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The Places To Stop By on The Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway
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The Places To Stop By on The Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway

Put on your road trip playlist, gather your crew or travel solo, and make sure you have a Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway map on hand.

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5 min read

July 26, 2021

A mountainous road trip that’s epic (to say the least), the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway connects Lassen Volcanic National Park in Northern California to Crater Lake in Southern Oregon. Along this 500-mile journey from volcano to volcano, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to adventure, explore, and connect with nature—you’ll ultimately grow closer than ever to the culture and history of the region.

Put on your road trip playlist, gather your crew or travel solo, and make sure you have a Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway map on hand—you’re in for an adventure of a lifetime.

The Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway is roughly 500 miles long and travels north-south along the Cascade Range past numerous volcanoes.

Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway Road Conditions

The Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway in the California and Oregon region has been molded by its fiery volcanic past for millions of years. This All-American Road is dominated by soaring volcanic peaks, expansive lava flows, bubbling mud pots, steaming fumaroles, as well as spatter cones and caves waiting to be explored—the highway has its fair share of awe-inspiring sights. 

Along the way, you’ll travel through dense forests, across broad wetlands, along clear streams, and past beautiful pastoral farms and ranches. You’ll see the Cascade volcanoes, the 14,179-foot Mount Shasta, Crater Lake National Park, Lassen Volcanic National Park, and many other beautiful natural sights to admire and explore.

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Best Stops on The Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway

It’s easy to get distracted by the variety of activities and attractions along the Volcanic Scenic Byway—been there, done that one too many times on weekend road trips. Follow our suggestions and you’ll be covering all the must-sees on the trip. Depending on how long or little time you’re willing to allocate for the trip, you can definitely add or retract stops as you see fit.

Lake Almanor is a popular recreation area, with fishing, boating, water skiing, swimming, and camping available for visitors.

Lake Almanor

From Sacramento, follow Highway 99 to Chico and then head east on Highway 32 to arrive at Lake Almanor. As one of the most beautiful lakes in NorCal, the first stop along your Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway drive will set the tone for the rest of your trip.

You’ll find several small towns on the west side of the lake, with resorts, inns, and lake campgrounds along the shore putting you right on the water—hiking, biking, and dog walking trails provide you with time spent on land. The east side of the lake has great views of Mount Lassen and offers a more secluded feel, while on the northern end of the lake, you’ll find Chester, which is a great place to stay for the night to get dinner and supplies. 

To learn more about the logging history of the area, take a short drive east on Highway 36 to Westwood. Here, you’ll find the Bizz Johnson Trail along the highway that was built on the old Southern Pacific Railroad bed. Perfect for biking or backpacking, the 25-mile trail is a lengthy trek reserved for the real adventurers traveling on the road.

The dominant feature of the park is Lassen Peak, the largest plug dome volcano in the world and the southernmost volcano in the Cascade Range.

Lassen Volcanic National Park

You can easily spend the weekend in the beautiful Lassen Volcanic National Park. Here, you’ll see Lassen Peak, one of the largest plug dome volcanoes in the world. Take your time to look for unique geothermal features like the boiling mud pots and steaming fumaroles of Bumpass Hell and take a dip in the clear waters of Manzanita Lake.

Of the 150 miles of trails and opportunities for swimming, boating, fishing, cycling, and backcountry camping, a few are absolute must-dos and deserve a place on your Volcanic Scenic Byway weekend itinerary. A hiking trail that covers it all is the 6.3-mile Bumpass Hell Trail, which shows off the best of Lassen—it features hot springs, mud pots, and sulfur vents, and more natural wonders throughout.

If you’re spending the night in Lassen Volcanic National Park, head back over Manzanita Lake to find the largest campground on site. With 179 campsites and so many amenities that you might consider it glamping, the Manzanita Lake Campground features stunning views of Lassen Peak and provides easy access to the lake as well as hiking trails.

McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park is within the Cascade Range and Modoc Plateau natural region boasting 910 acres of forest.

McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park

The Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway road trip is not all mountains and volcanoes—majestic cascading waterfalls are also a part of the trip, and you should definitely stop and experience them.

At McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park, you’ll find over five miles of hiking trails and campsites. Hike the trail to the 129-foot Burney Falls, where you can bask in the glory of the natural wonder under the flowing waters. As one of the most stunning waterfalls in the world, Burney Falls has captivated President Theodore Roosevelt, who once claimed that this waterfall is “the Eighth Wonder of the World.” 

If you end up leaving the park earlier than expected, check out another beautiful waterfall a bit further down the Volcanic Scenic Byway: McCloud Falls.

With trails along the river, picnic areas, campgrounds, and handicap-accessible areas, this is another pleasant stop on your road trip. 

At an elevation of 14,179 feet, Mount Shasta is the second-highest peak in the Cascades and the fifth-highest in the state.

Mount Shasta

The Mount Shasta region offers travelers the opportunity to get up close with a stratovolcano. With an eruptive past, four vents itself, and four more on Black Butte (the plug dome to the north), the 14,162-foot mountain is an eye-catching natural landmark that'll take your breath away.

Explore the many hiking trails that meander through impressive sugar pine and swaying aspen forests. Are you after the mountain views? Hike the Seven Lakes Basin Trail, one of the best in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, and you’ll see panoramic views of Mount Shasta, Mount Eddy, and Trinity Alps. If you’re more of a climber, head to the Castle Crags Wilderness, where you’ll be greeted with granite spires that just beg to be climbed. 

And in case you’re tempted to turn your summer road trip into a multi-day vacation, book a campsite in Mount Shasta to wake up to serene surroundings and adventurous days along the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway in California.

On the basis of maximum depth, Crater Lake is the deepest in the country, the second-deepest in North America, and the ninth-deepest in the world.

Crater Lake

You’ve made it to Oregon, and your first notable stop is at none other than the great Crater Lake National Park. The shimmering body of water known as Crater Lake fills the caldera of Mount Mazama and covers a gaping hole left by one of the earth’s largest eruptions in 8,000 years. Not only that, but Crater is also the deepest lake in the United States, offering 360-degree views that’ll captivate just about anyone.

While Crater Lake is the main attraction at the park along the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway, it only occupies about 10 percent of the entirety of its premises. Beyond the lake, old-growth forests blanket the landscape, and trees shelter a wide array of wildlife including black bears, mountain lions, elk, and spotted owls. Explore the numerous hiking trails and campgrounds, and keep an eye out for the wildlife lurking in the shadows of the towering trees—you might have an encounter with nature that’ll change you forever.

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