Lassen National Forest Activity Guides:
Lassen National Forest Trails:
Lassen National Forest
Lassen National Forest Overview
The Lassen National Forest lies at the heart of a fascinating part of California, a crossroads of people and nature. It's right here where the Sierra Nevada, the Cascades, the Modoc Plateau, and the Great Basin meet.
Mostly, though, the forest favors the volcanic southern Cascades in appearance. The terrain includes sharply etched foothills, vertical old volcanic cores, and heart-stopping mountain scenery. Water features range from jovial mountain creeks to surprisingly lovely reservoirs, such as Lake Almanor, which is a creaking 80 years old.
Together with the Lassen Volcanic National Park and the Susanville District of the Bureau of Land Management, the area offers countless opportunities for relaxation, discovery, and adventure.
Hike a Low-Profile Wilderness
Elevations in Lassen National Forest range from the foothills to high peaks. The Ishi Wilderness is one of the low-elevation treats. The wilderness is a region of canyons and rushing rivers. Trails generally follow the rivers, with a couple cutting across ridges. This area is rugged and hard to reach, explaining why Ishi, "the last wild Indian," was able to hold on here until 1906. In the spring the area is green and alive with wildflowers; in the fall the region is cool and moody.
Hike a High-Profile Wilderness
Smart hikers know that summer in the lower elevations of the forest can be blazingly hot. That's the time to head for the high regions. The Pacific Crest Trail makes its grand way for 120 miles through the forest, moving from the granite and high mountain lakes of the northern Sierra Nevada, to the lava and broken landscape of the southernmost Cascades. We recommend the portion that crosses the Caribou Wilderness, a gentle plateau sprinkled with old volcanic cinder cones and crater peaks. Take time to wander a branch trail to one of the wilderness's many forested lakes.
More on hiking in Lassen National Forest
Fish Hat Creek
Hat Creek is a classic, clear, cold mountain trout stream. We're talking trophy trout. The stream is frequently compared to Idaho's Silver Creek. There is a defined trout-fishing section on the river, but almost the entire length of the creek offers excellent angling. Upper Hat Creek is stocked and is an anything goes kind of place. Lower Hat Creek is for expert anglers only, a purist's dream. For a break from standing, try float fishing Baum Lake, which is really a wide part of the stream. And don't forget to take a break from casting every now and then to look up at Mount Lassen. Proper homage might even bring you luck.
Bike a Railroad Bed
Following nearly 26 miles of old railroad logging grade, this trail offers beautiful views of the rugged Susan River canyon and surrounding mountains. A wide path and easy grade make this trail ideal for beginning mountain bikers. The trail crosses the river 12 times on bridges and trestles and passes through two tunnels. The landscape is a combination of semiarid canyon and upland forests of pine and fir. Because this trail is surrounded by hardwoods and located high in the mountains, visitors will see a rarity for California: fall color.
More on biking in Lassen National Forest
Watch Raptors Fish
Lake Almanor is popular with people, and it's a hit with osprey. The lake boasts the largest population of the fishing raptor in California. Osprey are great fun to watch while they fish. The best time is during the last two hours of the day, when trout are feeding and coming to the surface for insect hatches. That's when you'll see the osprey circling high overhead, and then dive-bombing when they spot a fish.
Drive Lassen Scenic Byway
The Lassen Scenic Byway is a loop route on four state highways that travels through the geologic and biologic crossroads of the southern Cascades, revealing a mosaic of changing landscapes and views. Although it can be driven in a day, the most rewarding approach is to take in a segment each day, stopping along the way to hike and explore the volcanic terrain. Prime leg-stretchers include lava tube caves, the Spatter Cone Crest Trail, which leads past three of the four kinds of volcanoes, and the Hat Creek Rim, an escarpment along a fault.
Ski Colby Creek and Beyond
With the arrival of winter, prime hiking trails convert into challenging and beautiful cross-country ski trails. The Colby Creek Trail gently winds through trees at the edge of (you guessed it) Colby Creek as it skirts several open meadow areas. Elsewhere, Pine Creek Valley, located 20 miles northeast of Susanville, offers skiers a scenic valley surrounded by mountains reaching up to 7,400 feet. You'll find miles and miles of established and marked trails in the McGowan Lake areas, and the Bizz Johnson Trail is an excellent place for cross-country skiing. Almost the entire Lassen National Forest is open to cross-country skiing, with more challenging terrain on the west side and gentler areas on the east side.