The Chaos Crags Trail is near the northwest edge of Lassen Volcanic National Park, andleaves from the Manzanita Lake campground. The Chaos Crags Trail takes you to Crags Lake and some of the starkest, steepest topography in Lassen Volcanic National Park.
It’s Hike 37 my hiking guidebook 100 Classic Hikes: Northern California, fourth edition. The trek is also described in Hikes 112 and 113 of Day Hiking: Mount Shasta, Lassen & Trinity Alps Regions.
Here’s the entire hike description…
Chaos Crags Trail to Crags Lake Key Data
Distance: 4.0 miles roundtrip
Type: Day hike
Elevation gain: 1000 feet
High point: 6750 feet
Season: Late June through mid-October
Contact: Lassen Volcanic National Park
Maps: park brochure, USGS Manzanita Lake
Chaos Crags Trailhead GPS coordinates: N 40° 32.154′ W 121° 33.560′
Notes: Dogs prohibited. Toilets near trailhead. Fee.
Driving Directions to the Trailhead
To start the journey, reach the road to Manzanita Lake Campground, which is on the park highway’s south side, 32.8 miles north of the junction of CA Highways 36 and 89, and 1.2 miles southeast of the junctions of CA Highways 44 and 89. Go 150 yards and then park in the lot on the left.
Crags Lake Trail From Manzanita Lake
The first trail takes you to Crags Lake. Climb past white fir and Jeffrey pine, with the occasional sugar pine thrown in. Leap across a shaded stream at 0.6 mile and climb steeply through chaparral thickets.
Your efforts are rewarded at 1.9 miles with a view of Crags Lake and Chaos Crags. The latter formed around a thousand years ago when thick, pasty lava surged 1,500 feet up from a vent.
Look north to Chaos Jumbles, an avalanche from Chaos Crags that occurred 300 years ago. You’ll also see the Hat Creek Valley and the peaks of Thousand Lakes Wilderness, with more Cascade volcanoes leading westward to the Klamath Mountains.
It’s easy enough to scramble down to the shore of Crags Lake. In years of heavy precipitation the waters are clear and invite you for a refreshing, if chilly, dip. However, the lake can also dry up by early summer.