Hawaii Volcanoes National Park celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2016. Celebrating the park’s unique history, diverse ecology, and changing landscape will be top of the list for rangers and visitors this year. So will hiking the Kilauea Iki trail.
One of the most popular trails in the park and USA Today’s “Best National Park Hikes of 2015,” the Kilauea Iki trail has something for every hiker. The 4-mile trail winds through dense Hawaiian rain forest along the rim of Kilauea Iki Crater before descending 400 feet to the hardened crater floor of the still steaming volcano. Kilauea Iki began spewing lava in November 1959, for the next 5 weeks more than 80 million tons of lava flooded the crater 400 feet deep with molten rock.
The hike now crosses the cooled lava lake allowing travelers to walk through steam vents, cracks and miles of volcanic rock in different forms. It’s an unforgettable experience you’ll find nowhere else in the National Park System.
Planning Your Visit to The Kilauea Iki Trail
The trailhead for Kilauea Iki is begins at the Kilauea Iki Overlook, a short car ride southeast from the Kilauea Visitor’s Center on Crater Rim Drive. There is a parking lot off the right side of the road but arrive early as it fills quickly during the day.
The park service estimates the hike will take approximately 2-3 hours. ParkChasers recommends you allow the full amount of time. There are plenty of stops for photos and the 400 foot descent/ascent into the crater in Hawaiian heat and humidity can be surprisingly challenging even for an experienced hiker.
Kilauea Iki is a loop trail. Trail markers include Ahu (stacked rocks) and the guided numbers that correspond to the self-guided trail book. Most hikers take the trip counter clockwise (walking the rim of the crater first before descending to the floor. ParkChasers hiked the trail backwards without any challenges in navigation, just know the numbers in the guide will be backwards!
- Plan to do this hike early or late in the day. Parking fills up quickly in this popular spot. The trail can be busy at peak times. Most importantly, a bulk of the hike travels through exposed, black lava rock. It can be hot. Even for Hawaii standards.
- Sun protection is highly recommended for the same reason. Make sure you are prepared with plenty of water too.
The park service publishes a trail guide that corresponds to the marker numbers. You can print the .pdf at home or purchase it for a few dollars at the Visitor’s Center gift shop. It’s worth it to learn more about the history of Kilauea Iki, the plants and animals that call the crater home, and what volcanologists learned from the 1959 eruption.
- Two other hikes in the area are also worth checking out if you are planning the Kilauea Iki Trail. The Thurston Lava Tube is a short paved hike that leaves from the same parking lot. Cross Crater Rim Drive and travel below ground through a 500-year-old lava tube. ParkChasers recommends hiking the lava tube early as it also can be very crowded in peak midday times.
- Then hop in the car and travel farther along Crater Rim Drive to Devastation Trail. This 30-minute walk (out and back to the Pu’u Pua’i overlook) highlights the destruction and force of volcanic eruptions. The paved walk travels what once was a dense Hawaiian rainforest along the other rim of the crater you just hiked. It is now is a barren landscape with burned trees, and views of the Pu’u Pua’I cinder cone.
- Hikers with respiratory issues should always check the weather and air quality report before heading out on any hikes within Hawaii Volcanoes.
For More Information about Hawaii Volcanoes
Visit the Kilauea Iki Day Hike page for hike details:
To see other hikes, visit the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park hiking information site:
Or contact the Kilauea Visitor’s Center
Crater Rim Drive
Volcano, HI 96785
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