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Kīlauea Iki Trail

Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park

Big Island, Hawai'i

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Kīlauea Iki Trail

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  • The Kīlauea Iki Crater visible from the lookout at the beginning of the hike.- Kīlauea Iki Trail
  • The route begins at the rim of the crater and works its way down, so some sections of trail are reinforced with stairs.- Kīlauea Iki Trail
  • Signs throughout the hike inform visitors about the native flora along with the history of the eruption.- Kīlauea Iki Trail
  • A glimpse of the massive Kīlauea Iki Crater through the dense jungle that surrounds it.- Kīlauea Iki Trail
  • Descending into the crater along the Kīlauea Iki Trail.- Kīlauea Iki Trail
  • The surface of the crater is the crust of a lava lake.- Kīlauea Iki Trail
  • Fiddlehead ferns are ubiquitous around the crater.- Kīlauea Iki Trail
  • Dense forests surround the crater creating a wall of vegetation that the trail skirts and tunnels through. - Kīlauea Iki Trail
  • The first sign of the eruption in 1959 came from the vent at the base of Pu'u Pua'i. As the vent became partially obstructed with debris, pressure increased and eruptions grew to tremendous heights.- Kīlauea Iki Trail
  • A clear line of demarcation exists where the volcanic activity destroyed the forest.- Kīlauea Iki Trail
  • It is possible to hike to the Kīlaeua Iki Trail from the visitor center.- Kīlauea Iki Trail
  • Junctions are well signed.- Kīlauea Iki Trail
  • Dense forest and an annihilated landscape along the Kīlaeua Iki Trail. - Kīlauea Iki Trail
  • Unidentified species (help us identify it by providing feedback).- Kīlauea Iki Trail
  • Uluhe fern.- Kīlauea Iki Trail
  • Individual hikers can appear dwarfed by the enormous crater.- Kīlauea Iki Trail
  • Hikers entering the Kīlaeua Iki Crater.- Kīlauea Iki Trail
  • The bathtub ring, or a lava subsidence terrace, marks the limit of the lava lake.- Kīlauea Iki Trail
  • Sulfurous deposits on chunks of lava in the crater.- Kīlauea Iki Trail
  • Hiking through the Kīlaeua Iki Crater.- Kīlauea Iki Trail
  • Sections of the lava almost appear braided.- Kīlauea Iki Trail
  • Everything about the crater feels enormous once you are in it. Percolating lava bubbled and solidified in giant mounds.- Kīlauea Iki Trail
  • The hole in the earth here is the main vent that erupted in 1959.- Kīlauea Iki Trail
  • The trail is marked with cairns as you cross the surface of the crater.- Kīlauea Iki Trail
  • Collapses in the lake's crust account for long fissures like this.- Kīlauea Iki Trail
  • A 'ōhi'a lehua flower blooms in the Kīlaeua Iki Crater.- Kīlauea Iki Trail
  • The climb back up out of the crater toward the Thurston Lava Tube.- Kīlauea Iki Trail
  • Back along the rim the trail becomes much busier, and short sections near the lava tube are paved.- Kīlauea Iki Trail
  • - Kīlauea Iki Trail
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Big views. Lush forest. Informative. Intimate perspective on an eruption.
Cons: 
Steep or jagged sections. Crowds. Can get hot.
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Region:
Big Island, HI
Congestion: 
High
Pets allowed: 
No
Net Elevation Gain: 
400.00 ft (121.92 m)
Parking Pass: 
National Park Pass
Preferable Season(s):
Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
Total Distance: 
4.00 mi (6.44 km)
Trail type: 
Loop
Trailhead Elevation: 
3,867.00 ft (1,178.66 m)
Current Local Weather:
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Hike Description

Hike Description

Team

The Kīlaeua Iki Trail is one of the standout hikes in Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, and it should be a priority for anyone who can manage it. The stunning 4-mile loop begins 400 feet above the Kīlaeua Iki Crater and steadily drops all the way down into the base, then crosses the surface of the lava lake before climbing back out toward the Thurston Lava Tube and returning to the crater overlook and point of origin. Along the way visitors will enjoy sweeping views of the crater and beyond along with more intimate encounters with the dense flora that surrounds the crater and the jagged and fractured lava formations themselves.

The Kīlaeua Iki eruption began on November 14, 1959, emanating from a vent that is easily visible from the overlook. Seventeen successive eruptions occurred over the next five weeks, spilling so much lava into the crater's surface that the original vent became buried. As the debris around the vent shifted and morphed, eruptive pressure at the vent increased, resulting in a lava fountain that became the highest ever recorded in Hawai'i. For reference, the peak 1,900-foot-high burst was roughly twice as tall as the Eiffel Tower. Lava spewed all around the crater rim, annihilating the surrounding forest. Down in the crater itself, more than 84 million gallons of lava surged up over the course of the 17 eruptions, and the lake depth grew by 400 feet. 

Standing in the middle of the crater, it is impossible not to feel completely dwarfed by these terrestrial dynamics. The trail winds around and over enormous rifts caused by the crustal overturning of the lake, and you are forced to carefully step and scamper over the rough terrain like an ant over gravel. That said, the trail is relatively easy to negotiate; you'll just have to go slowly and use caution in some places.

Come prepared with plenty of water and sun protection for this hike, and always check in at the visitor center about the air quality if you have breathing issues. The Kīlaeua Iki Trail is one of the more popular hikes in the park, so arrive early and mid-week to avoid peak crowds. Expect to see plenty of people around the rim and the Thurston Lava Tube, regardless. But don't let that change your experience here; this will likely be an unforgettable hike in your visit to Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park.

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(3 within a 30 mile radius)

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