By Ryan Loughrey
Lassen Park offer a bounty of opportunities of exploration. Although I feel I’ve explored a good amount, one location I’ve never been to is King’s Creek Falls. Popular with hikers and photographers alike, these roaring falls are some of Lassen Park’s most dramatic falls clocking in at around a 40 foot height.
Our weekend was an exercise in last-minute planning. We had other plans that were cancelled in the eleventh-hour, so we decided to make the best of it and do an impromptu trip to Lassen. We packed everything for an overnighter into our car, and headed to the Park in the late afternoon. We weren’t sure if we were going to be able to find a campsite, but we brought our tent, cookware, and meals and headed out.
We were lucky enough to grab one of the last campsites in the Manzanita Lake campground (although in a pinch, we could probably find something in the surrounding forest). We set up a tent to save our spot, paid our dues, picked up some supplies from the Manzanita Lake store, and headed out.
Just to point out – the campground here has plenty of flat spaces, just be aware that it is a public campground so on weekends like this it can be pretty busy. I haven’t camped here before, but I was surprised to see the store bustling with activity as people from all over shopped and picked up souvenirs or snacks.
We headed to the parking area for the Kings Creek Trailhead only to find it absolutely lined with cars. The official parking spots had filled long ago, now cars pulled off the roadway into any available spot to find parking. We made sure we weren’t blocking anything, and joined the crowd.
Despite the high volume of cars at the Trailhead, we didn’t run into too many people. On other trails, such as the hike to Lassen Peak, we were constantly walking past people, around people, or having them pass us. Since we were going so late in the day, there were only a couple of other parties on the trail.
It should be noted too, that while there are typically two trails to the falls, only the Horse Loop is open now due to maintenance on the steeper yet shorter Cascade Section. The slightly longer trail offers incredible, sweeping vistas of the park before dropping down into the valley formed by Kings Creek.
The trail ends at a vista point of Kings Creek Falls. From where we stood at the end of the day, the sun was slung low in the sky, perfectly framed by the trees. There is an unofficial trail down to the base of the falls, and although it seemed most people stay at the well crafted viewing platform.
The water at the bottom is cool and clear, and feels nice on a warm day. The waterfall is an amazing act of transformation – the lazy, meandering, small stream that we drove by and hiked by has metamorphosed into a crashing and cascading waterfall. It is a grand view, and to stand by it’s base is to stand at the very point of transformation. We were not the only one with this idea, as photographers and videographers came to this point, exactly at sunset (another transition) the same as us. True to the unwritten rule, we tried not to step into their photos as they showed us the same courtesy.
The hike back sees a small climb in elevation, but overall the path is well marked and easy to follow.
As the sky turned darker and darker, we returned to our camp for the night. We decided to call it a day for exploring, and we made a little campfire and ate our dinner as we heard guitar songs from a nearby campsite, families talking, and our fire crackling and popping.
The next day, we decided to check out a lake we’ve never been to – Cold Boiling Lake. We headed to the Kings Creek Picnic Area (not to be confused with the Kings Creek Trailhead) first thing in the morning and found the parking lot relatively empty. We were some of the first hikers on this trail, and we did the .7 mile hike with ease.
Following the picturesque trails through the woods, we came to the meadow that surrounded Cold Boiling Lake. Cold Boiling Lake is intriguing, but a muted attraction at the park. Whereas Kings Creek Falls stands tall and shouts its glory as the largest falls in Lassen, Cold Boiling Lake quietly bubbles in a lazy meadow.
The “boiling,” which in truth is little more than several points where bubbles rise to the surface of the otherwise placid lake, is caused by carbon dioxide bubbles escaping the lakebed. The lake is also a stark contrast to the very active thermal areas of Bumpass Hell or (from what I’ve told) Boiling Springs Lake.
We headed back to the car, and into Redding. The trip had been an impromptu mini adventure, and had allowed us to see two new sights of Lassen that we hadn’t seen before. A definite contrast between the two, King’s Creek being the popular and vivacious cousin to the muted and understated Cold Boiling Lake.
Don’t forget that if you go to either of these places, be respectful of both nature and other people, we have to protect the beauty of the world around us.