Lassen Volcanic National Park: The most family-friendly park near San Francisco

Lassen Volcanic Park has a lot to offer for everyone. The park has wide roads, and most tourist spots are easily accessible. Here’s what I would recommend

  1. Subway cave Lava tubes – easy 1/3 mile underground hike

    Lava Tubes Entrance

    Lava Tubes Entrance

  2. Hydrothermal Areas – Hydrothermal areas from where Sulpher escapes regularly. Some right next to the road and some accessible via a short hike.

    Sulpher bubbling in the background

    Sulpher bubbling in the background

  3. Walk and play on snow-covered areas – all along the park

Strenuous hikes

There are three strenuous hikes. I would only recommend one or two of these

  1. Lassen Peak – this one is snow-covered almost year-round
    Taken along the Lassen Peak hike

    Taken along the Lassen Peak hike

    At Lassen Peak

    At Lassen Peak

  2. Cinder Cone Nature Trail – This one is less strenuous compared to the other two. It is still hard due to the gravel-covered surfaceCinder Cone seen from the bottomCinder Cone seen from the bottom

    Cinder cone from the top

    Cinder cone from the top

  3. Brokeoff Mountain Trail – this can be snow-covered hike depending on the time of the year

    Brokeoff Mountain Trail

    Brokeoff Mountain Trail

Things to do in Yosemite National Park

Strenuous hikes

Half Dome hike

17-miles 12-hours with a breath-taking dangerous climb holding chains on the majestic half dome at the end. This hike requires a permit for the final half dome climb.

Hiking Half Dome

Hiking Half Dome

The Clouds Rest Trail

12-miles 7-hours hike. The trail ends at a point higher than the Half dome. One gets a great view of the park as well as the Half dome from here.

Half Dome as seen from Clouds Rest

Half Dome as seen from Clouds Rest

I would recommend doing only one of these two hikes in a single trip.

Scenic viewpoints and Small hikes

Yosemite falls

The lower falls are easily accessible with a short walk. The upper falls require a 6-mile hike. I only did the former.

Dry Yosemite Lower Falls during off-season

Dry Yosemite Lower Falls during the off-season

Bridalveil Falls

Another gorgeous falls accessible with a short 10-minute walk.

Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls

Glacier Point

Glacier Point provides a great view of the half dome for non-hikers. It is located about an hour away from Yosemite Valley and close to south exit towards Fresno. For hikers, I would recommend doing Sentinel Dome or Taft point; both are one-mile hikes with starting point about 2-miles drive from the Glacier Point.

Sentinel Dome

Sentinel Dome

Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias

Mariposa Grove has multiple hikes ranging from short walks to 7-mile hikes where one can see the giant sequoias. Due to time constraints, I only did the short hike here.

Where to stay

If you are doing in the Half Dome, then stay at the Yosemite Valley the previous night to start hiking early morning (4-5 AM). Curry Village has the cheapest lodging, and the camps are located conveniently inside the Yosemite valley. Book well in advance.

The park is huge. Roads wind around mountains and hilly. Driving inside the park can consume significant time, I would recommend planning for that in advance.

Two days at Zion National Park

Day 1

We did Zion Narrows on the first day. The hike consists of walking in the flowing water, which is ankle to knee-deep. Therefore, getting wetsuits and water shoes is highly recommended. The views are marvelous, and since one has to return along the same route, one can decide how far one wants to go. Total hike length is 9.4 miles, starting at the visitor center.

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