Kilauea Iki Trail

Kilauea Iki Trail through the crater

Kilauea Iki Trail through the crater

View from top of crater rim, start of trail

Ferns in the rain forest

Steam rising from the hot lava

View, midway to the bottom of the crater
Hiking across the Kilauea Iki Crater
Bottom view, prior to crossing the crater

View of trail cutting across crater (see the small people)

Difficulty: Moderate to challenging
Distance and hiking time: 4 mile loop, 2 to 3 hours

At the top, just east of the main caldera, lies the crater of Kilauea Iki (‘Little Kilauea’). The scene of one of Hawaii’s most violent volcanic displays, the 1959 eruption saw lava shoot 1,900 ft into the air. This varied trail, considered by many to be the best in the Park, gives hikers a fascinating close-up view of the site of this eruption.

The trail winds down the wall of Kilauea Iki and heads west across the eerie crater floor, covered by hardened lava flows and surrounded by cliffs. After passing the vent of the 1959 eruption, the trail climbs out of the crater and reaches a junction shortly after, at the 2.4 mile/3.9 km mark.

Hikers at the bottom of the Kilauea Iki Crater

This diverse hike takes you through rain forests engulfed in gigantic ferns and dry rocky lava beds with intermittent steam vents and sulfur banks.  This trail descends 400 feet through rain forest, crosses the crater floor, passes Pu’u Pua’i cinder cone, and returns via the crater’s rim. Of interest: Rain forest, birds, insects, 1959 lava lake, steam vents, cinder and spatter cone.

I’ve always loved this hike - having done it regularly since I was a kid.  The view is spectacular as you zig-zag your way down the side of the crater.  Once at the bottom, there is an eerie other-world feeling as you wander across the dried lava bed in the well-formed crater.

Although not spewing lava anymore, the massive steam vents and sulphur piles remind you of a time when molten lava burst out of the ground here.  There are areas where you can deviate from the path to investigate steam plumes or large piles of lava rocks.  Keep an eye on the trail markers just to be sure.

Plants coming alive in the fertile volcanic soilIt is recommended that you wear comfortable socks and walking shoes or hiking boots.  Year-round the weather varies on the volcano, so be prepared for all climates, hot, damp, and cold (we’ve been caught in a sudden rain downpour in the middle of this hike!).

Bring sunscreen and wear a hat.  We suggest bringing sweatshirts as well as a wind-breaker or raincoat or gore-tex jacket to layer on your clothes.  Although there are ample water fountains in the park, we suggest you bring water with you, especially if you will be hiking.  Don’t forget your camera!

In the crater, Kilauea Iki

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Related Posts:

  1. Kilauea Lava Flow Update (Aug 2007)
  2. Kilauea Explosion - Portions of Park Closed
  3. Kilauea Lava Flow
  4. Kilauea Volcano Lava Flows near Kalapana
  5. Kilauea Volcano Update

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