Lassen National Park is probably one of my all time favorites! It is one of the only dark skies in the world, meaning it is one of four places in the entire world that is completely dark with no intruding white light. The stars are amazing! I have never seen the Big Dipper so clearly!

We arrived Friday night for the Dark Skies Festival. We chose to camp at Butte Lake Campground, home to Cinder Cone Volcano, where REI had also set up camp and took advantage of all they had to offer. While I loved this campground for it’s quiet, serene, and less commercialized appeal, it doesn’t have any showers. Normally this wouldn’t be bad, but with all of the volcanic rock/ash and lake activities, a shower was eventually needed?

Friday night, we took it pretty easy and hung out by the fire until about 10pm when we embarked on kayaks on Butte Lake for a midnight kayak. The stars were gorgeous and I have never seen such a clear sky. The moon was a bit bright, but other than that it was amazing. My husband and I both saw about 5+ meteors out on the water.

We got back to our camp to find some night friends– a few deer mainly and got to bed around 1AM. The next morning, I awoke and hurried down to the lake for morning yoga before heading out to Cinder Cone. I loved the message the yoga teacher shared, so I will share it with you.

—We all face adversity, but it’s how we choose to deal with that adversity that determines what we become. When a carrot faces adversity, 2hrs of boiling water, it becomes weak and soft; When an egg faces the same adversity, it becomes hard, almost unedible; But when a coffee bean faces the same adversity, it changes the water into something rich and flavorful. Which are you? Make a conscious effort to be a coffee bean.—

After yoga, we set off on our first hike to Cinder Cone Volcano. This 6+ mi hike wasn’t too bad until we got to Cinder Cone where we hiked a 700+ ft elevation gain in less than 0.5 mi in ashy lava rock. With every step we took forward it felt like we slid 2 steps back. But the top was definitely worth it!

Cinder Cone Volcano is aptly named because that is exactly what it is, a Cinder Cone volcano. Lassen Volcanic National Park is also home to the other 3 types of volcanoes: Composite, Shield, and Plug volcanoes. At the top of Cinder Cone, we could easily view Snag Lake, Lassen Peak, and the Painted Dunes.

After the somewhat strenuous hike, we headed to grab some lunch before stand up paddleboarding through the lava fields of Butte Lake. This was our first experience paddleboarding and Brian was a natural, of course. It was quite windy, but so much fun!

Then we headed into Manzanita Lake for an ICE COLD shower and a hot panini. It took a little longer to get there than the ranger mentioned, so I missed the REI photography class I signed up for, but we did make it back for some campfire fun and designer s’mores- my favorite! I had a york peppermint patty s’more..and it was DELICIOUS! We then hung out with the REI folks for a bit until we headed back to our campsite where we took off the rain fly and fell asleep under the stars.

The next morning, we awoke at 5AM to head over to Bumpass Hell where we hiked 13+ mi from Bumpass Hell, to Lake Helen, through the hydrothermals, past Cold Boiling Lake to Kings Creek Falls and back. It was some of the prettiest trails we’ve hiked here in CA, and we’ve been around!

Needless to say, we were toasted after that hike, so we headed back to Manzanita for a welcomed warm shower and ice cream before continuing on to the campsite where we cooked potatoes over the fire, ate dinner, and relaxed in front of the fire before spending one last night under the stars.

The next morning, we woke to a leisurely morning at the campsite and cleaned up to head home. On the way home, though, we stopped by a few local wineries and chatted with the local owners, had some snacks, then headed home to a dinner at Blaze Pizza. While it’s a nice 6 hour drive to get there, Lassen Volcanic National Park is definitely one of my favorite places and we will definitely be back soon – there’s a peak that needs climbing!

You can find more from Jayme on her Instagram account @jayme_liz_97 or on her blog.