At first I was going to title this “Hiking in America’s Secret National Park” but then I thought that was baiting the hook too richly.
But those of you who’ve been to Lassen National Park know what I mean. I’ve never seen it crowded even in summer. Maybe it’s because it’s far from a major metropolitan area.
Or perhaps it’s because it doesn’t have one iconic physical landmark like Half Dome or the Grand Canyon. (Not that Lassen Peak is exactly a shrinking violet.)
Whatever the reason, Lassen seems like it’s your own private park shared with only a few of your closest strangers.
Numerous friends have told us over the years that this hike is superior to the one up Lassen Peak itself and I’d have to agree. It’s a longer hike (7+ miles) with more varied terrain and vegetation, yet the view is equally spectacular.
KEITH & GREG ATOP BROKEOFF MOUNTAIN (Lassen Peak in the background)
LOOKING DOWN CASCADING KINGS CREEK FALLS
This was more of an accidental hike as the day was charted to be a “day off” but we’d heard it was pretty and wanted to see the meadow anyway so we kind of fell into it. We’re happy we did.
It wasn’t a significant distance (around 2.5 miles) or very tough although one has to watch the footing carefully when coming down the trail cut through the rock on the side of the falls. (A slightly longer but less tricky alternative is to use the horse trail.)
The falls are beautiful and consist of two separate sections: a long series of cascades and then a quarter-mile downstream a “sudden-drop”-type falls.
This was the longest hike we did at around 10.5 miles. It also took more time to reach the start because, like other hikes in the southeast part of the park, vehicular access must be via Chester.
LOOKING SOUTH ON JUNIPER LAKE (Mt. Harkness in the distance)
The trailhead is a tiny affair way up Warner Valley Road. The hike is unrelentingly “up” until you reach a saddle in the ridgeline, and then slightly down into the Juniper Lake basin.
We hiked all the way around this jewel of a lake (Lassen’s largest, I believe) and then back down the way we came. Except at Juniper Lake, we did not see anyone else on the trail to or from Warner Valley Road.
On a future occasion we’re going to hike up nearby Mt. Harkness, which promises great views and a circa-1915 fire lookout.
SIGN AT WARNER VALLEY TRAILHEAD
Juniper Lake is also accessible by a mostly dirt road from Chester. (At the east end of the lake we saw a primitive campground that hosted a fair number of campers.) Interesting to me were the seven or so small but attractive private homes on the west side of the lake (beyond the north trailhead) that must have predated the establishment of the national park. If anyone knows anything about the origins of these houses please comment back. It would be great fun to rent one of these and use it as the base of operations for hikes in the area.
SWEEP OF PART OF THE WESTERN SHORE OF JUNIPER LAKE
BACK DOWN THE TRAIL TO WARNER VALLEY (Lassen Peak to the west in the distance)