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Bathtub Lakes

Lassen Volcanic National Park

July 28th, 2007

1.0 miles
240 vertical feet
Total Time: 2:41

Rating: 5/10

Directions: From Manzanita Lake area of Lassen, take Highway 89 north. Turn right onto Highway 44 just past Old Station. After 11 or 12 miles, turn right onto road signed for the Butte Lake campground. From there, it's about 6.5 miles along a gravel road. The road is mostly flat and in decent condition for being gravel. Park in the day use area on the left. The trailhead is in the far left corner of the parking lot.   View Driving Map

As we were driving along the gravel road toward the trailhead, my nearly 4-year old son said cheerily "we're doomed!" Not exactly what I want to hear while I'm bouncing along a seemingly deserted road. Don't let a 4-year old deter you from the drive, however; it's pretty easy. On the other hand, I can't really recommend this hike.

The trailhead parking lot is right next to large Butte Lake, where people staying at the adjacent Butte Lake campground probably enjoy boating and swimming. We, on the other hand, headed up the sandy trail toward Bathtub Lakes. The trail begins climbing immediately, through a sparse forest that shows signs of a relatively recent forest fire. Even without the fire, it looks like trees may have a hard time growing here because of the sandy nature of the ground. Perhaps the nearby Fantastic Lava Beds has something to do with it. Nearby Cinder Cone spewed out the Fantastic Lava Beds hundreds of years ago. The lava beds now reach the edge of Butte Lake, and it doesn't look like anything grows on them.

Heading up the trail

So uphill we climbed through the sparse forest, to a ridge overlooking the first Bathtub Lake below. It didn't look like much, so we continued on the trail in hopes of finding a more inviting second lake. It wasn't to be. We followed the trail as it headed downhill, then saw the second lake on the left. We made the short walk over, only to find that grasses surrounded all sides of the lake.

First Bathtub Lake

Second Bathtub Lake

Second Bathtub Lake

We retraced our steps, heading back up the hill and then turning left to head down to the shore of the first lake. We walked around to the opposite shore to find a partially shaded spot. We stopped here to rest for quite some time, which explains the duration of this hike. You could probably do the entire hike in about a half hour, but we stayed at the lake for nearly 2 hours for some unknown reason. We had lunch, then tried walking into the lake. Unfortunately, the edge of the lake is very muddy. Even with my Tevas on, my feet sank, wrapping my feet and sandals in mud. Yuck. I couldn't even find a spot to rinse them off afterwards.

First Bathtub Lake

That's a cabana, not a tent in case you're wondering. Notice the fire-damaged trees.

Strangely, while we were there, we saw a group of 8-10 people walk into the lake on the other side and actually start swimming. Or some approximation of swimming in the shallow water. I'm not quite sure why they didn't just swim in Butte Lake instead. I have to say that Bathtub Lakes were two of the most disappointing alpine lakes I've ever been to. No nice shady areas, no rocky places to enter the lake, and no views to speak of.

Swimmers in the lake

Eventually, we packed up and headed back to the trail and returned to the parking lot. While I can't recommend the hike, I do hope to return someday to do the hike to nearby Cinder Cone. I fully expect to enjoy that hike, in contrast to Bathtub Lakes.

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