The Ridge Lakes area offers a serene winter camping experience in a beautiful Cascade alpine setting. Whether out on a snowshoe or backcountry ski adventure, Ridge Lakes provides an ideal base camp from which to explore the Lassen Volcanic National Park winter wilderness. Nestled in at 8,000 feet, the area is within easy striking distance of the Mount Diller-Pilot Pinnacle saddle and many of the surrounding Lassen peaklets.
To access Ridge Lakes, enter the park at the southwest entrance, leaving your car at the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center. The National Park Service keeps the visitor center restrooms and drinking water available throughout the year. From the visitor center take the easy going Lassen Park Road heading toward Sulfur Works. Popular with cross-country skiers and snowshoers, the park highway remains unplowed and closed to vehicles during the winter.
Follow the Lassen Park Road for about a mile to the Sulphur Works parking area located on the east side of West Sulphur Creek. The Ridge Lakes summer trail begins here. The winter trail more or less follows the same route. As you head up the drainage, stay right of the creek and keep the summit of Mount Diller slightly to your right when it periodically comes into view. You may encounter a creek crossing depending on snowpack depth, but often the creek will be buried under snow at higher elevations.
After another mile and 1,000 feet of climbing you'll reach Ridge Lakes basin. In choosing a campsite, you may find some additional shelter by setting up next to one of the tree stands toward Mount Diller; just make sure your camp is clear of any avalanche terrain traps. Ridge Lakes are frozen throughout the winter, so bring plenty of fuel to melt snow for drinking water.
If you are up there working for turns, you'll find plenty of descent options around Mount Diller and Pilot Pinnacle.
Winter backcountry adventures can be dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant risks as conditions affecting safety (i.e. weather, snowpack stability, avalanche hazard) are constantly changing. Prior to engaging in these activities each individual should get the proper training to make safe decisions and be equipped to use avalanche safety resources and tools. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more.