An hour east of Redding are the towering volcanic peaks of the lower Cascade mountain range and green meadows of Lassen Volcanic National Park. One of the least visited national parks in California, Lassen Volcanic National Park is an excellent choice for hikers looking to get away from the crowds of Yosemite and Sequoia Kings Canyon National Parks. With a number of different landscapes to offer from sulfur vents to mountain peaks, Lassen is one of my favorite national parks.
After a business trip to Redding, my boyfriend and I decided to hit the trail for the Fourth of July holiday weekend. Crowded though it was, the northwest entrance of Lassen still allowed for peace and quiet on the trail. The highway is still closed about ten miles into the park, so we parked at the Devastated Area Interpretive Trail parking area and walked to the Paradise Meadows Trailhead near Hat Lake.
Paradise Meadows Trail is an excellent beginner hike. It's steep at certain points but it is short (2.8 miles round trip) and provides beautiful views of Lassen and Reading Peak. With the heavy snowfall and hot temperatures this year, Hat Creek rumbles through the forest in a series of rapids and cataracts.
Follow the trail along Hat Creek until it opens to a grassy meadow. Be careful walking next to the creek; the water moves fast and it's difficult to discern depths.
If you've never been to Lassen Volcanic National Park, the visitor center and museum is worth checking out. Here you can learn about the history of volcanic activity in the park including the explosions between 1914-1917.
On your way out of Lassen Volcanic National Park, stop at Papa Casey's Grill in Shingletown, California. They've got surprisingly excellent food and great service for cheap.