Distance: 5½ miles
Elevation gain: 800ft (from 6,140 - 6,820ft)
Cinder cones are scattered all around you at Lassen Volcanic National Park. Some are in plain sight and others are overgrown and hidden by forest, but none are more recent and more spectacular than the Cinder Cone that created the Fantastic Lava Beds and the colorful Painted Dunes eleven miles north east of Lassen Peak.
Sometime around the middle of the seventeenth century a volcanic vent in this area began to expel small chunks of lava, which cooled in mid-air and fell back to earth to collect into a cone some 700 feet in height. Activity finally ceased when larger amounts of lava flowed up to the surface and eventually blocked the vent.
The hike from Butte Lake campground takes a route along the side of the lava beds and through a thin forest of evergreens before ascending the cinder cone. Although the route up the north face of the cone is well used, the ground underfoot is still loose, feeling much like walking along a mile of sandy beach .. at a 30 degree angle. From the summit you should take the time marvel at the Fantastic Lava Beds and Painted Dunes below you and the great mountain views of Lassen, Brokeoff and Chaos Crags.
Though only eleven miles from Lassen Peak, driving to the trailhead of this hike requires a 40 mile drive or 32 miles from the north park entrance and includes 7 miles of dirt road driving. Despite the distance the scenery en route is well worth experiencing, and the unpaved road is entirely accessible even in a two-wheel drive car with relatively low ground clearance. The exit off CA-44 and onto the unpaved Butte Lake Road (also catchily known as NF32N21) is located here.
Snow covers the Lassen landscape for much of the year and some roads and trails may not be open - even in summer. Check the links in our tangents section to find updated information on road closures, trail closures and campground status.
- Trailspotting Images: Lassen Cinder Cone on Flickr
- Wikipedia: Cinder Cone & Fantastic Lava Beds
- NPS website: Hiking Trail Conditions