Drop into a Caldera
Where else in the country can you dayhike from a tropical rainforest dripping with life to a scorched and barren lava field? This four-mile loop hits you with the best of both extremes, winding through thick vegetation before descending 400 feet into a steaming crater. From the Kilauea Iki Overlook, 30 miles south of Hilo, head right onto the Kilauea Iki Trail. In just over a mile, the trail descends black-rock slabs to the crater's flat, crunchy bottom. This 1.5-mile section is smooth, with buckled lava flow flanking the sides. You'll pass the source of the highest recorded lava fountain in Hawaii's history, 1,900 feet in 1959, as you close the loop.
See the Newest Explosions
The Halemaumau Crater exploded last March for the first time since 1924; survey the aftermath on a five-mile out-and-back. From the Kilauea Visitor Center, cross Crater Rim Drive and hang a right onto Crater Rim Trail to cruise through pointed ferns and red tufted ohia trees. One mile in, steam billows upward from the fractured earth, the air hot enough to fog sunglasses. Continue 1.2 miles to the Jaggar Museum overlook to watch plumes rise from Halemaumau, the fabled home of the Hawaiian fire goddess, Pele. A white cloud, evidence of a lava pond deep below the vent's rim, often billows a mile high before arcing in the wind.
Trek to a Remote Crater
The volcanic vent Puu Oo has erupted continuously since 1983, making it the most active fissure in Kilauea Volcano in 600 years. Stop at the Kilauea Visitor Center for a Napau Trail permit (free). The 14-mile round-trip starts atop a 1974 lava flow. Eerie remnants like contorted trees and channels linger where lava once gushed. At .75 mile, ascend the Puu Huluhulu cinder cone for views of three volcanoes–Kilauea, Mauna Kea, and Mauna Loa. As you curve around the Makaopuhi Crater, ferns and rosy ohelo berries brighten the landscape. Backtrack after watching the steam show at fuming Puu Oo Vent at the Napau Crater overlook.
Contact:NPS.GOV/HAVO, (808) 985-6000
Photo Coordinates: UTML 5Q 0274426E 2143537N (WGS 84)