The Best 10 Hikes in Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park

Kilauea erupting at night
ferrantraite / Getty Images

One of only two national parks found in Hawaii, Volcanoes National Park is a sight you definitely don't want to miss on a trip to Hawaii Island. While Kīlauea, the most active volcano inside the park, is what most visitors come to see, they stay for the numerous hiking trails spread throughout unique volcanic landscapes. Explore 10 of the best hikes in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

01 of 10

Devastation Trail

Devastation Trail, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Yiming Chen / Getty Images

This easy, wheelchair- and stroller-accessible trail begins at either the Pu'upua'i parking lot or the Devastation Trail parking lot off of Crater Rim Drive. Wondering how the hike got its ominous name? The path goes through the section most affected by the Kilauea Iki eruption of 1959. The eruption devastated the area due to falling cinder and lava flow, with hikers taken past the recovering landscapes and presented with a rare opportunity to witness how nature restores itself after a massive volcanic event. The hike is about 1 mile round trip and takes about one hour to complete. The threatened nēnē bird, or Hawaiian goose, frequents this area as well, so be sure to keep your distance if you spot one.

02 of 10

Crater Rim Trail

Hawaii Volcano Crater Rim Trail
Paddy Johnston / Getty Images

The popular Crater Rim Trail spans from Uēkahuna on the north side of the Kilauea Caldera to Keanakako'i Crater on the south side of the park, so you can really make the hike as long or as short as you want. Flat, partially-paved, and easy, this trail goes right past the steam vents and the edge of one of the most active volcanoes on Earth, so it is definitely worth a look. The Crater Rim Trail is also a great place to witness the aftermath of the summit collapse from eruptions that ravaged the national park (and the entire region) in 2018.

03 of 10

Kipukapuaulu Loop Trail

Ferns in the rainforest in Volcanoes National Park
John Elk / Getty Images

An easy hike through rare Hawaiian plants surrounded by a more recent lava flow, also known as a kīpuka, the Kīpukapuaulu Loop Trail serves as important habitat for local flora and fauna to recover after volcanic activity. A sort of forested island in a sea of barren terrain made of volcanic rock, hikers who are passionate about wildlife or botany won’t want to skip this hike. The 1.2-mile loop begins at the Kipukapuaulu parking area and takes about one to 1.5 hours to hike.

04 of 10

Kīlauea Iki

Kilauea Iki Crater in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Yiming Chen / Getty Images

Hiking through the floor of a solidified lava lake doesn’t come easy—the Kīlauea Iki trail is a steep, rocky journey with an initial descent of 400 feet. Of course, once you reach the other side of the crater you’ll have to get back up again, so that means another 400 feet back up. The loop trail starts and ends at the Kīlauea Iki Overlook on Crater Rim Drive, passing initially through a lush rainforest before taking hikers down to the crater floor. It will take about two to three hours to hike the full 4 miles, while its steps, switchbacks, and climbs earn it a moderate to difficult rating.

Continue to 5 of 10 below.
05 of 10

Maunaiki Trail

Footprints in the volcanic ash in Volcanoes National Park
Donald A. Swanson of U.S. Geological Survey Hawaiian Volcano Observatory / Wikimedia Commons

This backcountry day hike is located in the harsh landscape of the Ka'ū Desert, where volcanic events inside the Halema'umau crater covered the area in ash in 1790. Amazingly enough, the story goes that a group of Native Hawaiians was traveling through this part of the desert when the ashfall was fresh, leaving behind footprints that are still preserved to this day. The footprints are visible after an easy 0.8-mile hike starting from the Ka'ū Desert Trailhead off Highway 11, but more experienced hikers can also choose to continue to Maunaiki or to the trailhead at Hilina Pali Road (making the hike 1.8 miles or 7.0 miles, respectively).

06 of 10

Palm Trail

Volcanoes National Park Kahuku Unit
Alison Steiner / Getty Images

Part of the 116,000-acre Kahuku Unit of the park added in 2003, the Palm Trail is one of several new hikes to open while the section is still in its development state. Once a historic cattle ranch, the newest section has a grassy landscape that differs greatly from the coarse setting making up the older part of the park. At 2.6 miles, the Palm Trail is the longest in the Kahuku Unit and with a 310-foot gain in elevation, it also provides some incredible island views. In addition to traversing through the old pasturelands, the hike also passes fissures created by the 1868 Ka'ū eruption.

07 of 10

Halema'uma'u Trail

Halemaumau Trail
Rob Tilley / Getty Images

Starting at the Crater Rim Trail at the visitors center and ending at the floor of the Kaluapele (Kīlauea Caldera), this moderate 1.8-mile round trip hike can be combined with Byron Ledge, Kīlauea Iki, or Nāhuku for a longer experience. It starts by descending into a rainforest and eventually takes hikers as close as they can get to Halema'uma'u Crater before turning around. Between 1865 and 1924, this part of the park almost always held a lake of molten lava.

08 of 10

Nāhuku (Thurston Lava Tube)

Thurston Lava Tube
Robert Holmes / Getty Images

This short 0.33-mile walk goes through a 500-year-old lava tube tucked inside a dense rainforest. The floor of the tube, which was originally formed by a river of lava clocking in at 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, is paved and the opening is found within walking distance of a limited parking lot along Crater Rim Drive. While hikers can park in the lot and explore the tube on its own as a quick stop while driving around the park, it is also possible to combine it with a 1.5-mile round trip hike from the Kīlauea Iki Overlook or a 6-mile hike from the Devastation Trailhead. The lava tube itself is only lit from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day, so if you go outside those hours you’ll be greeted by a potentially dangerous, pitch-black tunnel.

Continue to 9 of 10 below.
09 of 10

Byron Ledge Trail

Hikiers walking along a volcanic hiking trail with shrubs growing on either side

NPS Photo / Janice Wei

Also known as Uēaloha, the Byron Ledge Trail separates Kīlauea caldera from the Kīlauea Iki crater and offers some of the best views of the Pu'upua'i cinder cone. Begin at the Devastation Trailhead and hike the moderate 1.1 miles to the intersection of the Kīlauea Iki trail, where you can continue for a longer hike or connect with the Nāhuku Lava Tube. Feral pigs and Hawaiian nēnē birds are commonly spotted in this area as well.

10 of 10

Maunaulu

The active crater of Mauna Ulu
Image by Nonac_Digi for the Green Man / Getty Images

This hike goes through a lava field from the 1969-1974 Maunaulu flow before climbing 210 feet to the top of the Pu'uhuluhulu cinder cone, providing views of Mauna Loa, Mauna Kea, and the Pacific Ocean. It spans about 2.5 miles roundtrip starting 100 yards from the Maunaulu parking area (look for the ahu, or stacked rocks, marking the trailhead). The hike is rated as moderate due to the final quarter-mile trek to the top of the forested cone, but the rest of the trail is relatively easy and flat. Hikers are urged to be respectful and refrain from touching the fragile lava rock formations here.

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