This has become a popular activity so expect crowds. You hike out to the lava flows before sunset and then stay and see the lava flow at night. Wow! The creation of land right before your eyes!!
The hike is not for little ones. It is over very rough A'a lava flows for about 1.5 miles (the distance changes as the lava changes it flows) each way. When we went, the flows were getting further from the road.
Bring water, good shoes, and a very good flash light for each person for the walk back. Water because it is bare lava you are crossing that is black and gathers the heat, even with a breeze blowing we were hot and thirsty. Good shoes because it is very rough and uneven ground, especially the A'a lava. There is no real trail, just a bunch of folks wandering in the wilderness.
And when I say crowded, I mean a hundred cars parked along the road when we arrived at 4:30, a good 2 hours from sunset.
The Volcanoes National Park is probably the most distinctive National Park in the United States. It is possible to actually drive around the crater of what is essentially an active volcano. You can not only smell but almost taste the sulphur in the air. As you walk over the tubes of lava flow, you can feel the hot steam rising from crevices underfoot. In the evenings, the unearthly glow of molten lava is visible through these cracks.
At the end of the Chain of Craters Road, you must pull over and stop. The road blocks and old Lava flows prevent you from driving any further. You have two options, either walk to the lava flow (you MUST check with the Ranger to see if it is safe & what you need to prepare yourself for the long walk) or walk to the viewpoint about a mile away. If you arrive when it is almost dark, you MUST have a flashlight so you can safely make your way back over the uneven and dangerous old Lava rock.
Is it worth the trip? YES! I don't have a good zoom, but was impressed with how close I could see the lava entering the ocean. It was fascinating!!!
The Petroglyphs of Hawaii are ancient Polynesian rock carvings.
Kilauea volcano contains Hawaii's most extensive collection of Petroglyphs.
It is a 1 1/2 mile round trip walk to view the Petroglyphs. You walk around a circular wooden boardwalk around them. There are thousands of Petroglyphs, representing everything from birth to death. The holes bored in the rock were usually cut by the parents who placed the umbilical cords from their newborns there for good luck. The area is very peaceful and worth your time if you want to see a direct expression of ancient Hawaiian life.
I highly recommend taking some of the ranger or naturalist guided tours here at Volcanoes National park. We took one tour and I wished we'd have had time to take more. They give you a real appreciation for the features here and point out things you don't notice when hiking on your own. Our guide was a young naturalist with a British accent and an older man who is a volunteer here. They pointed out areas of vegetation that is favored by the NeNe Geese which were colonizing the lava areas. They also explained the different types of lava. And our hike ended with a nice view of Kilauea volcano with a scope to see the steam coming out.
This is a wonderful park. You need to allow several days to really see it all. We went here 2 different days and still didn't see it all. There are many trails which can be quite different. Kilauea is the earth's most active volcano and when we were there, it was erupting. They told us that conditions for viewing change so to phone 985-6000 for an update. We went to the end of the Chain of Craters road one evening and one of the younger people in our group hiked out to the current flow. This road just dead ends at the huge lava flow that covered the road. While he hiked, we set up a telescope and were able to see a line of 6-10 orange spots of the lava coming down the hillside. When our young man came back about 2 hours later, he said he had hiked to the flow and actually stuck a stick in the lava.
The steam vents and sulfur vents with yellow or white crystals that form at the mouth of the vent are quite interesting along some of the trails. You can also hike across an inactive crater which is interesting.
A very different area is the dense ohi'a forest with tree ferns that leads to the Thurston Lava Tube. The tube was created when the surface of the lava cooled and turned hard but underneath it, the hot lava kept on flowing 28 miles to the sea. Eventually the lava drained out leaving an empty tube. You can go into part of this tunnel which is very damp and dark. The tree fern forest leading up to the tube was a good place to see native birds such as the Apapani, Amakihi and I'iwi.
Volcano National Park is a must see National Park. There are so many amazing things to see here from the craters to the lava tube to the petroglyphs to the exotic forest to the live lava flow.
The hike to the lava flow was a tough and long journey. We had to hike 3 miles over a lava field (difficult terrain to hike across) which took over 2 hours. However, when we finally reached the lava flow it was truely amazing and well worth the trek. It is really amazing to see the lava flowing out of the ground, solidifying and dropping into the ocean. The lava flow changes every day, so it is best to stop by the National Park Information Center as soon as you enter to find where the flow is on that day.
A trip to the Big Island would not be complete without visiting this amazing place.
Lava is the holy grail of the Volcano National Park. Everyone sets out in search, most come back disappointed. To ensure success, book with a travel group.
I went with Arnott's Lodge and can attest to their high degree of professionalism and fun. Tours range in price from $60-$90 for 5 hours and they provide transportation, park fees, knowledgeable local guides, and flashlights. Most importantly, they know where NOT to step on freshly cooled lava and the best places to view live flows.
Remember to wear sturdy boots and long pants. Bring your camera, tri-pod, video camera whatever as you won't want to miss it. And pack plenty of water.
And above all, if you drop your keys, don't bother to reach in for them.
Click on the picture to enlarge it and you will see the billows of steam emanating from the cracks in the Earth. When you really stop to think about it we were walking all over x live volcanoe. It is unlikely that it would explode but still you have respect for it as you realise it is much bigger than you and there is no where to run.
These lava fields are on the Chain of Craters road near some of the "newer" lava flows, but close to the Kiluaea Caldera.
In this picture is a good example of Pa'hoehoe lava which looks like burned pancake batter. The lava which comes out of the Pu'u O'o vent flows rather than spews as it makes its way downhill to the sea. There has been only one time when the Kilauea crater actually exploded and that was in 1790.
Walking on these flows the lava was still warm and make sure you have good sturdy shoes on because you do not want to fall down onto the flow...Ouch!
We sat out until dark and we were able to see the glow of the lava as it slid into the sea.
So once your in the park I recommend you go down to the end of the road, south of creator rim road. You’ll notice that the road ends. There you can see red lava flow. The road used to pass by, but in 2003 lava flowed over the road and blocked off the passage. Well walking to the lava flow you will see street signs that are engulfed by the lava. There is a ranger station, which will warn you of all the hazards related to watching the lava. Once at this small ranger station, you can begin your walk to the lava. The train is very uneven and slippery. It was about an hour walk each way to see the lava up close. Now the flows are always moving, so once at the smaller station, reed the sign that will tell you exactly how far away the lava is. Also this area contains a lava arch, which is an arch that water flows through at the waters edge. Don’t miss it, you will see signs for it at this small station.
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Night hike on the lava at the end of Chain of Craters road. Steam billows for miles as scorching lava hits the sea. Follow the flashlights of many adventurers seeking a glimpse of the firey red glow. Feel the night wind and warmth against your bare skin, feel the heat radiating from cracks in the lava...be careful...it might swallow you up!!