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Patrick Nichols | 01.12.2018

Volcanoes are probably the most magnificent geological phenomena, with the Hawaiian Archipelago being a famous location where one can witness the creation of new earth firsthand. The Big Island of Hawai'i is home to Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, as well as some of the largest volcanoes in the world, with the most active lava flows consistently forming new land. Hawaiians believe that Pele, the goddess of fire, lives in the Halema'uma'a Crater at the summit of Kilauea and at heart of the national park. From there she sends rivers of fiery lava down to meet the sea, an event well worth seeing from the safety of the nearby cliffs. 

The park is a playground for hikers, bikers, photographers, and geology buffs alike, bringing in almost 2 million visitors annually. The dramatic volcanic landscapes are interspersed with diverse flora and fauna, making any visit a memorable one! Be sure to check out some of the best day hikes for some truly amazing experiences in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park!

Also, please note that areas may be suddenly closed due to hazards from lava flows, earthquakes, or noxious gasses, not to mention closures to protect wildlife. For more up-to-date information on closures, visit the National Park Service homepage.

For the whole family

  • Jaggar Museum and Overlook: This short walk to the Jaggar Museum and Overlook is one of the few places where the entire family can see the deep red glow of lava in the nearby Halema'uma'a Crater. For the best views of the lava glow, be sure to head over for just after sunset!
  • Thurston Lava Tube (Nāhuku): This easily-accessible lava tube is a popular destination within the park, offering a quick stroll through a paved and well-lit cave formed several hundred years ago. The trail is short and also features a tree-fern forest.
  • Sulphur Banks: Vents along this flat trail spew volcanic gasses and hot steam, creating an eerie and prehistoric feel along the trail. The unusual mineral deposits as well as the unique grassy habitat make for an interesting side excursion.
  • Devastation Trail: This 1-mile round-trip paved trail leads to the cinder cone remnants of the 1959 eruption of Kīlauea Iki. From here hikers have amazing views of the crater itself, plus a variety of native and invasive plant species still recovering from the blast.

For the more adventurous

  • Keanakāko'i Crater: Perhaps less popular than the Devastation Trail, Keanakāko'i Crater offers a quintessential experience into the turbulent vulcanism that created the Hawaiian Islands. Hike a mile to the picturesque overlook of a deep crater near to the summit of Kilauea.
  • Kīlauea Iki Crater: This 4-mile hike is a little more strenuous than some of the others, leading from the crater rim all the way down to the crater floor. Here hikers can experience the diverse ecosystems, from the lush fern forest, to the barren crater surface, which feels much more like the surface of the moon! Come prepared with plenty of water and good shoes.
  • Kalapana Lava Flow: This roughly 10-mile round-trip hike or bike leads to the lava entry point into the ocean, where plumes of steam and the intense glow of lava can be easily seen from a safe distance. The trail follows Chain of Craters, a flat, gravely, and exposed coastal road that traverses some of the newest ground still being created. Bring lights and plan to see the lava just after sunset for the best viewing experience! 


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