Looking to visit Lassen Volcanic National Park in the winter or spring? These seasons provide a unique experience (+ some challenges) and in this guide we’re sharing how to visit during the off season!
It’s no secret that we love visiting the US national parks. As of writing this guide, we’ve visited 48 parks (out of 63)! And when visiting the national parks, we typically plan our trips to align with the most ideal season to visit, when the park’s main features are fully accessible and the weather is the best. While this usually makes for the ultimate experience in terms of seeing the park’s unique and iconic scenery, it also brings some disadvantages, like a lot of crowds, plus busier and more expensive lodging.
During our visit to California in the winter and spring of 2022 we had a handful of parks that we planned to visit based on it being the right season, like Joshua Tree National Park, Death Valley National Park, Channel Islands National Park, and Pinnacles National Park. But when we hopped up to Redding, California for a week, we decided to do something a bit different and visit Lassen Volcanic National Park during the off season. We were so close to the park, so why not go experience it, right?!
Watch our experience at Lassen Volcanic National Park in the spring, including hiking and seeing hydrothermal features!
And it turned out to be an amazing decision! While visiting Lassen Volcanic National Park in the off season didn’t allow us to experience everything the park has to offer and is famous for, it gave us the chance to see the park in a way that many visitors do not. It was pretty magical to witness the park in a winter wonderland and enjoy the peacefulness of a mostly empty park, which is something we would’ve never experienced had we followed our usual approach to visiting national parks.
However, visiting Lassen Volcanic National Park in the winter or spring requires a bit more planning and in this guide we’re sharing everything you need to know to visit during the winter or spring!
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- All of our California Guides
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- About Lassen Volcanic National Park
- Visiting Lassen Volcanic National Park in the winter & spring
- Where to stay when visiting Lassen Volcanic National Park in the winter & spring
- Things to know before you visit Lassen Volcanic National Park in the winter & spring
- What to Bring to Lassen Volcanic National Park in the winter & spring
- Things to do in Lassen Volcanic National Park in the winter & spring
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About Lassen Volcanic National Park
Lassen Volcanic National Park is located in Northern California, about an hour east of Redding, less than three hours north of Sacramento, and around 5.5 hours east of Redwood National Park, another Northern California gem.
And as the name implies, this park was formed over time through volcanic activity. While in the park you can experience hydrothermal activity, like steam vents and mud pots, stunning mountain peaks formed through volcanic activity, and all 4 types of volcanoes found in the world. In fact, one of the park’s most popular features, Lassen Peak, is the largest plug dome volcano in the world and the southernmost volcano in the Cascade Range, last erupting in the early 1900s.
The park reminded us a lot of a smaller scale Yellowstone National Park and with 16% of the visitors of California’s most visited national park, Yosemite (which is amazing!), it truly feels like a hidden gem.
Before embarking on your adventure, please review the Leave No Trace principles to ensure you leave every place better than you found it, so that others can enjoy these beautiful places for many years to come!
These seven principles include planning ahead and preparing, hiking and camping on durable surfaces, disposing of waste properly (pack out what you pack in!), understanding campfire rules and always fully extinguishing your fires, respecting wildlife, and being considerate of other visitors.
Visiting Lassen Volcanic National Park in the winter & spring
Despite the park’s elevation and amount of snowfall (up to 30 feet!), Lassen Volcanic National Park is open year round, but because of this, it does experience many closures in the winter season. The winter season in Lassen Volcanic National Park typically runs from November through May, with the exact dates varying year to year, depending on the snow levels, and visiting during this time is trickier, but still doable!
What areas are open?
During the winter season, the majority of the park is closed, but there are two areas that remain open, the Southwest Area by the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center and also the Manzanita Lake area.
How to get there
Normally these two areas are connected by the main park road and are easy to go between, but in the winter, this road is closed, so visiting both requires driving around the park, which is about a 1.5 hour drive. You could visit both areas in a long day, which is what we did, spread them out over two days, or just visit one area. We suggest visiting both if you can, as they each offer a different type of scenery to admire!
As they begin plowing the roads in the spring, some areas may open to vehicles. To get a better idea of the clearing process and when the road has opened, check out the road clearing report from 2022! The dates the road has opened (and also closed) every year can be found in this table below as well.
Weather during the winter & spring
Lassen Volcanic National Park ranges from 5,650 feet to 10,457 feet, so the weather can fluctuate a lot depending on where you are in the park. A good rule of thumb is that for every increase in 1,000 feet, the temperature will increase by 5ºF. But on average, at the lower elevations you can expect the temperatures to range from lows in the teens to low twenties to highs in the 50s, with many sunny days to enjoy.
