Hiking and Backpacking
With about 330,000 acres to explore, there’s a lot of ground to cover in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. From shorelines to rain forests to mountains, the park’s diverse terrain offers interesting, scenic hikes for travelers of all skill levels.
Overnight backcountry hikes require free permits that can be picked up at the Visitor Emergency Operations Center. Hike through native grasslands to the coconut-tree shaded beaches of Halape, and you might catch a glimpse of sea turtle hatchlings scrambling to the ocean. Or, ascend Mauna Loa’s lofty heights — but be prepared to deal with hazards like variable temperatures and altitude sickness.
Driving in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is an easy way to get an overview of the park’s ever-changing landscape. But you should be wary of how the very natural features that make this park so special may affect your trip. In the past, earthquakes and volcanic activity have closed or even destroyed parts of roads, trails and other areas in the park. For example, a magnitude 6.6 quake collapsed a section of Crater Rim Drive in 1983. Although that part of the road is no longer open to cars, it is now an accessible footpath called the Earthquake Trail.
In 2008, new vent opened in Halema‘uma‘u Crater, forcing another section of the road to be closed due to the release of poisonous sulphur dioxide gas. The winding Chain of Craters Road stretches 23 miles along the East Rift section of the park. It too has seen its share of activity, with sections being covered by lava flow from numerous Kilauea eruptions. The road runs along coastline and through rain forests, and grants amazing views of active volcanic sites like Puu Oo, plumes from lava tubes, pit craters and lava flats.
Bike the Volcanoes
There are a variety of bike trails around Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Some follow sections of scenic routes on Crater Rim Drive and Chain of Craters Road, while others cut down dirt paths through rain forests and lava flats. Many of the trails around the visitor center are short, easy and good for families with kids, but a few truly challenging rides await seasoned cyclists elsewhere in the park. “Summit to Sea” is a day-long, 36-mile roundtrip ride from the summit of Kilauea to the Holei Sea Arch. Another strenuous route popular with veteran bikes is the trial that ascends Mauna Loa. The loop climbs 2,600 feet over 11.5 miles of history roadway.
In addition to the normal precautions that cyclists should take when sharing the road with cars, biking in this national park comes with the separate caveat of negotiating hazards like poisonous fumes and potential wildfire. It’s a good idea to check in with a ranger before committing to any long bike trips.