Hiking Down To A Volcano Crater In California

Lassen Volcanic National Park in California was a great surprise for us. It was not one of the national parks which we always dreamed about, mostly because we didn’t know about its existence.

But we are so happy we found it and had one of our most special hikes there!


Experiencing the active volcanism in the park was a unique experience for us especially because this was the first active volcanic area we’ve visited in our lives. Same applies to hiking a volcano…

A volcano which looks like a volcano


It’s one thing to know that a certain mountain is a volcano and it’s a different thing to actually see this obviously at the first sight.

Cinder Cone is the name of our volcano, but cinder cone is also the type of this volcano and it really looks like a volcano – just like those you see in illustrations.


The last (and only) eruption was in the 1600s and still there’s very few plants on Cinder Cone. But there’s lava beds and the colorful Painted Dunes formed by ash and lava – a very special landscape.

Hike to the top of Cinder Cone


Hiking a volcano like Cinder Cone is a challenging and a very dirty adventure. Our kind of adventure. 🙂

Reaching the top rewarded us with a view we’ve never seen so far: a close view of a crater.


But the view of the landscape was not bad either: lakes, snowcapped peaks, lava beds and the Painted Dunes.

Down to the crater


This was not the end though. The most fun part came after we reached the top: we hiked down into the crater.

It was amazing to take a close look at the crater from the top, but we could only truly feel its size when we hiked down to its bottom. And how cool it sounds that ‘Oh, and then we ate some snacks at the bottom of the volcano crater…’? Just as cool as it was to actually do it. 🙂

Lakeside walk with magnificent views


Cinder Cone was a half day hike for us. We spent the afternoon at Butte Lake which is right at the Cinder Cone Trailhead.

There’s a trail along the lake which is an easy and beautiful walk with views of the lava beds, Cinder Cone and Lassen Peak in the distance.

How to get there?


Cinder Cone Trail start from Butte Lake which is accessible by a dead-end, dirt road south of Highway 44. Just expect yourself and your car to be both dirty by the end of this adventure.

Our experience is though that our ‘dirty adventures’ were the best adventures and this one is not an exception either.

Best time to go


Lassen Volcanic is a park for summer hikes. Roads are usually opened in June and snow can still be seen on the peaks even at the end of June.

Snow conditions vary every year, so make sure to visit the official NPS website about Lassen Volcanic before your visit. You can find a lot of other useful information and good-to-know there as well.

Have you ever had a close look at a volcano? Is it on your bucket list?


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