I did two hikes here in August. One was to Manzanita Lake and the other was to Kings Creek Falls. The Kings Creek hike provided quite a workout given the length of 3 miles and a substantial elevation gain, and while the Manzanita hike was a stroll in the park by comparison, keep in mind that at an altitude of 7,000-8,000 feet you will get winded much quicker than at sea level.
It took about 2 hours to complete the Kings Creek hike at a steady pace and allowing for plenty of photo stops. There are some beautiful glades early in the hike that provide idyllic views of forested mountain meadows with streams running through them. There’s also one “big view” vista from a bald ridge around halfway through. The actual waterfall is impressive but to get the best angle you really need to hike at least part of the way down to the bottom. The hike back out allows you to walk along the cascade as it rushes down the slope and really was my favorite part of the hike. That part loops back to the main trail after about a steep half mile.
The Manzanita Lake hike is just a walk around the circumference of the lake. There are some great mirror images of Mt. Lassen that can be seen from a few vantage points around the lake. I was told that the lake was swimmable but I didn’t find the prospect very appealing, lacking as it did any natural beach. It took a bit over an hour to do the 1.8 mile lap around the lake but if you were in a hurry you could easily shave 15 minutes or more off that time.
Lassen National Park is tiny in comparison to most NPs and is certainly way off the normal tourist radar due to its remote location in north central California. That said, I found the uncrowded, unhurried nature of the place to be a nice relief after the relative hustle and bustle of Yosemite. The drive alone is worth the visit…the road certainly deserves a name, as its an engineering marvel, winding through the high alpine peaks between the Ponderosa pines and even the occasional mud pot or hydrothermal basin as it makes its way to over 9,000 feet before beginning its descent. There’s a wild, untamed quality to this park that is hard to find in the “big names”. Worth a look if you find yourself within a day’s drive.