Hiking to Hot Springs – Lassen Volcanic NP

Susanville, CA

We left the fairgrounds in Klamath Falls on Friday morning and had a nice drive of about 200 miles to Susanville, CA.   We took OR 39 south into California where it becomes CA 139.  At Canby we turned east for about 20 miles on CA 299 to Alturas where we picked up US 395 heading south.  CA 139 does go right to Susanville, saving 40 miles, but it looked to be a bit dangerous for a large vehicle.   Once in Susanville we quickly set up in our site at the Susanville RV Park.  This is a decent park with level, concrete, pull-through sites.

Susanville was once a logging and mining center.  Today the government is the main employer.  The population was 17,974 in the 2010 census, up from 13,541 in the 2000 census. Much of the population increase is related to persons held at two state prisons in the city.  Nearly half the adult population of Susanville works at the three prisons (a federal facility is in nearby Herlong) in the area where 11,000 people are incarcerated.

But, fortunately, our visit was not mandated by any court.  We voluntarily stopped here for a visit to the east side of nearby Lassen Volcanic National Park.  We only had one day to visit the park so the nimble hiker chose a hike in the Warner Valley area.  We drove west on CA 36 about 50 miles to the town of Chester, where we turned north on Feather River Drive which became the Chester Warner Valley Road.  Sixteen miles later (the last three on dirt) we arrived at the trailhead.

Final dirt section of the road

The rustic ranger station was closed

This part of the trail is part of the Pacific Crest Trail, which goes from the Mexican to the Canadian Border through the mountains of California, Oregon, and Washington.   The first section goes along Hot Springs Creek, which was still flowing strongly.

Some trees here are very tall

Lassen Volcanic NP contains a number of hydrothermal areas.  We planned to hike to two of the three located in this section of the park.  We knew we were near some thermal activities when the trail crossed over a little stream.

John tested the water and quickly found that it was hot, very hot!

Too hot to touch!

Just past that stream we had to wait a few minutes for a doe and her fawn to leisurely cross the trail while enjoying a snack.


As we crossed another small stream (cold water), we spotted two crude paddle wheels turning in the water.

We speculated that they may have been part of a children’s activity held at the nearby Drakesbad Guest Ranch.  Who knows?

The trail meandered through a number of grass filled meadows before it headed up into the woods to our first destination, the Devil’s Kitchen, about 2.5 miles from the trailhead.

Once at the hot springs area the trail loops right through the hydrothermal action.

Bubbling hot spring

After going around the loop we hiked back down the same trail for about two miles before turning on to the trail to Boiling Springs Lake.

Hiking back down the trail

A number of steam vents are located under Boiling Springs Lake, keeping the temperature of the water around 125 degrees.  A trail goes all the way around the rim, giving us some great views of the lake and the mud pots bubbling along the shoreline.

Boiling Springs Lake with Lassen Peak in the background

Lunch with a view

We returned to the trailhead after hiking a bit over seven miles.  Perfect weather, a mostly empty trail, and the cool hydrothermal areas made this a hike to remember.

Next up is a visit to Carson City, NV.  More on that later . . .

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33 Responses to Hiking to Hot Springs – Lassen Volcanic NP

  1. Susan Bank says:

    Such an interesting area to visit! We missed it two times, the second time it was so very hot we just moved on through. I guess there are always places we need to go back to, fun. Thanks for showing us what we missed.

  2. Hans Kohls says:

    You guys barely scratched the surface for the hikes around Susanville and west to Lassen. There is a lot to do in the area of the northern sierras. Hope you have a chance to make it back and check out Graeagle, Quincy, Lake Almanor and more of the Susanville area! Highly recommended! 🙂 ps… the hike that you did do, sure is a good one, we sure enjoyed it too!

  3. We really enjoyed that hike…seeing the thermal action without the crowds of the national park is priceless!

  4. You guys are all over the place this summer–love it! Glad you found a spot out of the smoke!

  5. Sandra Silva says:

    So you are in Carson City. Sure hope you are going to be around for a few days.

    Bob had major shoulder surgery on Thursday last week. He has been in quite a bit of pain but is improving each daily. We could drive to Carson to meet you for lunch or dinner one day. Sadly we would not be able to take a hike with you this time.