We visited Lassen Volcanic National Park in early April and it started off very cold, but by the afternoon, the sun was blaring, the temperature was probably mid to upper 60ºF, and it felt perfect! But just a couple weeks after our visit, the area got slammed by a snow storm. So the weather can change a lot!
Is it worth visiting Lassen Volcanic National Park in the winter or spring?
Yes! As you’ll see later on in this guide, there is a lot less to do in the winter or spring compared to the summertime at Lassen Volcanic National Park, but there is still enough to keep you busy for a very full day or a couple half days in the park. And nothing beats getting to see a national park covered in snow and with way less humans. For us, it felt like we had it to ourselves and it was just us and pristine nature.
We wouldn’t necessarily plan a whole trip around visiting Lassen Volcanic National Park in the winter or spring, as you will miss out on some really cool spots that are only accessible in the summertime, but if you plan to be in the area it is very worth stopping by! Just try to make sure you can return in the summer someday too!
Where to stay when visiting Lassen Volcanic National Park in the winter & spring
Because it is the off season, lodging options near Lassen Volcanic National Park will vary compared to the park’s peak summer season. The park’s campgrounds, minus a unique exception, are all closed. Many neighboring campgrounds as well as lodges close for the winter as well. But you do still have options, both right by the park and in the nearby city of Redding, which we will detail below!
Hotels & Lodges near Lassen Volcanic National Park
If you’re looking for a comfortable hotel or lodge experience while visiting the park in the winter, there are a couple options near the park.
Tall Timbers B&B: This quaint B&B is very nice and updated inside and even has a 24 hour coffee bar…woo!
Highlands Ranch Resort: This gorgeous resort has cottages to stay at, plus a gorgeous lodge and restaurant, with stunning scenery all around!
Camping inside of Lassen Volcanic National Park
While the main campgrounds inside Lassen Volcanic National Park are closed in the winter, there is a unique opportunity to camp for both tents and RVs!
If you’re in a self contained RV, you can pay $10 to sleep in the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center parking lot. Camping overnight in parking lots at national parks is typically prohibited, so it was a nice perk to be able to do so when visiting Lassen Volcanic in the winter season. It was a super convenient spot to hit up Sulphur Works early the next morning and quite possibly one of the most scenic parking lots we have slept in.
To park overnight here, you will pay the $10 when entering the park, so make sure to arrive during normal hours. There is a designated area you must park in with a handful of spots, but during our visit I believe we were the only ones that slept in the parking lot.
If you’re up for braving the cold, you can also tent camp in a designated snow area right by the parking lot for $10 a night. As for amenities, they do have water and a bathroom in the visitor center that is accessible 24/7 for campers, but one important thing to know is that fires are not permitted. You are allowed to use a self-contained barbecue or cooking system in the parking area though. This tent area is not always accessible, so make sure to check in advance!
Camping outside of Lassen Volcanic National Park
From our experience, most, if not all, private campgrounds outside of the park were closed in the winter and the early part of the spring season. If visiting in April, you do have the option of staying at the KOA Mount Lassen, which is 20 minutes from the Manzanita Lake area of the park and opens in April for the season.
Boondocking near Lassen Volcanic National Park
Since we explored both areas of the park in one day, staying at the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center our second night at Lassen Volcanic National Park wasn’t convenient, since we ended the day at Manzanita Lake.
But in the Manzanita Lake area we were able to boondock on some national forest land just minutes outside of the park boundary. Since we visited in early April, it wasn’t snowy in this spot and was easy to access, but it may be harder in the earlier months. This spot was pretty great though! It had a good amount of space for many vehicles and despite us arriving in the dark, we were able to figure out where to go relatively easily. We also were the only ones!
Curious how we find FREE camping? Check out our detailed guide to free camping, including the tools we use, things to know in advance, rules and etiquette, and more!
Stay in Redding, California
If you’d rather stay in more traditional lodging or want more camping options, Redding is anywhere from 50 minutes to an hour and a half from Lassen Volcanic National Park, depending on what area you’re visiting. In Redding you can find hotels, Airbnbs, as well as some other camping options and many more dining options.
Magnolia May Cottage (2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom): This charming 1940s English Country style cottage looks very inviting. There is a kitchen, wifi, washer and dryer, and an enclosed backyard for your pup that you are allowed to bring along!
Rivercrest Retreat (1 bedroom, 1 bathroom): The Rivercrest Retreat is an attached studio space with everything you’ll need for a relaxing stay. It even comes with its own hot tub that you’ll have exclusive access to!
Breathtaking Vistas (2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom): How about an Airbnb with killer views? This is the one! From the beautiful back porch of this Airbnb you’ll have views of the mighty Mt. Lassen and Redding itself!
