Cinder Cone, Lassen Volcanic National Park
Photo © Ben Miles
Located at the northern end of Lassen Volcanic National Park, Cinder Cone offers unique scenery and geology for those willing to make the effort necessary to visit the remote site. There are many recreation opportunities in the immediate vicinity of Cinder Crater, and each offers unusual glimpses into the volcanic nature of the Southern Cascade landscape.
President Teddy Roosevelt declared Cinder Cone a National Monument in 1907. Seven years later Lassen Peak erupted, and eruptions continued in varying degrees until 1921. In 1916 Lassen Volcanic National Park was created, including within its boundaries the beauty and geologic significance of Cinder Cone.
Cinder Cone was formed by loose scoria that fell as hardened cinders and accumulated into a tall cone after being thrown into the sky during an eruption. Just how recent was the eruption that formed Cinder Cone has been a source of intrigue and some controversy since its first discovery, but modern geology places the eruption in the seventeenth century.
Cinder Cone is best accessed from the campground at Butte Lake, a well-maintained National Park Service campground off the beaten path several miles south of Highway 44. From Butte Lake, a short hike of a mile and a half takes you to the base of Cinder Cone. The steep winding trail up the loose slopes of Cinder Cone is challenging, but measures only about half a mile, and offers hikers a very unusual hiking experience to go along with phenomenal views.
Issuing from the base Cinder Cone, the Fantastic Lava Beds seem to push out into the center of Butte Lake and the broken volcanic rock shoreline provides a striking contrast. An area of Painted Dunes borders Cinder Cone to the south. The Noble's Emigrant Trail, used by settlers coming into California in the 1850s and 60s, was cut through this area and passed the foot of Cinder Cone and around the edge of Butte Lake.
Climbing Cinder Cone is a unique hiking experience and the open views from the top are well worth the challenging climb. There are also hiking trails around the base of Cinder Cone that offer close-up views of the Painted Dunes and Fantastic Lava Beds. The extensive trails of Lassen Volcanic National Park are accessed from several places in the area, and offer longer backpacks to the Pacific Crest Trail and to Juniper Lake.
Butte Lake is a scenic wonder unto itself, and is perfect for canoeing and kayaking, with interesting ancient lava flows that border the lake. The remote location offers quiet and solitude, though the area also receives some day use in the summer.
The road to Butte Lake closes in winter and may not open until early summer, depending upon the snow. Check the Lassen Volcanic National Park website for updated information on road closures.
Fees: Lassen Park entrance fee is $10 per vehicle. The Campground Fee at Butte Lake is $16 per night.
The trail to cinder cone is loosely packed cinders and the hike to the top is very challenging. ADA facilities may be accessed at Butte Lake campground.
Pets are permitted in campgrounds in Lassen National Park, but must be kept be on a leash. Dogs are not permitted on trails in Lassen.