Kilauea Crater Trails

5-star hike.
8.5 mile loop • Medium difficulty.
Elevation 3,500 - 4,100 feet. Gain 800 feet.
Volcano National Park • Big Island, Hawaii
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Offerings to Pele, at the rim of the crater-within-a crater.

The volcanic activity that created the Hawaiian island chain hasn't yet finished working on what's known 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.

Life finds a 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.

Things are changing around here - I mean geologically - so be sure to check with a ranger or the visitor's center of the Volcanoes National Park to understand any trail closures, and to make sure you're exploring the best that the park currently has to offer.

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