Lake Helen at Lassen Volcanic National Park, much like Emerald Lake (which is just below it), is still covered with a thin sheet of ice even though it’s the middle of August. In fact, it has quite a bit more ice than Emerald Lake:
Lake Helen can be seen both from the Main Park Road and while on Bumpass Pass trail, but with all the snow it was a bit too dangerous for me to go down to the lake edge (there are a lot of “thin ice” hazard warning signs all around) since in many areas it’s difficult to tell where the snow on the ground ends and the thin lake ice begins. I’m sure this is another beautiful lake with crystal clear water that delivers a magnificent reflective photo opportunity when all the snow is gone and the sky is blue and I hope I get a chance to get back in the near future to see it this way as well.
Although most of the trails at Lassen Volcanic National Park remained closed to hiking due to an abundance of snow, that doesn’t mean that you should avoid visiting the park. The short 2 mile hike around Manzanita Lake in itself makes a trip worth it. It would be a beautiful hike any time of year, but it’s especially so now with snow capped peaks in the distance.
Upon entering the park from the Manzanita Lake park entrance, you immediately see Manzanita Lake on your right. There is parking on the right side of the road so that you can begin the hike immediately if you are so inclined. I would recommend driving to the visitors center about a quarter mile past the entrance so you can ask the park volunteers any questions you may have first. Then you can hop on the trail by taking a path directly behind the visitors center which leads to the Manzanita Lake loop trail.
One of the assets of this hike is that the view of the lake change quite dramatically as you circle it. There are definitely some gorgeous views with Mount Lassen and Chaos Crags in the background:
There were quite a few people on the lake fishing (you can rent boats on the side of the lake). For those who enjoy photography, there are plenty of interesting shape and light opportunities around each bend:
Even after the trails in other areas of the park open up, this short hike is well worth making time to do. For those interested, here are more photos from the hike.