Hiking Down To A Volcano Crater In California

California’s Lassen Volcanic National Park was a great surprise for us. It was not one of the national parks we’ve always dreamed about, mostly because we didn’t know about its existence. But we couldn’t be happier that we found it and had one of our most special hikes there!

Cinder Cone, Lassen Volcanic, California

Experiencing active volcanism in this park was very special, because this was the first active volcanic area we’ve visited in our lives. Same applies to actually conquering a volcano…

A volcano which looks like a volcano

Cinder Cone, Lassen Volcanic, California

It’s one thing to know that a certain mountain is a volcano, and it’s another to actually notice it so 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 the volcano you know from books and illustrations.

Cinder Cone, Lassen Volcanic, California

Its last (and only) eruption was in the 1600s, still there’s very few plants on Cinder Cone. But there are the black lava beds and the Painted Dunes formed by ash and lava. It’s a very special landscape, dead and colorful at the same time.

Hike to the top of Cinder Cone

Cinder Cone, Lassen Volcanic National Park, CA, USA

Hiking a volcano like Cinder Cone is a challenging and dirty adventure. We hiked in the soft and slippery ash, and it was surprisingly tiring. But reaching the top rewarded us with a view we’ve never seen so far: a close view of a volcanic crater.

Cinder Cone, Lassen Volcanic National Park, CA, USA

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

Down to the crater

Cinder Cone, Lassen Volcanic National Park, CA, USA

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

Butte Lake, Lassen Volcanic National Park, CA, USA

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: an easy and beautiful walk with views of the lava beds, Cinder Cone and Lassen Peak in the distance.

How to get there?

Butte Lake, Lassen Volcanic National Park, CA, USA

Cinder Cone Trail start from Butte Lake that’s 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. But our experience is that our ‘dirty adventures’ were the best adventures of all, and this one is not an exception either.

Best time to go

Lassen Volcanic National Park, California, USA

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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