From strenuous hikes that require permits to easy hikes that are family-friendly, if you like to hike, Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park has a plethora of trail options for you. We do a lot of hiking on our vacations, but usually skip the long, all day on one trail hikes in favor of doing more shorter hikes — I always like to see and experience a greater variety of sights and activities on our travels instead of just one trail.
We only had three days in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park and we wanted to see as much as we could! After visiting the Kīlauea Visitor Center, the Kīlauea Iki Overlook, and the Thurston Lava Tube, our next stop on Crater Rim Drive was the Devastation Trail hike.
Devastation Trail is an easy, paved 0.5 mile out and back paved trail (one mile total) through a breathtakingly stark landscape buried by cinders from the Kīlauea Iki eruption to the Pu’u Pua’i Overlook.
From the parking area near the intersection of Crater Rim Drive and Chain of Craters Road, we followed the flat paved trail lined with Ohia Trees and dense brush. Then suddenly the trees stopped and we found ourselves walking through a wide-open, barren, volcanic landscape with a few tiny shrubs and bleached tree trunks.
Unlike other volcanic areas in the national park covered in thick, rough a’a lava flows and smooth, wavy pahoehoe lava flows, Devastation Trail is surrounded not by a hard basaltic lava flow, but by a thick blanket of loose pumice.
In 1959 Kīlauea Iki erupted, sending a fountain of hot molten lava 1,900 feet into the air. The lava cleared the crater walls throwing lava hundreds of yards out of the crater rim, destroying the surrounding forest and covering it in cinders. Today the areas is finally once again showing signs of life with a few tiny shrubs returning to the landscape.
Devastation Trail, because it is relatively flat, easy, and paved, is one of the more popular hikes in Hawai’i Volcanoes National park. When we hiked the trail is was under the blazing hot sun, but we were still really cold because of the strong winds ripping through the area. Thank goodness we brought layers and our adventure packs with lots of water!
We also didn’t get to hike the entire trail to the Pu’u Pua’i Overlook. During our visit, this was the only time a trail or attraction (or part of a trail) was closed due to the winds blowing toxic volcanic gases into the area. Apparently this is a normal, regular occurrence and periodically portions of the park are closed because of the winds and gases — so we were thrilled it only affected this one short hike during our entire visit!
Know Before You Go
- Devastation Trail is located 1.5 miles from the Thurston Lava Tube and 3.3 miles from the Kīlauea Visitor Center on Crater Rim Drive in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park.
- Devastation Trail is an easy, 0.5 mile, out and back paved trail (one mile total) that is wheelchair and stroller accessible.
- The trail begins at either the Pu’u Pua’i parking lot or the Devastation Trail parking lot, both off of Crater Rim Drive.
- This walk/hike is in full sun so bring water, wear a hat and sunscreen, and be prepared for hot, humid, windy, or rainy weather.
- The nearest restrooms are located at the Thurston Lave Tube.