Lassen Volcanic NP – Echo Lake and Cluster Lakes loop hikes


What? : This hike, although relatively easily accessible from the main road, gets into the wilderness area of the park where you will cross a mountain ridge and get into less visited mountain area that has many lakes. This area was hit by several wildfires, including the 2022 Dixie fire and for most of the time you will hike in a partly or fully burned forest area.

The hike I did here was the longer 12-miles Cluster Lakes loop (it took me 5.5 hours to complete with almost no stops, plan for 6-7 hours hike), this is a rewording hike, and you will probably be the only one out there. Another, and more popular, hiking option is to hike out and back to Echo Lake, this is 4.5-miles hike.

Where? : Summit Lake Ranger Station Trailhead located 17 miles north of the southwest entrance or 12 miles southeast of the northwest entrance. This is a small exit from the main park road leading to a parking lot in the woods. If you are coming from the north and you reach the Summit Lake North Campground entrance you just missed it, if you are coming from the south this is the first right turn after you are passing the north Campground.

If you are staying at one of the Summit Lake Campgrounds, you may also pick up the Summit Lake trail from there.

Google Map Link


When? : You can reach the trailhead parking lot once the main park road is open from the north and you can drive up to Summit Lake. When the park road is open south to north you can reach here also from the south park entrance.


Due note 1: Echo Lake hike is relatively popular hike, but the longer 12-miles loop is less visited.


Due note 2: The trails here, and at the rest of the park large wilderness area are less (not) maintained so much and in some cases are in bad conditions. The fires that burned through the park in the last 20 years left the deed tree trunk standing and after several years they fall and block the trails. The focus of the park trail maintenance crews is on the most popular trails, campgrounds, and facilities so all other trails are not maintained. This 12 mile hike passes through some sections where it difficult to find the trail.


Due note 3: In this hike you will pass by many lakes (I counted 10 larges lakes), I hiked here in June but I’m sure they all have water year-round so you do not need to carry a lot of water with you, bring a filtration bottle and you can fill water.


Due note 4: I highly recommend for this hike to use a navigation phone application. I’m usually using GaiaGPS but also Alltrail is good. There aren’t any major navigation challenges here but in some sections the trail is not clear and covered with falling logs and you may miss trail junctions. It is always good to have a navigation app on top of a paper map that you always need to carry with you…

I also recommend to carry with you a charging battery-bank for the phone…


Due note 5: Pets are not allowed on any hiking trails in Lassen Volcanic National Park.


Due note 6: As Always bring plenty of water to your hike, it can be hot out here and when crossing burned forest areas there is no shade, and you are fully expose to sun.


Due note 7: 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 really enjoyed this hike. Although you will hike in many sections where the fire completely burned and destroyed the forest and all you can see are standing burned tree trunks, because it was different this is a hike I will remember. The north section of the trail cross an old fire area where all the ded trees are with gray/white color, many of them fall and completely cover the trail.

Interesting side-effect of the fire is that the landscape is now “open”. Usually when hiking in such forest covered area you do not see a lot of the landscape and all you can see is the woods near the trail. Here where the fire “clears” the forest you can see the surrounding mountains, valleys, and lakes in the area. This is why I manage to spot the bear from several hundred feet away.


The visit:


There are few hiking options starting from Summit Lake Ranger Station Trailhead: hike out and back to Echo Lake (4.5 miles hike), or as I did a much longer and less visited loop hike that cover a lot more of the park remote wilderness (12 miles hike, it took me 5.5 hours to complete with almost no stops, plan for 6-7 hours hike).

I will describe both hiking options in detail:



Echo Lake Hike:

This is 4.5 miles hike starting at Summit Lake Ranger Station, plan for 3 hours hike depending on your hiking past and how much time you want to spend at Echo Lake.


From the Ranger Station trailhead, the trail starts by crossing the usually flooded meadow on a boardwalk and from there the trail turn right into the direction of the Summit Lake campsite.

After short hike you will see on your right side the campground, keep hiking to the direction of the lake. After reaching the lake shore look and enjoy the reflections of the mountains in the lake. Keep hiking left and after several hundred feet you will reach a trail junction, this trail junction is around 0.45 mile from your hike starting point.

You can also reach this trail junction location from both campgrounds, there is a trail that circle the lake.


From here you will take the Echo Lake Trail (also leading to Twin Lakes), the trail starts to climb moderately the mountain range east of the lake, this is not a difficult climb although you are climbing 400 ft. This section of the trail cross area that was severely damaged by the fire, but the trail is in good condition. Because of the fire, as you are climbing up, you can look back and see the mountain peaks towering above the rest of the landscape.

After 0.9 miles from the lake you will reach a relatively flat area and here you will see a trail junction post. Turning left here will take you to the longer Cluster Lakes Loop (see details below), for Echo Lake we will keep heading right.

