North of Yosemite, Sequoia, Kings Canyon, Joshua Tree, and a host of other national park units in California, you might say Lassen Volcanic National Park gets no respect. You might also say it's a jewel in the rough, one that doesn't draw crowds, instead allowing you to enjoy this incredible landscape in relative solitude. A measure of solitude, of course, when compared to the Yosemite Valley, the Giant Forest, even sections of Death Valley come the cooler winter months.
For a landscape that blew up in 1914 and 1915, gaining enough attention to justify its inclusion in the National Park System, Lassen draws scant crowds. In fact, only once since being designated a national park in 1916 has Lassen Volcanic attracted more than 500,000 visitors in a year, and that was back in 1972, according to National Park Service records. And...there's nothing wrong with that. Pull into the parking lot at the Lassen Peak trailhead at 8 a.m. or even 9 a.m. on a summer weekday and you can park your rig near the front and not feel like lemmings as you head uphill.
Things are a bit more crowded to see Bumpass Hell...but mainly in the parking lot. We were able to hike down to the thermal area without any jostling, and the boardwalk that weaves through it was practically empty. Definitely not a scene out of one of Yellowstone National Park's geyser basins.
Sit back and let us take you on a quick tour of this overlooked park. And begin planning your visit.