The Spencer Meadow hike is an excellent option for people interested in seeing the landscapes of the Lassen Volcanic National Park with a dog by their side. While the national park doesn't allow dogs on its trails, the Lassen National Forest does, and this particular National Forest trail is located right outside of the national park. Note that GPS might not take you to the right spot on Highway 36. The best way to find the trailhead is to look about a quarter-mile south of The Village at Childs Meadow and the Highlands Ranch Resort.
The Spencer Meadow Loop ends at a lower elevation than other nearby trails, making it a good option for a snow-free hike at the times of year when other routes are covered by snow. That said, you'll still be climbing nearly 1700 feet from start to end on the Spencer Meadow Trail, making this a fairly challenging hike. You'll be rewarded for your efforts with beautiful views of alpine meadows crossed by gently flowing creeks and conifers clinging to chiseled rock faces. Most spectacularly, the Spencer Meadow Trail passes by the fifty-foot Canyon Creek waterfall and views of Lassen Park landmarks like Brokeoff Peak and Lassen Peak.
You'll enjoy these majestic sights and the abundant local flora and fauna in relative solitude on this hidden gem of a trail. The forests feature a mix of aspen, Ponderosa pine, white fir, black oak, sugar pine, and incense cedar. Bald eagles and ospreys soar overhead while black bears, American marten, mountain lions, and mule deer roam through the forest. Smaller critters likely to capture curious canines' attention include different species of rabbits, squirrels, and chipmunks. If you're lucky, you might spot an adorable pika, or "rock rabbit," scampering across some boulders.
Plan your hike here carefully as it will take the better part of a day even for a relatively well-conditioned hiker. It's not a bad idea to bring camping gear along. Backcountry camping is allowed in the Lassen National Forest and there is a designated campsite near the end of the loop in Spencer Meadow. What better way to end your day than giving your good dog some pets while the sun sets behind the peaks?