We stayed at the Oak Bottom Campground and RV Campground during our time in Redding. It’s nothing glamorous as it’s just a parking lot with no RV hookups, but it was only us and one or two other people out of the 22 sites. It is located right next to Whiskeytown Lake and the campground. It was a nice, quiet $30 per night spot and there is cell service…score!
The tent campground has lots of sites at $30 per night and lakefront sites at $35 per night. Each site comes with a fire ring, picnic table, and food storage locker. Both RV and tent camping are offered year round too!
Things to know before you visit Lassen Volcanic National Park in the winter & spring
It costs $10 to visit Lassen Volcanic National Park between December 1-April 15, which is cheaper than during the rest of the year…score!
Even with this discounted rate, we recommend getting the America the Beautiful pass, which is $80 per year and gets you into all National Park Service managed sites and federal lands for free. There are 9 national parks in California, so this pass will easily pay for itself with a few visits!
Dogs are not allowed
Dogs are not allowed on park trails or snow covered trails/roads in Lassen Volcanic National Park. They are allowed in parking areas and once roads start to be paved, are allowed to be walked along the paved roads. Our pup Kona enjoyed rolling around in some snow in the parking area, but other than that, had to sit out on our adventures here.
Curious how we travel with a dog, especially to national parks? Learn what we do with Kona when she cannot join us on our adventures.
The Visitor Center is not open daily
The Visitor Center is only open Wednesday-Sunday during the winter and spring months, so if you would like to speak with a ranger or visit the park store, we suggest coming to the park during those days of the week!
They also do have Wi-Fi at the visitor center, but it was not working during our visit, so don’t count on it. This also impacted their point-of-sale system and we had to pay cash, so make sure to have some cash handy!
There are 24 hour restrooms
While the Visitor Center may not always be open, the restrooms in the entrance vestibule of the Visitor Center are open 24/7! There are also 24/7 accessible restrooms near Manzanita Lake at the Loomis Plaza.
What to Bring to Lassen Volcanic National Park in the winter & spring
As always, we recommend having the 10 essentials on you when adventuring outdoors, but here are a few key items we want to point out that will especially help you when visiting Lassen Volcanic National Park in the winter or spring.
Beyond some vending machines in the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center, there is nowhere to get food inside of the park, so make sure to pack plenty of food for your adventure!
We especially suggest bringing some warm food items, like backpacking meals, as well as hot beverages, like Kuju Coffee or hot chocolate packets to warm up after exploring outdoors. To make these food and drink items, make sure you bring a backpacking stove, propane, and a kettle!
There is water at the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center and at Manzanita Lake, but just to be safe, we suggest bringing plenty of water with you. We like to carry our 3L Camelbak bladders while on any hike, which makes it easy to store a lot of water and drink while on the go.
We visited Lassen Volcanic National Park in early April and it started off very cold, but by the afternoon, it had warmed up a bit and we switched from jackets to t-shirts and tank tops! Beyond the temperatures changing as the day goes on, the temperature can change when going up or down in elevation, so make sure to bring layers!
Snowshoes + microspikes
During our visit we had planned to snowshoe, since we assumed the park would still have tons of snow, so we brought our snowshoes, as well as microspikes. But to our surprise, a lot of snow had melted at the lower elevations and we didn’t really need them. While we did encounter snow, it was fine to walk through with our hiking shoes on. Since we visited a bit later in the winter season, we’d highly suggest bringing both of these items with you during your winter visit.
Sun + snow = sunburns, so please bring some sun protection, like hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen! It was very sunny during our visit!
Cell service is extremely limited in the park and during the winter it can be a bit hard to follow trails when they are covered in snow. During our hike to Chaos Crags, we got a bit confused on where to go and saw footprints in multiple directions, so having the AllTrails Map downloaded in advance was crucial to ensure we didn’t get lost.
Things to do in Lassen Volcanic National Park in the winter & spring
While summer is the prime time to visit Lassen Volcanic National Park, the winter and spring still give you the chance to see the main things that the park is known for, like epic peaks, mud pots and steam vents, and a lake or two!
Here is what we’d suggest checking out if visiting in the off season!
Enjoy the snow!
The most unique thing about visiting Lassen Volcanic National Park in the winter or spring is the SNOW! The park is blanketed in beautiful white snow, which adds a whole other magic to it. So of course, you must play in the snow if visiting this time of year!
Depending on snow levels, you can sled, snowshoe, or cross country ski at Lassen Volcanic National Park in the winter. Both open areas of the park offer opportunities for all three, with the Southwest Corner having steeper slopes for sledding, the Manzanita Lake area having more opportunities for snowshoeing, and the closed park road being a popular route for cross country skiing.
