Backcountry Camping

Two women wearing backpacks cross a wooden footbridge
 

Learn and Explore

Keep Lassen Wild

The majority of Lassen Volcanic National Park is designated Wilderness, a status afforded to just five percent of America’s public lands. You can enjoy and preserve these wild places by not contributing to recreation-related impacts including: litter, erosion, social trail creation, food-conditioned wildlife, and backcountry campsite widening. Please adhere to regulations and practice Leave No Trace (LNT) principles to help preserve natural conditions and minimize human influence.

Recreate Responsibly

Please practice Leave No Trace principles, avoid unnecessary risk, and select less popular trails or hiking at non-peak times (e.g. holidays, weekends).

 

Plan Your Backpacking Trip

A backpacking trip in Lassen Volcanic National Park can be an exciting and rewarding experience if you are prepared.

1. Choose Your Route and Research Your Trip

Rangers are not able to assist with planning a backcountry trip. It is your responsibility to select a route that is suitable to your group's interest and abilities. The following resources can help you choose your route:

  • Read the backcountry camping regulations so you know how to plan your trip. There are no designated backcountry campsites or trail quotas in the park. Permits are free.
  • Conditions: Check current conditions to find out about weather forecasts, closures, advisories, snow levels, etc. Backpacking trails are generally snow-free in June/July. Check Trail conditions. Although generally limited to day hiking, this information may provide an idea of what to expect in the park. The park does not provide regular backcountry reports, so rangers may not know immediate conditions on backcountry trails. Visitors must plan for any and all types of conditions in the backcountry.
  • Backpacking trailheads: view a list and short descriptions of backpacking trailheads in the park.
  • Resources: Park Maps are available, including trail distances, topography, and georeferenced PDFs for use with free map reader mobile apps such as Avenza mobile app. Hiking books and maps are offered through our partner the Lassen Association.
  • Looking to camp before or after your backpacking trip? If staying in the park, you must camp within an established park campground before or after your trip. Sleeping in a vehicle or RV in a parking lot or pull-out is not permitted, even with a backcountry permit.

2. Bring or rent a NPS-approved bear-resistant container.

Containers are required from April 15 - October 31. Hanging food is not permitted.

3. Obtain a free backcountry camping permit.

Free permits are available at self-registration stations near park entrances. The park does not mail permits.

 

Backcountry Camping Permit Required

A free permit is required to camp in park backcountry (outside of park campgrounds). A permit is not required for day hiking and is not required if you are staying in an established park campground. There are no designated backcountry campsites or quotas in the park.

How to Obtain a Backcountry Permit

  1. Backcountry camping permits must be obtained when you arrive to the park. We do not accept or process permits by email/mail.

  2. Review the park backcountry camping regulations.
  3. Gather information about your trip and party including entry and exit trailheads, approximate campsite location for each night, emergency contact information, and vehicle make, model, and license number. See posted instructions on how to fill out the permit.
  4. Fill out a permit at an in-park, self-registration station.
  5. Fill out a parking slip and put that slip on the dashboard of your vehicle.
  6. Tear off the bottom portion of the permit and leave at the registration station. Keep the top portion of the permit and the backcountry regulations. Attach the permit to a backpack and display throughout the duration of your trip.

Self-registration Stations

If permits are out of stock please leave your contact information, a brief itinerary, and an emergency contact. If the parking slips are out of stock, put your destination and length of backcountry stay on a piece of paper and place that on your vehicle dashboard.

All self-registration stations are available 24 hours a day. If you need assistance with self-registration, rangers are available to assist with permit completion at the Loomis Plaza (summer only) or Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center.

  • Loomis Ranger Station (across from the Loomis Museum)
  • Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center (in the visitor center vestibule)
  • Butte Lake Ranger Station (not staffed)
  • Warner Valley Ranger Station (occasionally staffed)
  • Juniper Lake Ranger Station (not staffed)
 

Backpacking Trailheads

The largest network of trails is located in the eastern half of the park. These trails are accessed via four primary backpacking trailheads: Warner Valley, Butte Lake, Juniper Lake, and Summit Lake.

