Somewhere beyond the Sacramento Valley, north of Lake Tahoe, exists a remote mountainous land of lakes and valleys, where the Sierras converge on the Cascades.
People often come here often for glimpses of geothermal activity at Lassen Volcanic National Park (from which the picture was taken above), or perhaps for some boating and recreation on Lake Almanor (pictured above in the distance). Beyond these two tourist hotspots, this region is largely ignored. What remains between parks and lakes are stretches of forested mountains and valley meadows, from which ranchers and loggers make a living.
South of Lassen, in the southern end of Plumas County and northern Sierra County, is the Lakes Basin, where dozens of lakes dot what appears to be a High Sierra landscape, yet several thousand feet lower and accessible by highway. It’s a remarkably beautiful area with easy to moderate hikes, although the local towns seem frighteningly abandoned, especially the county seat of Sierra County, Downieville, which boasts a population of several families.
People often take their boats to the larger of the lakes to enjoy a Sierra boating experience a little more off the beaten path than Lake Almanor or Lake Tahoe. I would argue it’s a little more intimate. For instance, here at Sardine Lake, you can boat right beneath the Sierra Buttes.
But if you’re into something a little more unique and exciting than a bunch of tall rocks and big puddles of water, you might want to stick to Lassen Volcanic National Park, where you can explore geothermal activity in one of the stinkiest environments this side of Yellowstone. Enjoy it as long as you can stand Mother Earth farting right in your face.
Or you can spend your day hiking up the southernmost volcano of the Cascade Mountains: Lassen Peak. There’s something for everyone here (except the beach bums).
Fun Fact: Mount Lassen isn’t in Lassen County, it’s in Shasta County. Mount Shasta isn’t in Shasta County, it’s in Siskiyou County.