Prospect Peak, Cinder Cone, Butte Lake, as well as trails leading to other lakes can all be accessed from the Butte Lake entrance. The campground is large but was mostly empty when we were there. Lassen National Forest is adjacent to the park and offers great camping that is accessible to most vehicles.
Why is this my favorite section of the park? The solitude. The name of the blog is Destination Isolation after all. Here are some ideas for your trip:
Day 1: Prospect Peak and Cinder Cone – 8 miles, moderate (11-mile option)
The parking lot filled very quickly in the morning but everyone was climbing Cinder Cone or heading onto the lake. We had previously climbed Cinder Cone on a backpacking trip out of Summit Lake so we skipped that grueling hike this time. The climb is about 4 miles round-trip from this trailhead; seems short but it’s slow going. Be sure to take time for the interpretive trail guided by the .50¢ pamphlet which can be purchased at the trailhead. There are 14 signposts along the first half mile of the trail.
At signpost 9, the trail up Prospect Peak diverges to the West. Prospect Peak is a shield volcano which means it was built from many eruptions. The eruptions were of a low-viscosity lava (basalt lava) and formed shallow slopes. The world’s largest volcanoes (and the largest in the Solar System, Olympus Mon on Mars) are shield volcanoes. You can find more information on the NPS site.
Despite, the shallow slope, the hike to the top is still a struggle at times. The ground is made of loose cinder and is akin to walking on sand. The 8-mile round-trip hike, however, is worth the effort. The views are spectacular; Lassen Peak, Mt. Shasta, and Butte Lake are just a few of the sites.
From the time we departed the Cinder Cone Trail until we returned to it, we did not see another person. The area is extremely quiet with only the very distant sounds of planes reminding you that technology exists.
Anyone in good shape can finish the Prospect Peak Trail and Cinder Cone Trail in one day. Just be prepared for the heat; lots of water, sunscreen, a hat, and extra snacks are a must. Completing both in a day is sure to be a challenge.
Those of you that are more inclined to relaxing can opt for some time on Butte Lake. We found some very quiet corners in the lake and had fun investigating the lava flows from Cinder Cone that have formed “islands”. There’s a boat launch near the Cinder Cone Trailhead, but watch out for the deep, mucky, mud just offshore.
Day 2: Butte Lake, Widow Lake, Jakey Lake, Snag Lake – 19 miles, 1 day moderate, 2 days easy
The loop from Butte Lake to Jakey Lake via Widow Lake and back via Snag Lake is 19 miles. However, there is little elevation gain and only one semi-major climb. Bottom line: this long hike is doable for those of you in pretty good shape. The hike took us just over 8 hours. Since you are lake hopping, it is possible to bring 1 water bottle and a filter. Fill up at the lakes as you go to encourage breaks and cut down on the weight. Bringing and eating plenty of snacks will also be crucial.
An early start is highly advised and will enable you to get your climbing out of the way under the coolness of dawn. The main concern on this trail is the seclusion. We did not see anyone along the length of this trail (apart from one guy camping ON the trail at the half mile mark). Make sure you have your 10 essentials in case anything goes wrong.
The trail is pretty easy to follow but bring a map. You will feel completely alone. This is a great hike for those that want to truly experience the wilderness.
Widow Lake would be great for camping as would Jakey Lake. Get a free permit at the Ranger’s Station if you wish to break this hike into 2 days.
Other Hikes in Lassen Volcanic National Park:
- Bumpass Hell – via Mill Creek Falls, 13 miles, strenuous
- Warner Valley – Mt. Harkness, Devils Kitchen, Terminal Geyser
- Summit Lake to Cinder Cone – 22.6-mile overnight, strenuous
- Manzanita Lake Area – hikes of various lengths and difficulties
- Brokeoff Mountain and Lassen Peak – 4 hikes in the Southern end, various difficulties
However, the Butte Lake Area is my favorite so far because one can really reach isolation. It is perfect for someone trying to escape the noise and distraction of a city.
Visit our National Park Service Guide for more hikes in our national parks.