Road Trip From Medford to Reno Via Lassen
August 26, 2014 6:34 AM   Subscribe

We are driving from Medford, OR to Reno, NV with a stop at Lassen Volcanic area in two weeks. I was curious about the roads between these places.

We are driving from Medford, OR to Reno, NV with a stop at Lassen Volcanic area in two weeks. I was curious about the roads between these places. Is it a white knuckle trip with steep drop offs? I expect it be windy based on the maps. But that doesn't tell me about the roads. Do I want to drive at night from Lassen to Reno?
posted by bodgy to Travel & Transportation (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
When I was in my teens we'd drive Redding to Bridgeport, CA (via Reno) frequently. It was a snap. I did it plenty of times alone as a teen in my dodgy little Beetle. Lassen to Reno will be 36 to Susanville, then you'll hit 395, which is flat, straight, and easy all the way to the Biggest Little City.

I wouldn't worry about driving at night.
posted by notyou at 6:45 AM on August 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Your route would take you down I-5, exit to 89 in Mt. Shasta, take that to the north entrance of Lassen. The rest depends on what you want to do in Lassen.

Up by the north entrance, you have Manzanita Lake (beautiful!), the Devestated Area (the aftermath of the 1913 eruption), and Summit Lake (also beautiful, but I prefer Manzanita). You could just stick with the north end of the park, then take 44 to Susanville, and 395 to Reno, but you'd miss the neat stuff at the south end of the park.

Down south, you have some beautiful meadow hikes, a couple of gorgeous high altitude lakes, and Bumpass Hell/Sulfur Works, which are both really neat if you want to see some geothermal action.

Highway 89 takes you from the north entrance to the south entrance, and all of the stops mentioned above are accessed from 89. The 20-something-mile drive through the park is absolutely gorgeous, but slow and windy. To me, though -- a sometimes-nervous driver -- it's never scary. You don't want to do it at night, not because it's dangerous, but because you'd miss the scenery.

If you do take the Lassen road, you'd head out the south entrance (exit?) and take 36 towards Chester and Susanville, then take 395 down to Reno. Highway 36 is pretty, but not at all challenging. 395 between Susanville and Reno is one of the straightest, flattest, boringest drives in California. You won't miss anything by doing that stretch at night, and there is no inherent danger.

Wind won't be a problem on any of those roadways EXCEPT 395 -- not even in Lassen. Because 395 is in a big valley, they often have pretty fierce winds. Sometimes the road even shuts down, but more often they just limit truck/RV traffic.
posted by mudpuppie at 8:40 AM on August 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

36 between I-5 and Susanville can be a bit windy in spots, but nothing too white-knuckle, especially if you're going uphill. But man that drive from Susanville to Reno is soooooo boring. If you're driving it at night it won't be as mind-numbing, but watch out for deer.

If you end up driving it in the day (like maybe you visited Lassen and then decided to stay the night nearby in Chester or Lake Almanor or something) and you're not in a hurry then I suggest taking 89 south from 36, right before Lake Almanor, then turn east on 70 through Portola, then south on 395. Bonus: This route means you miss Susanville completely.

I'm actually going to Susanville tomorrow and I'm going to take 89 to avoid burner traffic and for some nicer scenery.
posted by elsietheeel at 8:42 AM on August 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Okay, I am going to reiterate the deer thing. Seriously. Watch out for deer. We were only ever on 36 during the day but I still saw 6 deer just hanging out next to the road, eating. Also one coyote. Weird.

Also Mom and I went to Lassen for the afternoon last Thursday and I will say absolutely enter from the north and head south.

My mom has often told me how my grandma, who is deathly afraid of heights, sobbed through an entire weekend trip to Lassen in the mid-60s. Mom said she would have likely been all right had they not come in through the south entrance. I understood what she meant last week when the initial ascent toward Lassen Peak had us on the cliff side of a very windy road with no guardrail.

I took lots of pictures and then texted them to grandma, who is now 91 and uses her iPhone like a champ. She was not amused.

Anyway, the hike to Bumpass Hell is pretty easy, especially given the great payoff. Kings Creek Picnic Area was a nice quiet place to have lunch as well.

And again, if you can afford to take an extra and do the drive from Lassen to Reno in the day? Stay the night in Chester, eat breakfast at the Old Mill Cafe in Westwood, then drive south on 89 through Greenville and Quincy. Totally worth it.
posted by elsietheeel at 6:43 PM on September 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

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