Hike a Volcano
Due to a new volcano eruption starting on May 3, 2018, the entire lava landscape of Hawaii Island is forever changed. A park closure remains in effect for the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The following article remains as an archive.
Hiking in Volcanoes National Park is not your garden variety wilderness trek. This is lava land, a national park that features a live volcano and all the daily uncertainties of nature unleashed. The 333,000-acre park, on the slopes of Mauna Loa, is a trekker’s paradise. Pick a trail through a lava field, around the smoldering Kilauea caldera, on the hot seacoast of Puna and Ka’u, or in the cold, thin air at the 13,677-foot summit of Mauna Loa.
Trails circle the two-mile wide, lava-lake expanse of Kilauea’s caldera. The Sulphur Banks Loop is an easy 1-hour trip through an otherworldly landscape of bright yellow sulfur deposits and numerous steam vents. The Kilauea Iki (“Little Kilauea”) Loop, crosses the scene of the famous 1959 eruption in which a lava fountain at one point reached 1,900 feet. This 4-mile trail is harder, and takes nearly three hours for the loop. The Halema’uma’u-Byron Ledge Loop is a harder 4-hour hike, which descends to the caldera’s floor.
The longest loop is the Crater Rim Trail, the grand tour of Hawaiian volcanism. The 11.6-mile trip takes about 8 hours on a fairly level trail around the huge Kilauea Caldera, past lava, cinders, steam vents, rifts, craters, tree molds, a lava tube, and views of past devastation and struggling new life.
In the coastal region, an easy and well-traveled hike is the Pu’u Loa Petroglyphs Trail. Check with the Park Service for hiking information to active lava flows as well as areas that may be closed due to dangerous conditions. Park rangers can also provide information about the more challenging overnight hikes in the coastal region and Southwest and East Rift Zones.
Moana Loa, the huge volcano that towers over Kilauea, offers challenging hikes that require fortitude, proper equipment, and planning. If you don’t want to hike alone, there are companies that will provide guides.
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