There are also backcountry ski routes you can go on, but these require a strong knowledge of avalanche safety, so we will not be sharing too much about them here, as we are not experts on the topic. But you can learn more about some of the more difficult skiing routes here!
Go on a ranger led snowshoe walk!
If snowshoeing in the park interests you, but you don’t have a ton of experience or your own snowshoes, you can go on a ranger led snowshoe walk!
These ranger led snowshoe walks are only offered in the Southwest Area of the park and start at the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center. They happen from 1:30-3:30 PM on Saturdays and Sundays from January to March and are FREE, but they suggest you make a $1 donation for snowshoe maintenance.
Space is limited, so you will need to get your free ticket at the visitor center the day of, and only ages 8 and older are allowed, and this includes no small children in carriers.
Sulphur Works is located in the Southwest Corner of the park and is not only the most accessible hydrothermal area in the park year-round, but is the only one accessible in the winter.
Many years ago there was a volcano located right by here called Mount Tehama, which was an 11-mile-wide, 11,500-foot-tall volcano, whose eruptive period ended about 360,000 years ago. It has been broken apart and carried away over time by erosion and now has left a large basin, and Sulphur Works is in the general location of its central vent.
Here you can find steam vents, which are extra steamy on a cold winter or spring morning, as well as bubbling mud pots, which form by standing surface water that is acidic enough to dissolve surrounding rock into clay. The thermal water beneath the depression causes steam to rise through the ground, heating the collected surface water and creating the bubbles.
In the winter, this area can be accessed by a 2 mile (round trip) walk or snowshoe from the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center, if the road has yet to be plowed. If the road has been plowed, you may be able to drive to the Sulphur Works parking lot and then walk the very short walk to see the hydrothermal features. During our visit in early April the road was plowed to the parking area, which made it extra easy to visit.
Sulphur Works itself is a very small area, so it doesn’t take long to enjoy, but it is very cool! We especially loved going on a cold morning, right around sunrise, and seeing the extra steamy features in the cold air, illuminated by the rising sun.
You can also continue up the road some if it has been plowed, which we recommend for higher up views of the area!
Manzanita Lake Loop
Miles (roundtrip): 1.9
Elevation (feet): 52
Reviews & Current Conditions
The star of the Manzanita Lake area is its namesake, Manzanita Lake, which is a beautiful lake with an epic backdrop of Lassen Peak, which towers over the lake and reflects onto its surface.
Visiting the lake is very accessible, as it’s just a short walk from a parking area. You can just take a quick glimpse at the lake if you’d like, but we suggest doing the Manzanita Lake Loop, which takes you through trees, near some marshier areas, and by the lake, with some epic views of Lassen Peak.
This trail is very flat and easy, so it’s perfect for beginner snowshoers and along the trail there are picnic tables, which we highly recommend stopping at (if not fully covered in snow) and enjoying a drink or meal.
The best view on the hike is right here and we enjoyed the sunset at this spot where we got to see the colors of Lassen Peak change and get a bit of alpenglow, plus hear tons of birds on the water, without another soul around.
Chaos Crags Trail
Miles (roundtrip): 4
Elevation (feet): 990
Reviews & Current Conditions
The Chaos Crags are a cluster of six dome volcanoes that last erupted about 1,000 years ago and on this hike (or snowshoe) you’ll end up at the base of these craggy peaks, which tower above you. We were in awe of just how rugged and rocky these peaks were!
The trail also has great views of the surrounding area, as well as a close up view of the Chaos Jumble, which is a huge field of boulders that are the remains of a rock avalanche. There is supposed to be a small lake up here as well, but it was all dried up unfortunately. From the photos we have seen, it looks pretty insane!
We had anticipated snowshoeing this trail, but ended up not needing our snowshoes. There were some deeper areas of snow, but for the most part it was manageable in our hiking shoes. However, if you go earlier in the season, you’ll definitely want snowshoes for this trail. Just make sure to download the map beforehand like we mentioned…it can get a bit confusing!
Bike the park road
If you’re visiting Lassen Volcanic National Park just before the road opens to the public you have a unique opportunity to bike the park road!
As the park clears the road of snow, they will open up sections to hikers and cyclists, which is the perfect way to get to experience some areas of the park that aren’t accessible during the majority of the winter and spring season, but with much less people than summer brings.
During this time you’re able to bike to Bumpass Hell (7 miles one way from Sulphur Works parking) and the parking area for Lassen Peak (8 miles one way from Sulphur Works parking), giving you the chance to then hike both of these trails. Just keep in mind that some trails may still have snow on them, so check conditions in advance!
Ready to visit Lassen Volcanic National Park?
Pin this guide to plan your Lassen Volcanic National Park winter or spring adventure!