Rating:
Area: Hawaii/Big Island
Distance: 8½ miles
Type: Loop
Difficulty: Medium
Elevation gain: 800ft (from 3,500 - 4,100ft)

The volcanic activity that created the Hawaiian island chain hasn't yet finished working on what's know as the 'Big Island' called Hawaii. If you need evidence, look no further than the lava flows and gas eruptions that spill from the Kilauea volcano located on the south-east side of the Big Island.

You'll find Kilauea at Volcanoes National Park where there's plenty to see even without stepping far from your vehicle. However, being hikers we'd suggest leaving your car by Thurston Lava Tube and setting out on an eight-and-a-half mile trek into the Kilauea pit crater itself, along the huge expanses of lava and taking in the Halema'uma'u crater-within-a-crater on the way.

There's something other-worldly about walking across a desolate 4-mile wide crater over huge expanses of strangely patterned lava flows. Steam and sulfuric gases venting into the air are stark reminders that you're standing on top of an immense volcano, but the sight of flowers and other vegetation rising out of the cracks reassure you that the lava you're standing on is decades old.

Volcanoes National Park operates a day-use fee. Check the park's website for details on any temporary closures of park trails due to volcanic activity, and also check to see whether the distant Pu'u Ō'ō-Kūpa'ianahā crater is active and worthy of a visit.

Tangents:
- Trailspotting Images: Kilauea Volcano on Flickr
- National Park Service: Volcanoes National Park

Hawaii The Big Island Revealed: The Ultimate Guidebook by Andrew Doughty
Lonely Planet Hiking in Hawaii by Sara Benson and Jennifer Snarski