Lassen and Highway 89 North of Lake Tahoe
Lassen Volcanic National Park:
There is some great hiking in Lassen, but many of the lakes are closed to overnight camping--at least within 1300 feet. So we think of the park as a great day-hiking destination, rather than a great backpacking destination. That said, there is one really nice loop trip: Some Lassen Photos here
Pack trips: Summit Lake to Echo and Twin Lakes: This leaves from the Summit Lake Ranger station, and in eight miles tours you through about ten different lakes. There are some dayhikers who do the whole trail, but in general the lakes get pretty quiet after about 3 p.m. And except for a steep half-mile climb from Echo Lake back out to the trailhead, this doesn't have a lot of up and down.
Another option is the area in the southeast corner of the park, with access via the town of Chester. Juniper Lake trailhead leads to Horseshoe Lake, Snag Lake, and many destinations in the rest of the park. And it is close to Caribou Wilderness, which is another great destination. Here's a report.
In addition, we'd like to recommend the following day hikes: Photos Here
Broke-Off Mountain--the best hike in the park, for our money. It's also the last one to open up each year, as the north side of the ridge stays snowy into July some years. But it takes you through lovely varied terrain up to the second highest summit in the park, with views to match, and fewer than 10% of the people on Lassen Peak itself. About 7.5 miles
Lassen Peak--yes, you have to do this one so that you can buy a pin in the gift shop that says "I climbed the Volcano." It's a straight shot slog up the side of the peak, and be prepared for a lot of wind on top. The views are amazing, and so are the crowds on most days. In July you might even seen Lake Helen, below, still frozen over. 5 miles round trip.
King’s Creek Falls and Beyond--this is a lovely hike down past the falls at into the alpine valleys of the park. You can even find a few fish in Kings Creek, further down. And it makes a nice through hike to Summit Lake campground if you can manage the car shuttle. 5-7 miles, depending on how far you want to go down.
Terrace, Shadow, and Cliff Lakes--a great shuttle hike from the park road that takes you through wonderful lakes and Paradise meadow. It's all downhill, unless you do it backwards for some silly reason. There are small trout in the streams, but this is really just a hike for stunning scenery. And you just might see a bald eagle.
Devil’s Kitchen--from Drakesbad, this is a great hike up into a lesser known volcanically active area. Part of the fun of this hike to to test the water temperature of each tiny rivulet you cross. Some are icy, and some are quite warm to the touch.
Bumpass Hell--the premier bubbling hot spot in Lassen, this is a three-mile trail that leads you into Hell, literally. Be prepared for crowds, but this one is worth the effort. It has massive bubbling pots, pools and stinky steam. Besides, where else can you allow your young children to say "hell" in polite conversation?
For an even better hike, take this one all the way down to the southern entrance station, via Crumbaugh Lake and Mill Creek Falls. Or you can hike those from the southern entrance, or the Kings Creek Falls trail. That's Crumbaugh Lake below, from the trail down from Bumpass Hell.
Manzanita Creek--when everyone else is climbing Lassen Peak, you can take this trail up out of the Manzanita Lake campground and wander into a lovely valley below the crests of Lassen, Loomis, and Brokeoff. And it goes as far up as you want to go...about 3.5 miles or so, and then you hike back down again.
Cinder Cone--for those who love walking uphill and sliding back down with every step, this is a dream hike. A colorful volcanic wasteland only accessible from the Northeast corner of the park. The view inside the cone is a collage of red, black, and brown lava.
In the same area: Caribou Wilderness: Loads of hikes and loads of lakes in this small wilderness just east of Lassen. We hiked from Caribou Lake to Triangle Lake, then down to Long Lake, around the Posey Lake Loop, and back to Caribou Lake in three relatively easy days, and we saw at least twenty lakes in the twenty-three miles of that hike. A peaceful and beautiful area--although we've been told that early in the season the bugs here are murder. Photo Log
The Lassen Hiking Association has just about the best maps we've ever seen for hiking in any area: clear, comprehensive, and easy to print out. Check them out here: http://lassenhiking.org/
And here is a blog post trip report: https://sites.google.com/site/backpackthesierra/home/our-blog/caribouwildernesslandolakes
Lakes Basin Hiking:
This is a lovely area in the Plumas National Forest with a couple of great hikes.
The great hike here is to the fire lookout on top of the Sierra Buttes. We like doing this one from the East side, and its a tough climb to the top--one of the steepest hikes we know. When you get to the top, you'll discover there is a 4WD road to a ridge below the crest...and then a series of about 200 steps that hang out over open space to get to the fire lookout. It's a destination you will not forget! Stunning views that can include Mt. Lassen and Shasta on a clear day. Really.
That's the fire lookout at left...and yes, those are the stairs hanging over the cliff.
Mt. Elwell is a 7800 foot peak with many lakes around it. The trail to the top is a bit of a work out, but the whole trip isn't more than about three miles.
And you can loop in and out of about six lakes on the way in and out of the hike--many of which have brook trout. Lots of great views on the way.
Further South, the Pacific Crest Trail can be hiked from where it crosses Jackson Meadow Reservoir Road either North or South. We took it North for a few miles and found a scenic overlook that had a nice view of those same Sierra Buttes. But since the trees had grown up since the viewpoint was created, it makes some sense to hike about another 1/2 mile or so and then climb the ridge to your right until you get a perfect view, like the one below. It's a total of maybe seven miles, r/t. Photos
In the same area, if you take the same road off Highway 89 and then follow the signs to Henness Pass Road, it will take you to the trail-head for Mt. Lola. We hiked this in 2017 in June, and the snow was so deep that we only got about four miles in before we had to turn around and head back. But the trail is delightful, following Cold Stream Creek up a canyon, and then eventually leading to a beautiful meadow at mile four or so. After that, the trail is supposed to take you all the way to the top of Mt. Lola, with views up and down the Sierra Crest. We'll have to tackle it again when there is less snow. It's a bit over ten miles round trip.