After additional 0.2-mile hiking in a flat area the trail starts to descend 300 ft all the way to Echo Lake, from the trail junction to the lake it is 0.82 miles. The last section of the hike pass trough a forest that was not hit by the fire, it is interesting to see how a short distance and different conditions effect the fire outcome.

Once you reach the Echo Lake you can stay at the west shore or take the 0.7-mile-long trail that circle the lake.

The shaded shores and green cold blue water of Echo Lake offer hikers a quiet destination for picnicking, swimming or relaxing.

Overall, from the Parking lot Trailhead to the lake shore it is 2.2-mile hike.

After enjoying the lake, you need to hike back the same way you arrived.

I was hiking this trail as part of my larger loop hike and only at this trail section I saw few other people where hiking to Echo Lake.



Cluster Lakes Loop:

This hike is 12 miles long with overall elevation assent of 1530 ft, it took me 5.5 hours to complete with almost no stops (plan for 6-7 hours hike).


I highly recommend doing this hike, you will cross many different areas and can enjoy the more remote landscape of this park, some areas are completely burned and others are less effaced from the fires, you will pass many lakes and there is always something different to see.


The starting description of this hike is the same as the above hike to Echo Lake.


After 1.4 miles from the starting point, you will reach the trail junction that is leading into Cluster Lakes Loop. Here the Bear Lakes Trail turns left (north) and start to cross the flat area with easy climb up.

After 0.5 mile of easy climb from the trail junction, you will cross a ridge line and start to descend to the first lake you will see in this loop, hiking down 0.5 mile and you will see the small, un-named, lake. The 1-mile trail from the trail junction to this lake was relatively clear.

From this small lake the trail keeps heading north and after 0.5 miles it start descending into the direction of Little Bear Lake. Just before the trail descends into the valley on your left you can see a nice view of the landscape to the east.

After hiking 1.15 miles from the unnamed lake, you will reach Little Bear Lake and after additional 0.3-mile descend you will reach Big Bear Lake.


This area was completely burned during 2004 fire and all the gay/white dead trees trunks are still there, some are standing but many fall to the ground.

Once you reach Big Bear Lake the trail became difficult to find, it is there but all the falling trees and the renew low vegetation hide it. It does not look like that this section of the trail was ever cleared from all the falling tree logs. When I hiked here (10 days from last rainfall) it did not have any indications of fresh foot tracks.

It doesn’t look like many people are hiking here and you really need to look good to find the trail in all this mess. Try to find the trail and not just to walk in the right direction, it is easier and has less growing vegetation.


You will hike along the Big Bear Lake shore and from the lake there is another 0.5 mile of hiking down into the direction of Cluster Lake. I manage to follow the trail but almost completely missed the trail junction signed that was buried under a huge tree that fall on the trail junction post.


From the trail junction that we left Echo Lake trail to this point it is 3.12 miles.


Once you almost reach to Cluster Lake and hit the junction with Cluster Lake Trail you turn right (keep hiking on Bear Lake Trail) into the direction of the nearby Silver Lake.

Soon after passing Silver Lake, you will reach Feather Lake.

All this area was severely damaged by old and latest fires, and it is almost completely clear of trees.


In this hike section I saw the Bear.

he Bear saw or heard me first when I was still far and looks like he was afraid, he just run away.

All happened fast, the bear was fur and running away and I did not manage to get good pictures. This Bear encounter shows me how fast bears can run. I know they can run fast but this was surprisingly very fast and for long time, running constantly up the mountain slop all the way to the top and to the other side.


I kept hiking heading to the direction of Lower Twin Lake, on the right-side Fairfield Peak is the dominate mountain and the somehow unclear sections trail is crossing the lower valley floor.

After 2 miles from Cluster Lake, you will reach the trail junction with the PCT, additional 0.35-mile hike will bring you to the relatively large Lower Twin Lake.

I stayed on the west side of the lake, the trail here passes right on the lake shore.

After hiking almost 0.5 mile along Lower Twin Lake and crossing the short distance between the lakes you will reach Upper Twin Lake.

Keep walking all the way to the west side of the lake, looks like that the forest near the Twin Lakes was not hit by Dixie fire and everything is still green.

The trail section from Cluster Lake to the west side of Upper Twin Lake is relatively easy hike without a significant elevation gain.


Right after Upper Twin Lake there is a short but steep climb out of the valley, after the first climbing section you will pass a long narrow pond, additional climb will bring you to Echo Lake East shore.

From Upper Twin Lake to Echo Lake, it is 1.2 miles hike.

From Echo Lake you should follow my explanations above.

From the lake you will hike up for 0.9 miles to the trail junction we started the loop, from here it is another 0.8 miles down to Summit Lake and another almost 0.5 miles back to the parking lot trailhead.


I really enjoy this hike, there are some climbing but this is not a challenging hike, it was interesting the see how the forest looks like after new and old fires. Passing many lakes and enjoying the solitude of the wilderness.