Permit - No cost permits are required and can be obtained by emailing ranger or in person at ranger station (even after hours). Plan ahead if you want to receive permit by mail. You will need to pay $25 for 7 day pass into Lassen Volcanic National Park (even after hours into the iron ranger).

Mileage - The map has mileage listed at 5.1 miles using the Summit Lake north Trailhead (we camped up away from the lake so our mileage was slightly more). See map/profiles below.

Camps/Water - Water/bathrooms/trash available at the trailhead. There are lakes along the way for water as well. NO CAMPFIRES in the backcountry are allowed!

Hazards - Bears (You are required to use approved bear canisters), mosquitoes (didn't see any on this trip), weather (always check the weather before hand, it was in the 20's for us at night).

 

Tyler and I have been going on lots of adventures with his Boy Scout troop, but this was the first chance we had to go backpacking. After a long drive (mostly in the dark) we made it to Lassen Volcanic National Park. We stopped at the gate (paid the iron ranger the $25 for the 1 week pass) then stopped at the Visitor Center and self registered for our backcountry permit the next day. It was great to have a large group of us going. We camped Friday night at the campground called Summit Lake north. We planned on hitting the trail early on Saturday to allow enough time to get to Rainbow Lake and, after setting up camp, hike to Cinder Cone. The campground was nice with clean restrooms, plenty of bear boxes, and space for all the tents. Tyler even said the water tasted good. The trail starts at the lakes edge pass loop 'B" sites. This trail also leads to Summit Lake south and the amphitheater. Here is Summit Lake that morning.

 

 

Here is another shot of Summit Lake with what I believe is Hat Mountain in the background.

 

 

Before you are even warmed up you will be at the first junction. We went left toward Echo Lake. If you look close on the sign below you will see that Rainbow Lake is not listed yet. Don't worry about it though.

 

 

The trail starts to climb now with some nice views behind. You can see on the profile that you need to climb up and then give up some of that elevation to reach Echo Lake. Here is the view behind of Mount Lassen.

 

 


Here is the same shot but with me zoomed back out to see the typical trail conditions in the area. While there are many trees, you can see that much of the trail remains uncovered. It was not an issue for us as it was forecast to only be in the 60's at the warmest.

 

 


The trail levels off prior to the next junction. If you want to add some mileage to this trip this in the junction you could take either on the way in or the way back. We had mapped out this option as a "plan B"on the way back if we had enough time. (With our desire to be back home by dinner the next day we decided to just head back the way we headed in.) We took a right at this junction and started our descent to Echo Lake. Notice there is still no mention of Rainbow Lake on the signs. Luckily our navi-guesser was doing a good job for us at the trail junctions.

 

 

The trail is well marked and well signed. There are some use trails around some of the lakes but if you use the map, and keep track of the lakes as you pass, you really should have no navigation issues. Here is an example of the trail markers in the trees..

 

 

Here is a shot looking back as we descended to Echo Lake. The trail is well used and dusty. You add a bunch of Scouts to that and you can get some good sized dust clouds. We didn't see anyone else on the trail that morning prior to Rainbow Lake, so we didn't have to apologize for our dust.

 

 

We made it to Echo Lake. There is no camping allowed at this lake (likely overuse). It is a great little lake and would make a great spot to have lunch, or just catch your breath. We decided to keep moving as we had a full day on the trail planned..

 

 

The trail climbs some now, but nothing too bad. Here is a shot looking back through the trees at Echo Lake. Notice the yellow trail marker.

 

 

There is some variation in the trail now but it is mainly downhill to the lake that shall not be named. Here is a shot of the trail conditions in this section. There are some rough patches but even our youngest Scouts had no issues..

 

 

The trail is level in spots. You can see how sandy the soil is starting to get. There were some sections of trail where it felt like you were walking on the beach.

 

 

Here is a glimpse of the lake that shall not be named. It is one of those lakes that looks like a meadow on the shallow end.

 

 

Here is Upper Twin Lake. You can see that the clouds were blowing away at this point. Well not all of them, but at least the ones right overhead.

 

 

This is the junction just at the edge of Lower Twin Lake (between Upper and Lower Twin Lake) that we took a right at to stay on the south side of the lake.

 



Here is Lower Twin Lake. The weather was absolutely perfect for backpacking. You can see the ripples on the lake from the slight breeze (which kept us cool and kept the dust from hanging around too).

 

 

Here is the meeting of the minds to determine which way to go. We continued left on the PCT now (only briefly though).

 

 

Another shot of Lower Twin Lake with some cool shadows.

 


Here is the last junction on the way to Rainbow Lake. We exited off the PCT and took a right for the last half mile to Rainbow Lake. The trail is mainly flat.

 

 

Many dead trees out in the short section to Rainbow Lake..

 

 

After some scouting around (and some discussion) we decided to break into two groups to camp. Some closer to the lake and some up above the lake on the trail toward the Cinder Cone. Rules out here say to camp 100 feet from the lake's edge. The established sites at the lake are all within this range. Here is me on the slope as we were looking for better sites The wind picked up and even a little moisture fell on us.

 

 

 

We quickly setup camp, filtered water, ate some lunch (maybe not in that order) and then hit the trail to Cinder Cone.

 

 

The trail to Cinder Cone was extra "sandy", which was cool but seemed to wear out my feet fast. The closer you got to Cinder Cone the more it was like loose gravel. Here is Cinder Cone in the distance. You can see some of our group headed up the route from the south for some perspective. Part of our group made it to the top and back while the other half made it around to the north approach and decided there was not enough time to make it to the top so we headed back to meetup with the other group as they headed down. I will leave you with a few shots on the way back and then a couple the next day. We hit the sleeping bags early that night after filling our bellies and then the bear canisters. Luckily, we did not have any bear encounters. The weather was cold that night (most of our water that was out in the open froze slid. The next morning was cool and most of us started the hike back with gloves or an extra layer. This was an awesome area to explore and I can't wait to get back out here and explore some more of the lakes/volcanic features..

 

 

The setting sun behind some beautiful trees.

 

 

Rainbow Lake just before dark (star gazing was amazing out here).

 

 

The tent village the next morning. There was a patio area with cover between the three tents.

 

 

Summit Lake, almost to the car. Scroll down for the map/profile.

 



The red line shows hike in to camp, and day hike to the base of the Cinder Cone and then back to camp. Scroll down for elevation profile. Click on map or profile to be taken to the larger version.


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Here is the profile for day one. We camped up off the trail to the Cinder Cone, so there may be a little extra mileage because of that. Click on profile for larger version.

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