

And after you explore Subway Cave, consider taking the dogs for another hike on the Pacific Crest Trail.

Final Thoughts on Visiting Lassen Volcanic National Park with Dogs

If you really want to explore all that Lassen Volcanic National Park has to offer, you will need to visit without the pups. But if you are happy stopping at the roadside attractions and getting your true exploration and hiking fix outside the national park boundaries, then start planning a trip now. There is plenty to see in this area of California. 

After we left Lassen National Forest, we drove through two additional national forests – Shasta-Trinity and Six Rivers. Both were beautiful from the roads. We can only imagine that there are many beautiful hikes located within these forests.

And if you are interested in exploring other national parks in California with your pets, read our posts about Joshua Tree, Channel Islands, Pinnacles, Sequoia and Kings Canyon, and Yosemite. And coming soon, Redwoods National Park.

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