Lassen Volcanic NP – Cinder Cone and Painted Dunes


What? : 

The dramatic Cinder Cone volcano display a perfect cone shape volcano. At the end of your out and back 4 miles hike, you will climb the steep 700-foot ascent to the summit. From the top rim trail, you will enjoy views of the dramatic cinder cone rim and the colorful Painted Dunes below you.


Located in the north Butte Lake Area of the park.

To get to this park section, you need to drive about a 45-minute from the northwest entrance of the park.

Drive north on highway 44, at Old Station turn right (this is still highway 44 E) and keep driving for additional 11 miles. Here you can see a clear turn into Forest Road 32N21 (Look for signs indicating Butte Lake Campground.). Turn right (south) into the forest road, drive additional 6.6 miles and you will arrive to Butte Lake Campground and the trailhead.

Google Map Link



Access is closed during winter, reopen when snow conditions allow it.


Due note 1: Although it looks like this is a National Forest location, a mile before the end of the road you are getting back into the area of Lassen National Park.


Due note 2: Drinking water is available when the Butte Lake Campground is open. There are no other services in this area.


Due note 3: I do recommend hiking here with close shows and not with sandals, the small volcanic sand-like gravels can get into your sandals and hurt you.


Due note 4: Although this is only 4 miles long hike bring plenty of water to your hike, it can be hot out here and the climb to the cone can be challenging and over there you are fully expose to sun.


Due note 5: Lassen is home to an estimated 50 black bears. As in the rest of California there are only Black Bears even if their color is brown.

When hiking Cluster Lakes loop hike, I saw a Bear, he was relatively far and running away from me, but I still manage to take some pictures.

When Hiking be Bear aware and stay safe, for more information:



My thoughts: 

I visit here several times and I have good memories from this place.

The hike to the perfect cone is not long or difficult, the climb up is steep but short, and the surrounding view and the painted dunes below are rewordings.

Although this hikes is located far from the main park road (about 1 hour drive from the northwest park entrance)  I do recommend coming here and even staying for the night at the campground.



The visit:

When arriving at this area keep driving all the way to the end of the road near the lake, the trailhead starts at the end of the road.

The clear trail heading Southwest in an area of large Jeffrey pines forest.

As far as I manage to check in Dixie fire maps this section of the park was not burned by Dixie fire but you can see fire marks when walking to the cone.

The small volcanic sand-like gravels can make the hike more challenging.

If you will look south of the trail, where no trees are growing you can see the large Fantastic Lava Beds flow section, the origin of the large lava flows are from the base of the cone.


At 1.2 miles, the trail reaches a fork left , just before the base of Cinder Cone.

When climbing the 500 ft cone please stay on the trail to avoid scarring the landscape for many years with footprints.

Climbing up the cone trail is a challenge because of the steep slope and all the loose rocks that keep sliding you down, like you are walking up a sand dune.

As you climb up on the steep trail and start to circle the narrowing cone Lassen Peak comes into your view.

Once you reach the summit you will enjoy the panoramic views in all directions.

North of you there is the large Prospect Peak (8338 ft), the large Fantastic Lava Beds spread all the way back to the lake and the Painted Dunes are clearly visible below the cone on the southeast side, Lassen Peak is visible far to the west.

The trail at the top circles the cone rim, but you can also hike down into the crater of Cinder Cone.


Approach the southeast rim and you will see below you the beautiful Painted Dunes.

This relatively small area of rolling terrain covered with colorful send where few pine trees manage to grow.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey the colors were caused by volcano ash spewed from the Cinder Cone becoming oxidized because it fell on the lava flows when they were still hot. This process, hot, oxidation with minerals introduce the different colors into the send.

This is very interesting to see this color mix from above and “discover” the different color palettes.


Once you decided you spend enough time here, enjoying the view and that you want to go back you can take the same trail you climb up, but I do recommend taking the east side trail that will take you down near the painted dunes, keep heading right (north) and you will reconnect back to the main trail.







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