Hike to an Active Volcano at This Hawaiian National Park


The big island of Hawaii has SIX (one being under water) recognizable volcanoes, including two of the most active volcanoes in the world. At certain times, you can hike to the craters in Hawaii and witness evidence of past lava flows. Inside Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Kilauea is currently showing signs of activity in 2022. Smoke and smoldering lava are noticeable within the very large crater, Halemaumau. If you want to hike to an active volcano in Hawaii, this is where you must go.

Currently, there are no active lava flows on the Hawaiian Islands. Even if lava was flowing, the parks would not allow tourists to hike near them. That would be too crazy, right? However, you will see evidence of fresh volcanic activity if you hike to Halemaumau at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. You can also hike or drive to pre-existing lava flows around Hawaii, but much of it still appears utterly desolate.

The Devastation Trail allows visitors to hike to an active volcano
Devastation Trail in Hawaii

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Address: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, HI 96718

Hours of operation: open 24 hours daily

Fees: $30 per average vehicle (good for one week) without a national parks pass

This national park in Hawaii is unlike all others because you can hike to an active volcano. We explored some of the best hiking trails in Maui, at the end of 2021. The landscape of Maui is breathtaking from top to bottom, but the big island is quite different. Here you can witness the destruction its active volcanoes have wreaked from coast to coast. You can hike into craters and lava caves, or explore strange colored beaches. You can also drive up the tallest volcano, or simply gaze at its snow covered peak from other points around Hawaii. Seeing any of these sights so far away from the mainland is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for most people.

Kilauea is currently active in 2022, but the degree of activity changes by day. Check the eruption update page to find out when lava is flowing. You can also see lava flowing on the park webcams inside Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, if the volcano becomes active enough. Although the volcano may not be active during every visit, there are several other unique things to do at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Halemaumau Crater is as close as you can get hiking to an active volcano in Hawaii
Volcanic activity inside Halemaumau Crater in Hawaii

Attractions at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Recently, the volcanic activity within the national park has been driving more tourists to this location. Beyond the entrance gate is the visitors center where you can get a map, use the restroom, or purchase park merchandise. If you continue heading west from there, you will pass the sulfur banks and steam vents before reaching the northern crater rim trail. This trail has a wonderful overlook of Halemaumau Crater, and you can drive right up to it.

Head in the other direction and you will find the lava cave across from Kilaueaiki Crater. The parking area for Thurston Lava Tube fills up quickly, as does the cave. If it is too crowded you can hike two miles through the nearby crater while you wait, or continue to the eruption viewing area. A fair amount of smoke was billowing from Halemaumau Crater during our visit, but only a small amount of lava could be seen from the eruption viewing overlook.

Kilaueaiki Crater and its trail at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Hike to an Active Volcano

In the past, it was possible to drive directly to the eruption viewing area along Old Crater Rim Drive. These days, visitors are required to hike one mile from the nearest parking area. When the nearest parking area is full, visitors can also hike from some of the other spaces along Chain of Craters Road. Take the Devastation Trail to Old Crater Rim Drive for a nice 3-mile roundtrip hike to the active crater and back.

As Hawaii Volcanoes National Park becomes overly crowded, or too cloudy, you may find it easier to drive to the various points of interest

Drive the Chain of Craters Road

Despite the recommendation on the parks website to visit during midday, it may begin to get very crowded by noon. Moreover, clouds tend to cover the mountaintops around the islands during the middle of the day. This makes it more challenging to hike, and even more difficult to find far reaching views. If the clouds or the crowds are getting to you, simply drive down the Chain of Craters Road. This road leads to the coast on the south side of Hawaii. Along the way you will see old lava flows, hiking trails, overlooks, petroglyphs, and the Holei Sea Arch, if you follow it to the end.

Maunaloa from Halemaumau Lava Crater

Driving through the national park can be a great experience, and it may take nearly the entire day. Drive back over to the eruption viewing area at sundown and you can hike to Halemaumau after dark. What does an active volcano look like when it’s dark? Honestly, we don’t know, but you can share that experience with us after your visit!

I’m a certified personal trainer in San Antonio. After adopting Abbey, I created Places for Pups to help you get outside, exercise with your dog and have fun doing it. We have mastered hiking in Texas Hill Country. Though we emerge from the woods unharmed, we are not responsible for you or your pets. You are solely responsible for trying exercises, or places discussed on this site. Grab the best hiking gear and go dog friendly.  I wish you good fortune on the trails to come.
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David Earley

CPT, CES
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