    There is so much to see and do I the area I am sure you will enjoy your time here.

    Give us a call if you have time for a visit. 775-315-4683

    Sent from my iPhone

  6. We didn’t get to Lassen when we were in Susanville due to too much snow in May. I would love to go back there one day. Did the thermal area have that funky sulfur smell?

    • placestheygo says:

      There was a slight smell but nothing like you get in Yellowstone. Lassen is a large park. We had to drive 50 miles just to visit the southeastern corner. It would be nice to camp in a more central location to visit all the park sections.

  7. Jodee Gravel says:

    Three posts in six days – you are amazing! We really liked that park in Susanville – the park cat kept trying to join the family (Tessa was not impressed). All the thermo activity is so cool (figuratively) – what a great hike! Look at those skies!! Ah, Carson City – where we first met :-)))

    • placestheygo says:

      We didn’t see the park cat! It was a great park for us…Starbucks was across the street! Yes, we are back in Silver City RV Park where we first met! As a matter of fact I pointed out the grassy area we used for HH! Good times!

  8. pmbweaver says:

    Susanville,,,another place we have never heard of.
    The paddle wheel is so dang cute.
    Only one day in Lassen Volcanic National Park. It looks like you could spend several days there. Your photos are great. A beautiful hike with wildlife to boot. Excellent.

  9. Paul says:

    I’m curious about what you use for navigation. Did CA 139 look dangerous to the eye, or did you obtain that information from a navigational aid. I’m planning on going fulltime in a few years and just looking for as much advice as possible. I did notice the town of Lookout on that route, was that a clue 🙂

    • placestheygo says:

      Whenever John sees a two lane road that goes through the mountains, he always checks it out carefully. He generally drives sections of the road using Google Street Views. In the case of this section of 139, he also did a Google search for comments from other RVers who may have taken the road. We don’t use a GPS to direct us. John’s best friend in our travels is Google Street View so he can actually drive roads we will be taking so we don’t end up where we shouldn’t be. Hope this helps, Paul!

  10. Sherry says:

    What an interesting trail! Thanks for going so far to see it. Quite a lot of variety on it – how streams, cool streams, hot lake – and no people. Very fine! Hope you’ll get to some other sections of the park, I’d love to see more of the it.

  11. Gay says:

    Sounds like a great place to spend a few days!

  12. geogypsy2u says:

    Bummer you had to drive so far just to get to the park. Been 40 years since I visited Lassen and don’t remember much so must not have stayed long. All those thermals and no place to soak?

  13. Laurel says:

    What a great hike! I’m always fascinated by geothermal features (love Yellowstone). We’ve been wanting to explore Lassen for years, but it’s still on our list, which is kind of ridiculous given that we only lived about 150 miles away in Ashland. I guess we were always on the way to somewhere else. :-)) It definitely looks worth exploring!

  14. Jim and Barb says:

    The one and only time we visited Lassen, there were 9 foot snow banks on the road in and around the Visitors Center. Needless to say we did not see nearly as much as you did! Looks like we will have to make the trip back….

  15. Peggy says:

    Hi, love your blog, first time to comment..what type of backpack do you use? It looks comfortable..

    • placestheygo says:

      Thanks for commenting, Peggy! We both use Camelbak 3L Mules. They are actually biking backpacks we found at REI in the biking section. They have two zipper sections and an open section in the middle which works great for carrying a sweatshirt or jacket. They make them for men and women so they are cut differently. They are extremely comfortable even with full water packs and jackets. The 3L pack is much larger and carries a lot more than the 2L pack which I purchased first.

  16. Susanville was our stop after visiting Lava Beds NM and stayed at that park you are staying, but did not do much of hiking. And we missed Lassen last year as we were rushing back to the Bay Area 🙂 I will take this as a preview of future visits.
    It’s the first time I see a notice that it is unlawful to stray from trails, i did not even see that in Yellowstone.
    Pam you are the lovely dwarf in the forest 🙂

  17. phishsihp says:

    We just went through that area and totally missed this! We did see lots of the cool thermal area in Lassen though… thank you for sharing. Check us out.

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