Two hikers on the Crags Lake Trail. Trees and ground cover are on both sides of the trail. Peaks of the Chaos Crags Volcanoes rise in the background.
Two hikers on the Crags Lake Trail

NPS Photo

A Skier in Lassen Volcanic Wilderness in the early 1930s
A skier in Lassen Volcanic National Park in the early 1930s.

Arthur G. Holmes - NPS archives

What is Wilderness?
In response to quickly “expanding settlement and growing mechanization” in the U.S., Congress passed the Wilderness Act of 1964, creating the National Wilderness Preservation System and presenting guidelines for the administration of these “wilderness areas.” With this, Congress ensured that lands were set aside for the preservation and protection in their natural condition for the American people.

Lassen Volcanic Wilderness
79,062 acres | 74% of the park
Lassen Volcanic Wilderness
was designated by Congress as part of the National Wilderness Preservation System on October 19, 1972. Another 13,151 acres of wilderness was proposed as an addition, but has not yet been designated by Congress. It is National Park Service policy to administer proposed wilderness as designated wilderness.

Color-codeding on the map categorizes areas of park land into designated, proposed and non-wilderness at Lassen Volcanic. Learn more about NPS Wilderness categories.

Designated Wilderness Map
Lassen Wilderness Map

Wilderness Character
Through the Wilderness Act, Congress mandated the preservation of "wilderness character." Five different qualities make up wilderness character:

The area must be essentially unhindered and free from modern human control or manipulation, "generally…affected primarily by the forces of nature."

The area retains its primeval character and influence, and is essentially without permanent improvement or modern human occupation. "…man himself is a visitor who does not remain."

Ecological systems are substantially free from the effects of modern civilization; the area is "protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions."

Solitude or Primitive and Unconfined Recreation
The area has "outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation."

Other Features of Value
The area "may also contain ecological, geological, or other features of scientific, educational, scenic, or historical value."


"The love of wilderness is more than a hunger for what is always beyond reach;
it is also an expression of loyalty to the earth…the only home we shall ever know,
the only paradise we ever need – if only we had eyes to see."

-Edward Abbey

A hiker views Mt. Diller, visible from the trail to Mill Creek Falls. The hiker is surrounded by shrub and flower-filled meadows.
A hiker on the trail to Mill Creek Falls, views Mt. Diller. the hiker is surrounded by shrub and flower-filled meadows.

NPS Photo

Benefits of Wilderness
In the 1950s and 1960s, public concern over pollution and the exhaustion of our natural resources grew exponentially. This movement resulted in the Wilderness Act of 1964, which sought to protect our nation's wild lands. In preserving these lands, the Wilderness Act also preserves the benefits wildernesses provide.

Watersheds and Air Quality
Many wilderness areas, including Lassen Volcanic Wilderness, contain the headwaters for our rivers and streams. These wilderness areas ensure our watersheds are protected and provide a supply of clean water. Forested wilderness areas also help clean our air.

Biodiversity and Ecosystem Health
Wilderness preserves natural ecosystems, which maintain species diversity and ensures that ecosystems remain places where people practice humility, respect, and restraint in relating to the natural world. Plants and animals live free with little to no influence of humans.

Wilderness provides unique opportunities for medical and scientific research, work that has aided the development of life-saving drugs, provided insight into possible life on other planets, and informed predictions on climate change. Research on the volcanic and thermal features within Lassen Volcanic Wilderness help the U.S. Geological Survey refine their ability to predict seismic events, including volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.

From Native Americans to pioneers, wilderness has deeply affected our unique American culture. It provides many opportunities to discover, relive, and study our cultural heritage. Hike the Nobles Emigrant Trail through the Lassen Volcanic Wilderness, and imagine the hardship and beauty that our early pioneers faced while expanding westward.

Wilderness areas enable visitors to experience the scenic beauty, challenge, risk, reward, and solitude of land home to intact ecosystmes by modern society. In wilderness, one can connect with one's "wild side" and escape from it all. Discover your inner and outer strength by hiking to the top of Cinder Cone.

More than 12 million people visit wilderness areas each year. Such visits enable wilderness areas to support local and regional economies.


Wilderness Facts

  • The National Wilderness Preservation System contains 757 areas in 44 states and Puerto Rico
  • The National Park Service, Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, and Bureau of Land Management are the four governmental agencies assigned to the administration of wilderness areas
  • Wilderness areas represent about 5% of land in the United States (109,511,966 acres)
  • Wrangell-Saint Elias Wilderness in Alaska is the largest wilderness area at 9,078,678 acres
  • Pelican Island Wilderness in Florida is the smallest wilderness area at 5.5 acres
  • NPS administers the most wilderness acreage, at 40% of the entire National Wilderness Preservation System

"There is not as much wilderness out there as I wish there were.
There is more inside than you think."
-David Brower, American environmentalist and mountaineer and Sierra Club founder

Hikers on a footbridge over a creek surrounded by a flower-filled meadow.
Two hikers on a foot bridge over a creek. The creek is surrounded by trees and a flower-filled meadow.

NPS Photo


Last updated: April 7, 2024

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