Lassen Volcanic National Park

Sights on a drive through Lassen Volcanic National Park, and a day hike to Kings Creek Falls.

When we stopped at Lassen Volcanic National Park, we were staying in Burney, CA. We were new to RVing—about 4 days in—and had just left San Francisco and moved into our trailer in one fell swoop. In retrospect, we could have stayed at one of the beautiful spots inside the park, maybe at the Manzanita Lake Campground, and gotten a few more hikes in.

Kings Creek
View through the trees of Kings Creek Meadow

After a full day of Kyle working from our trailer and me continuing to unpack and settle in, we decided to take the suggested "auto tour" since Highway 89 through Lassen Volcanic National Park. It was early September, and the road was still open for the season. We came in on Highway 44, near the Manzanita Lake Area, and made our way through the park, stopping to take in sights and snap photos.

Some of the most magical views along the way were of Kings Creek Meadow, with its lush, translucent green grass in stark constrast against the dark shadowy hues of the firs and pines. You can easily pull over and spend some time here—plenty of perfect spots for a picnic along Kings Creek.

Panoramic view of the peaks in the Lassen Volcanic Park.

There were lakes and views all along the drive, and we pulled over for photos at the road's high point and the small but beautiful Emerald Lake. We weren't able to hike the Bumpass Trail because it was closed for updates and maintenance, but it definitely sounds like a park highlight.

Kyle and Emerald Lake

Kyle at Emerald Lake.

Sulphur Works
Mud pot at Sulphur Works

We also stopped at Sulphur Works, an easily accessible hydrothermal area. The rotten egg smell hit us before the view of the mudpots did, and up close, the sounds of bubbling, boiling, and splashing added to the overall intrigue.

Caused by water from rain and snow, the liquid heats into steam deep below the surface level by hot lava or rock. As it rises, it boils and travels through fumeroles, which are vents in the ground, creating the mudpots that we see at the surface.

The brightly colored areas surrounding the mudpots are thermophilic, or heat-loving,  bacterias, fungi, and Archaea, which we learned more about during our trip to Yellowstone National Park several weeks later.


We ended our drive at Manzanita Lake, enjoying ice cream from the camp store and soaking in the sunset.

The following day, Kyle stayed home and worked while I came back into the park for a day hike. I decided to kick off at the Kings Creek Trailhead and head to the Kings Creek Falls, adding a leg to Bench Lake, and taking a new loop back.

King’s Creek Trailhead, Lassen Volcanic National Park
King’s Creek Trail
King’s Creek

The first leg of the hike was about a mile and half, all following alongside the creek. It started out from a sunny meadow and followed the creek into the shade of the towering conifers.

After seeing the falls, which are beautiful though difficult to photograph, I backtracked about a quarter of a mile to a footbridge that goes across the creek.

Not long after the bridge, the terrain changes completely. The trees and and give way to a hill of boulders and rocks.

King’s Creek Trail

Just over a mile away, there was a small lake called Bench Lake. The water was low, perhaps because it was early September, and along the edge of the lake there was a couple, relaxing in lawn chairs they'd presumably hiked in.

Bench Lake
Tailed frog, Bench Lake

At the edge of the water in the algae, I spotted several Coastal Tailed Frogs, a species native to the region.

Kings Creek

The 2 miles back to the trailhead had me climbing uphill, through some not-yet-spent lupines in between blocks of sun and shade from the trees, over a foot bridge, and back on a path running along Kings Creek. In a  shady spot, I sat down by the creek and enjoyed a sandwich I'd packed with me.

I think next time I come here, I'd love to do the Lassen Peak hike, as well as the hikes down to the geothermic areas, Bumpass Hell and Cold Boiling Lake.

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