Lava Tubes and Kilauea Iki Crater Hike

NYE was great fun, but after a good nights' rest it was time to do what we came to Volcano National Park for: hike through lava fields. Today no “live” lava though, just old, hardened surfaces.

The first stop was the Thurston Lava Tubes, a short 0.5 mile walk through the 500-year old tubes. From Wikepedia: Lava tubes are a type of lava cave formed when an active low-viscosity lava flow develops a continuous and hard crust, which thickens and forms a roof above the still-flowing lava stream. I couldn't help but wonder about the structural integrity of such light, brittle material, but the park must check it somehow.

We got there at 9 AM (and it was New Years morning) so there was nobody there! I definitely recommend going early, because a few hours later the tour buses were flocking there. The short hike to the tubes via the surrounding rainforest is pretty neat too.

From the parking lot at the Lava Tubes, we continued hiking on the Kilauea Iki Trail through the Kilauea Iki (“Little Kilauea”) Crater, which is adjacent to the Kilauea Caldera that contains the currently active Halema’uma’u Crater we saw glowing the night before. The hike is about 4 miles roundtrip with a 350' drop in elevation from the rim to crater floor. We took in counterclockwise and followed the rim, descended into the canyon, the ascended back to the top of the rim.

A view from the rim of the crater below where we'd be hiking:

I found this pheasant on the rim, a little puffed up and defensive.

I'm looking at the start of the flat crater here.

Once in the crater, you follow the rock piles – my favorite!

The crater is like a desert, wide open and desolate, with some still active steam vents.

We even climbed up a lava rock pile to the steam vents.

During the hike, I snacked on my favorite and island-appropriate Clif Bar, which tastes like a cookie.

Mind the gap!

Yay for lava hikes!

4 thoughts on “Lava Tubes and Kilauea Iki Crater Hike

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