  • Short Route Trailheads
    Ridge Lakes, Hat Lake, Brokeoff Mountain, and Manzanita Creek trailheads provide access to shorter routes that may be good for quick trips or first-time backpackers.
  • Kings Creek Picnic Area TH
    Located one mile from the Kings Creek Trailhead, this trailhead provides access to limited destinations including Twin, Spencer, and Conard Meadows.
  • Warner Valley TH
    Backpacking routes are fairly limited from Warner Valley due to the numerous hydrothermal areas where camping is prohibited. You can travel north or south on the Pacific Crest Trail from here or climb Flatiron Ridge to access trails near Kings Creek. Black bears are sighted frequently in the Warner Valley Area.
  • Butte Lake TH
    The parking area is open to day use and overnight users. The trail past Cinder Cone to Snag Lake is composed of sand-like cinders. The shore of Snag Lake offers numerous places to camp. The area also provides a good base camp for day trips to Juniper Lake or Rainbow Lake. Bears have obtained improperly stored food in this area.
  • Juniper Lake TH
    The parking area is open to day use and overnight users and is located at the end of the Juniper Lake Road. There is no drinking water at Juniper Lake, you can treat lake/stream water or bring your own.
  • Summit Lake TH
    The is the most popular and congested trailhead for backcountry camping. We highly recommend beginning your trip at another trailhead to help reduce impact and to make the most of your Wilderness experience.
  • Kings Creek TH
    Parking at this trailhead is extremely limited. Please consider parking at a pullout near the meadow and hiking a short distance to the trailhead. Smaller loops from this trailhead provide good options for short trips or first-time backpackers. Black bears are frequently sighted in the Kings Creek area.
 
 
Two opaque blue plastic canisters with black lids for storing food and scented items.
Bear Vault 450 and 500 canisters are available for rent in the Loomis Museum and Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center.

Bear-Resistant Container Required

Backcountry campers must use an approved bear-resistant container to store food and scented items. This regulation is in response to increased negative bear and human interactions in the park. Bear canisters are not required December 1 through April 15. View a list of NPS-allowed food storage containers.

When Black Bears Obtain Food

Storing Food and Scented Items Properly Keeps Wild Animals Wild.
At least one bear obtained food and/or scented items that hikers had not stored in bear-resistant containers in 2020. After multiple incidents, the bear learned to associate humans and their equipment with a food reward. The area east of the park highway was temporarily closed to backcountry camping to protect visitors and bears. The closure has since been lifted, however there is still a potential for negative human-bear interactions. Further incidents could result in a future temporary closure(s). Learn about what to do if you encounter a bear.

Bear Canister Rental

Bear-resistant food canisters are available for rent in limited quantities at park stores in the Loomis Museum and Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center during business hours. Rental is $10 for 7 days with a $95 deposit for either size canister. Canisters must be returned to the location rented. There will be a $15 charge for canisters returned dirty (not including wear/dirt from normal use).

 
An image of a grizzly bear with its claws and mouth on a yellow container above a graphic of spacing between a tent, camp kitchen, and food storage.
Top: A grizzly bear tests a product for bear-resistant certification. Bottom: Recommended spacing for backcountry camp setup.

Top: Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center. Bottom: Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics.

How to Use a Bear-Resistant Container

What to Put Inside

The most important part of using a bear-resistant container is what goes inside it. Make sure all food, trash, toiletries, and other scented items are inside the container. This includes but is not limited to all sealed or packaged food, sunscreen, soap, mosquito repellent, lip balm, deodorant, medications, and feminine products. As a general rule, if you put it in your mouth or on your skin, it should probably be stored in a bear-resistant container. Learn how to get the most out of and into your bear canister from sierrawild.gov.

Where to Place It

Place the container on the ground 100 feet (or 70 big steps) from both your tent and cooking area, in a place where a bear can't easily roll it away. Take care not to place it near a cliff or any water source, as a bear may knock the container around or roll it down a hill. Do not hang or attach anything to the container (ropes attached to the container enable a bear to carry it away). Watch How to Use a Bear Canister from Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics.

Keep Canisters Closed and Locked

Bear-resistant canisters work, but only when they are locked. Be sure to keep it closed and locked any time it's not in use. The Bear Vault canisters available in the park have a special latch that requires human dexterity to open. Your fingernail, a credit card, or other thin, hard tool can be helpful when opening the canister. When closing the canister, make sure to turn the lid until you hear the latch click. We recommend trying to open it by turning it counterclockwise to verify it's locked. Keep in mind that a bear may easily get to your canister, but it cannot get what is inside if it's locked.

 

General Questions


If you have questions about backpacking or permits, please email us. Before sending an email, please read this entire webpage, as most of your questions are likely to be answered already. Rangers are able to assist with questions regarding permitting, regulations, closures, conditions (when available), and safety. Rangers are not able to provide route suggestions.

Last updated: April 27, 2021

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

PO Box 100
Mineral, CA 96063

Phone:

(530) 595-4480

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