Located on the Big Island of Hawai’i, this unique national park delivers insight into the birth of the Hawaiian Islands. The park is home to 2 active volcanoes: Kīlauea and Mauna Loa. In May of 2018, explosive eruptions occurred at Halema`uma`u, the summit crater of Kīlauea Volcano. Parts of the park including the Kīlauea Summit Trails remain closed and unfortunately, will likely be damaged for the foreseeable future. It could take 100-150 years before the vegetation and flora to return to the lava stricken landscape. If planning a trip to the Big Island, be sure to check the park’s website to see what areas are open to the public. The 5 best hikes in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park are listed below and hopefully, one day, will open once again. Official Website.
One of the best hikes in Hawai’i is this incredible trail that hikers can walk across a once-molten lake of lava in Kīlauea Iki Crater. The trail descends through a lush rainforest before Pu’u Pua’i cinder cone which was the main vent of the 1959 eruption. After walking across the solid lake surface, you will loop back near Thurston Lava Tube. This cave-like feature formed from the lava flow is definitely worth the short walk. The trailhead is located at a parking area on Crater Rim Drive.
- 4.0 miles – Loop
- 400′ gain
This trail passes vast lava fields, fissures, and flows. The flow that took place from 1969-1974 changed the landscape forever burning everything in its path. Lava tree molds, cinder cones, and views of surrounding volcanoes all highlight this trail. The trailhead is off of Chain of Craters Road, 7 miles from the Visitor Center.
- 2.5 miles – Out and back
- 200′ gain
500+ year old petroglyphs scatter the lava field allowing visitors a chance to imagine what life was like for the ancient Hawaiian people. There are some 23,000 “ki’i pohaku” in the area. Don’t wander off the boardwalk as they are very fragile. The trailhead can be found off of Chain of Craters Road near the coast.
- 1.4 miles – Out and back
- No elevation gain
Easy loop walk through a very old closed canopy forest. There is an abundance of diverse tree species as well as rare plants and birds. Be aware that the sulphur gasses can be dangerous for those with heart and respiratory conditions. The trailhead can be found on Mauna Loa Road, 5 miles from the Visitor Center.
- 1.2 miles – Loop
- 150′ gain
Easy, paved path that highlights the total destruction of the 1959 eruption. The area is still under recovery and it is amazing to see the process in action. The trail is easy enough for the whole family to enjoy. The trailhead is located off of Crater Rim Road.
- 1.0 miles – Out and back
- 50′ gain