A moderate one- or two-day hike in the middle of Lassen Volcanic National Park, the Twin Lakes Loop explores mixed forests and elevated lakes in this distinctive terrain. Though the hike does not show off dramatic volcanism such as Bumpass Hell or the exploded summit of Lassen Peak, Lassen's dynamic geological underpinnings are infused into the entire landscape. Lassen is not like the great sea of Sierra Nevada granite; it is a raw land of turmoil and crunchy remnants of lava flows. The landscape feels almost jittery, as if still on edge from the great 1915 eruption of Lassen Peak.
The Twin Lakes Loop starts at the Summit Lake picnic area and travels east to the lakes, where most backpackers stop to camp. Campsites are plentiful, and the stars are spectacular for those willing to stay up and wait for darkness. After leaving the lakes in the morning, the trail joins the PCT and turns back south and west and returns to the trailhead. The PCT section of the hike passes through meadows, forests and burn scars and includes a handful of stream crossings. If you have never set foot on the PCT before, it's a nice intro and an easy way to make a personal connection to the famous trail.
Lassen Volcanic National Park was established in 1916, combining Cinder Cone National Monument and Lassen Peak National Monument. As the name suggests, the main event in the park is its history of volcanism, including surface geothermal activity, swaths of eruption devastation and peaks formed by volcanic ejections. Lassen is not a particularly big national park, and many of its classic attractions can be experienced in a couple of days. For many visitors, the Twin Lakes Loop could add a pleasant night in the backcountry to a tour of the park.