I was in awe at seeing these lava flows. In some cases, the flowing lava has completely ingulfed the road on its way to the sea. Everything you see in this picture (other than ocean and sky) is old lava. Amazing.
When possible, rangers mark a trail out to the margins of active lava flows or to the coast to view lava as it enters the ocean. For most visitors this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Stop by the Kilauea Visitor Center to check on current conditions.
A trail out to lava flows or viewing the lava entry would leave from the end of Chain of Craters Road. The end of the road is about 30 miles (50 km) from the visitor center and takes about 1 hour to drive each way. From the end of the road follow the marked trail to the viewing area. The trail is usually less then 1 mile (1.6 km) each way. It is extremely important to follow the instructions posted on signs. Most visitors injured in the coastal area of the park have disregarded clearly posted warning signs. When possible, visitors can look down the coastline to watch lava enter the ocean. The best time to view the lava entry is at sunset. After sunset, a flashlight is required to follow the trail back to the road. Altogether the driving, walking, and lava viewing will take a minimum of 4 hours.
Another great hike is out to Puu Huluhulu. a pre-historic spatter cone. Puu Oo is the vent for the current eruption and contains an active lava pond. The Napau Crater Trail leads to Puu Huluhulu. The trail starts from the Mauna Ulu parking lot, a few miles (km) down Chain of Craters Road. Puu Huluhulu is about 1 mile (1.6 km) from the parking lot. The round trip hike takes 1-2 hours. Puu Huluhulu is the only readily accessible area in the park where Puu Oo can be seen.
From the summit visitor center follow Crater Rim Drive clockwise to the well-marked turnoff for Chain of Craters Road. Chain of Craters Road descends 3,700 feet until it ends sharply at a lava flow. From there it's usually a relatively short hike to possibly see flowing, red-hot lava. On the way down the road you drive among the vast flows that spilled from the shield vent called Maunu Ulu; the lava expelled here from 1969 to 1974 would pave a highway around the Equator.
For about 4 miles [6 kilometers] as you head toward the coast, your route closely approximates the active East Rift Zone of Kilauea volcano. Scenic turnouts and short walks bring you to the rims of several impressive craters. This road was covered during the 1970s by a series of huge lava flows. You are driving on some of the newest ground on earth.
The climate becomes drier, and patches of forest in various stages of recovery appear, as you descend toward the sea. Sulphur fumes sweep down from active volcanic vents on the rift to the east. Stop at the turn-outs as they offer sweeping views of lava flows and white-capped waves pounding the black shoreline.
A steep descent of about 800 feet [243.8 m] marks Holei Pali, a cliff formed by vertical faulting; the huge coastal shelf is breaking away from the uplands and slowly sinking into the sea. The photo shows this area.
Reaching the lowlands, look for the Puu Loa Petroglyphs turnout where there are some 15,000 figures and symbols carved in lava by early Hawaiians.
The road ends abruptly at a 1995 lava flow. The fields of lava that stretch out along the coast from here to Kalapana, in Puna district, have sprung from the Pu'u O'o vent, which has been flowing continuously since 1983. The end of the road is the most convenient trailhead for setting out to where the world's newest land is being formed. Most often lava from the vent flows underground through established lava tubes to the coast, and rivers of molten lava streaming down the hillside is a rarer sight than some visitors expect.
From the end of the road, you can hike a short distance over the lava field along markers to see a relic like this one!
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