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Kilauea Craters Trail, Hawaii Volcanoes NP

Hiking inside the desolate crater of possibly the world's most active volcano.

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Rating: 5 out of 5 by EveryTrail members
Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 8.5 miles
Duration: Full day

Overview:  The volcanic activity that created the Hawaiian island chain hasn't yet finished working on what's know as the 'Big Island' called... more »

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Points of Interest

1. Trailhead

The Thurston Lava Tubes parking lot is an ideal location to begin this hike, and if you have enough time we recommend a detour to the lava tubes across the road also.

Walk into lush dense woodland to begin your hike of the craters. Our route initially traces the Northern flanks of the smaller of the two Kilauea craters.

2. Kilauea Iki Crater

The trail that skirts the rim of the Kilauea Iki Crater rewards with views of this surreal bowl-like feature.

The lava exposed at the surface here is from around 1954, meaning there has been time for half a century worth of hiking boots to define a trail across it's surface which should be plain to see. This will be part of the last leg of our... More

3. [JCT] Take the left (downhill) fork

Leave the Crater Rim Trail behind and downhill towards the Kilauea Caldera proper.

4. [JCT] Take a right turn

At this T-junction bear right and take a few more steps onto the lava surface inside the caldera of one of the most active volcanoes on the planet.

5. [JCT] Turn left onto Halema'uma'u Trail

At this point the route should be quite obvious despite the fact that you're walking on solid rock. Head out into the wide desolate expanse of the lava beds and across a lava flow that was created in 1974.

6. Lava Flows before 1924

Spot the contrast in terrain here? Up until now you've been hiking on a lava flow that was formed in 1974, but now you're on a much older pre-1924 lava bed.

Here you'll begin to see increasing evidence of life taking hold again with occasional flourishes of green and even the occasional flower!

7. [JCT] with Byron Ledge Trail

Make a note of this point, which is where we'll be departing from the trail on our return from our side-trip to Halema'uma'u Crater.

Local lore tells us that Kilauea is the home of the legendary volcano goddess called Pele. Offerings are left by the side of Halema'uma'u Crater to appease her.

In recent years this half-a-mile wide crater-within-a-crater has begun to see renewed activity. Vents of steam and sulfur have accelerated and explosions of ash and debris rocked the... More

9. [JCT] Take a right towards Kilauea Iki

Back in the forest it's in some ways a relief to be back on a more conventional trail. Enjoy the color of the foliage here, before we head into another crater.

10. [JCT] Right turn into Kilauea Iki Crater

The final 2.4 mile stretch along the Kilauea Iki Trail takes us across more lava beds, initially rough in terrain but smoothing out over time.

This lava surface may not have seen much action recently, but the smell of sulfur tells a different story. Stick to the trail, complete the switchbacks to exit the crater and soon you'll be back at the ... More