- Plan your trip so you can reach the end of the Chain of Craters Rd. with enough sunlight. Leave the crater and the Thurston Lava Tube to the end.
- Rent a convertible JEEP or other all-terrain vehicle for easy off-road travel.
- Stop by the visitor center to ask about lava flows for that day.
- Carry a flashlight.
- Wear comfortable shoes and clothes.
- Pack snacks and water. There aren't any restaurants, shops or gas stations inside the park.
The park rangers at the visitor center are very very nice and informative. They answered all our questions very patiently and joked around with us. If you want a map of the park, information about the lava flow and some tips, stop by the visitor center.
We spent a full day at this park, there is a lot of driving to do to go from one attraction point to the other, but the drive is nice, interesting and very enjoyable. We rented a convertible. Having the top down allowed us to enjoy the trip and the cool breeze even more.
The scenery that you encounter at the Chain of Craters Rd is pretty unique. As you plan your trip, keep in mind that you might be tempted to stop at several places to enjoy the amazing views and walk over dry lava, so give yourself plenty of time. It is pretty interesting to feel its texture, fragility and the sounds that it makes. You might see stem and, if you are lucky enough, some lava flow!.
There are several overlooks where you can stop to see the panoramic views, each gives you a different perspective. You can appreciate the path of destruction that the lava left in its way to the coast. At the coast, you can find an interesting lava formation that looks like an arc.
Once you reach the end of the Chain of Craters Rd, be prepared for some walking if you want to see where the road was blocked by lava. It's about 15 minutes each way, but that's something that you probably won't see anywhere else. It's definitely worthwhile.
The closest place for tourists to observe the volcano is from the Jaggar museum. Once that it gets dark, the volcano gets even more interesting!. Daylight provides a good view of the terrain and the column of smoke produced by the volcano, but it's at night that the vibrant red color of the lava reflects on the smoke and it makes it seem even more dramatic. If you are at the park, you shouldn't miss this view at night!
The lava tube is also more enjoyable at night. It isn't as crowded and the artificial lighting adds a nice touch. The path from the parking lot to the lava tube is well maintained, but is not illuminated. Here is where your flashlight can be really really handy. It would be nearly impossible to find your way without some light. We made this walk at night, we felt pretty safe as there were few other tourists exploring the area, but at the same time it felt peaceful.
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