Lassen Volcanic National Park Kids’ Guide

Lassen's wonders will intrigue any kid—especially with so much fun and insight provided by the park's children's programming. Some hikes are accessible only when the snow ebbs in June. This is Lassen Peak as seen from Eagle Peak. Photo by Russell Virgilio.

Nestled in the mountains of Northern California, Lassen Volcanic National Park hosts a large number of hydrothermal features, including roaring fumaroles (steam and volcanic-gas vents), thumping mud pots, boiling pools, and steaming ground. These alone are way more than enough to delight young explorers, but Lassen also offers many unique activities for children and families.

Become A Junior Ranger

During the spring and summer, don’t miss a number of ranger-led Junior Ranger programs. According to Christopher Bentley, a park ranger and educator at Lassen, “many ranger-led programs are especially for kids and families.“ Children 7-12 years old are encouraged to participate in the Junior Ranger program. Kids can pick up the Junior Ranger booklet from the Loomis Museum or the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center. “Successful Junior Rangers receive a custom Lassen Volcanic National Park patch and are sworn in as Junior Rangers by park ranger,” Bentley says. Similarly, children 6 years old and younger can join the Chipmunk Club. “Kids carry a card with illustrations of plants and animals with them on hikes and circle what they saw. Chipmunk Club participants receive a sticker from the rangers,” he says.

Take A Hike

Other ranger-led programs include hikes and, currently, snowshoe walks. “Early in June on the 8th & 9th we have our Trail Safety Challenge corresponding with National Get Outdoors Day,” Bentley says. “Hikers are encouraged to plan their hike using our Trail Challenge handout. After hikers complete their adventures for the day and report back to the rangers, they will receive a Trail Safety Challenge bandana.” Rangers also give talks at the Loomis Museum. At these gatherings, families can hear about Lassen’s volcanoes, wildlife, history, and other topics. Check the online schedule of events or the summer issue of the free park newspaper to find out more.

According to Bentley, “The most popular family hike in the park is Bumpass Hell. The trailhead is at about 8000 ft, which makes access to the trail difficult until the snow level drops in late-June.” The elevation and patchy snow makes the hike challenging, but the reward is worth the effort. The largest and hottest hydrothermal area in the park greets hikers with a kaleidoscope of colorful mineral deposits and pools. “Mudpots, boiling springs and steam vents abound in basin, and all are accessible by boardwalk,” Bentley says.

Short and Sweet

Families with younger children will enjoy exploring Sulphur Works, a roadside hydrothermal area one mile north of the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center at the southwest entrance of the park. “This is a good option for parents with young kids who can’t hike long distances. Families can park 100 yards away and walk the sidewalks to visit the mudpots, steam vents, and boiling springs,” says Bentley.

More adventurous families can climb Lassen Peak on select dates throughout the summer, but plan ahead. Due to trail renovation, the Peak will only be available to summit on June 21-23, July 4-7, August 16-18, August 30-31 and September 1-2”

After Dark Excitement

Last summer, Lassen introduced the first annual Dark Sky Festival. According to Bentley, the festival highlights, “Lassen's night skies and bringing awareness to light pollution and the importance of preserving our starry skies.”

For those who missed it or would like to go again, you’re in luck! “This year,” Bentley says, “we will continue the tradition with the second annual Dark Sky Festival - half the park is after dark!” Special programs targeted toward kids will include ranger-led astronomy programs and telescope viewings, a ranger-led hike through a scale model solar-system. “There’s also our Junior Ranger Night Explorer program in which kids can complete an astronomy themed activity booklet and receive a special patch,” he says. This year's Dark Sky Festival will be August 9-11.

Don’t Forget ...

Other family fun activities can include backpacking, boating, camping, bird watching, skiing, swimming, horseback riding, and fishing. Surely there will be something for everyone!