IV: Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park II

Aloha! Here is a small, but much needed update on my travels in Hawaii. More is soon to follow! As you really need a car to travel around Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, we returned again for another weekend, this time with transportation. See a familiar map below:


Again, the dark blue lines show the path traveled and light blue boxes show places visited. We took a very late start to the day, because we planned on doing our longest and hardest hike during sunset.


11:00-12:00: Drive from Hilo to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

12:00-12:20: Begin Kilauea Iki Trail

12:20-1:00: Make a detour to the Thurston Lava Tube

1:00-5:00: Kilauea Iki Trail

5:00-6:00: Drive to the end of Chain of Craters Road

6:00-10:00: Hike to the ocean lava flows (canceled due to weather)

Special Note: This itinerary was our original plan, and the hour-long drive took us to the other side of the end of Chain of Craters road, the side that is now located just outside of the park. Instead of driving south in the park for about eight miles, we went all the way around the southeastern part of the island, almost back up to Hilo before turning and driving down 130 through Pahoa. Unfortunately when we got there, it was windy and lightly drizzling. We decided it might be too dangerous to embark on a nighttime hike across the lava field to the ocean, so we went back to Volcanoes National Park to view Kilauea Crater by night. Two hours of driving time later, we spent an hour or so just staring at the crater by night, leaving the park around 8:00.


Kilauea Iki Trail

We took Chain of Craters road about two miles South to the trailhead of Kilauea Iki Trail. This is a four mile round trip hike that begins in the rain forest and descends 400 feet into a desolate lava field filled with steam vents and cinder cones. From the parking lot you get a view similar to this. Off in the distance you see Kilauea Crater, which was photographed in the last blog post! Notice the steam looks more powerful today compared to last week.

Jun 29 2013_1918_edited-1
Kilauea Iki Overlook

After a short half-mile hike along the rim of the lava field, we arrived at the Thurston Lava Tube, shown below. It’s a quick detour down into the rainforest, and then down through the lava tube, which was discovered in 1913 and created several hundred years ago as lava rushed through. Many lava tubes can be found all around Hawaii, including one in Hilo that makes for great spelunking!

Thurston Lava Tube
Inside Thurston Lava Tube

This detour might only take a half hour before you’re back on your way along Kilauea Iki Trail. After the Thurston Lava Tube, it was time to start the descent into the lava field, which follows a series of switchbacks along the crater wall. Check out the rapid change in flora that occurs in just a few hundred feet.

Jun 29 2013_1960_edited-1
From rainforest to desolation in Kilauea Iki Crater.

After the descent, you begin the journey across the lava field. We took our sweet time doing this, extending the journey to about four hours, rather than the recommended 2-3. Check out some of the views below of the surroundings, the lava rocks and steam vents. Click to enlarge the panoramas!

Kiluaea Iki Inside
Kilauea Iki
Olivine on the bottom left!
Olivine on the bottom left!
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Steam vent in Kilauea Iki Crater.
Lava Rainbow
Rainbow lava rocks.
Kiluaea Iki_edited-2
Kilauea Iki Crater.

You can walk pretty much anywhere in the lava field, which explains why we spent several hours exploring. When we finally reached the other side, we were greeted with this view, looking back toward where we had started. Click to enlarge this panorama! When we finally climbed to the top of the lava field again, we were greeted with this view of Kilauea Crater. Remember the light steam from last blog post and compare it to now. Also notice the rainbow to the left! Jun 29 2013_2080_edited-1 Seeing this made it clear to us that if our evening hike did not go as planned, we would end up back at the park for nighttime viewing of Kilauea Crater.

Kilauea Crater

Since our sunset hike to the ocean did not in fact happen, we decided to drive back to Kilauea Crater to view the steam at night. The lava is flowing inside the crater, which we could not see from our vantage point, but it certainly lights up the steam! We were told that on rainy days the steam vent seems to be much stronger, so it made sense for us to try out this viewing since our other hike was rained out. At times the orange-red steam would light up the whole sky. Since the park is open 24 hours a day, it’s perfect after-dark viewing. After such a magnificent view, we decided to wrap up our day and head back home. Kilauea Crater

Next Up: Pololu Valley

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