Crater Rim Drive - Overview

Halemaumau Crater Overlook

Mauna Loa in background

The centerpiece of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is the 11-mile Crater Rim Drive that circles Kilauea’s summit caldera.  If you only have a few hours in the park, this is a good way to hit the main attractions.

View from Jaggar Museum

While circling the Kilauea caldera, this road passes through rainforest and desert, while providing access to numerous well-marked scenic stops and short walks.  On the drive around the summit caldera, you will encounter sulphur banks, steam vents, pit craters, lava flows from eruptions in 1974 and 1982, areas recovering from the cinder fallout of the 1959 eruption, a walk through an underground lava tube, the Jaggar Museum, Halema’uma’u Crater, Devastation Trail, Kilauea Iki Crater, and the Thurston Lava Tube.

Volcanoes National Park Visitor's CenterThe best place to start the tour is at the Kilauea Visitor Center. Films shown throughout the day provide an introduction to the park and volcanology. Ask at the information desk about ranger-guided walks, hikes and other programs. Located nearby is the Volcano Art Center, housed in the historic original Volcano House built in 1877. It hosted many 19th century visitors to Kilauea and is now a gallery for local artists and craftsmen.

Halemaumau Crater with Mauna Loa in BackgroundThe tour describes a counterclockwise trip around the Crater Rim, but, Crater Rim Drive is a two way road, so you can go either way or stop your trip midway and return.  Here are the highlights of this tour.  At the Hawaii Volcano Observatory, there is a dramatic scenic overlook with views of the Kilauea caldera.  Next door is the Jaggar Museum with informative displays about the volcano and Hawaiian legends.  Down the road is the Halemaumau Crater.  The short walk from the parking lot brings you to the steep cliff’s edge of this deep crater.

Thurston Lava Tube

Beyond this is the start of the Devastation Trail.  This trail offers a fascinating glimpse into what happens when a forest is overrun by a volcanic eruption.  Continuing along the Crater Rim, you will come across the Thurston Lava Tube and eventually the wonderful Kilauea Iki Trail.  Check out the Crater Rim tour on the Volcanoes National Park Official Website

Halemaumau Crater, July 2008

Halemaumau Crater, July 2008

Update, 2008

A portion of Crater Rim Drive, between Jaggar Museum and the Chain of Craters Road junction, is closed. Note: Chain of Craters Road remains OPEN - there is NO access to lava from the end of the road, inside the park.  We recommend you still visit the Jaggar Museum for a view of the new Halema’uma’u Vent and its large smoke plume (see above photo).  In the evening, it is possible to see a faint fireball effect at the edge of the mouth of the vent - see our blog for a photo of this phenomenon.  For the latest park closure information, visit the official park website.

Check out the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Map to help you plan your trip.

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Related Posts:

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  2. Kilauea Volcano Update
  3. Question: Where Can I View the Lava Flow?
  4. Kilauea Iki Trail
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