We’re on a mission to visit all of the United States National Parks. On our last visit to Hawaii, we went to Maui and explored the Haleakalā National Park. This time we decided to visit the Big Island of Hawaii to explore Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park.
Our first full day in the park started out with spectacular views of the Kīlauea Caldera from our hotel, Volcano House. We then hit the road to follow Crater Rim Drive and explore all the vista points, craters, lava tubes, and scenic oddities.
Our first stop of the day was the Kīlauea Iki Overlook with magnificent views of the huge black crater floor.
These days the 5,280 foot long, 3,000 foot long wide, 400 foot deep crater is pretty calm, but back in November of 1959 it erupted shooting hot, molten lava into the air as high as 1,900 feet and creating a 414 foot deep lake of bubbling lava.
Kīlauea Iki Trail
The Kīlauea Iki Trail is a four mile, moderate/challenging, loop trail that travels around the rim of the Kīlauea Iki Crater and across the crater floor. It leaves from the Kīlauea Iki Overlook on Crater Rim Drive.
- Traveling to the left will take you to the Thurston Lava Tube parking area, down 400 feet to the crater floor, up through the lush rain forest along the crater rim, and back to the Kīlauea Iki Overlook parking area.
- Traveling to the right will take you through the lush rain forest at the crater rim, down 400 feet to the crater floor, up to the Thurston Lava Tube parking area, and back to the Kīlauea Iki Overlook parking area.
When walking across the steaming floor of the Kīlauea Iki Crater, you’ll be walking across the solidified lava lake from the 1959 eruption. Here you’ll see steam vents, cinder cones, and spatter cones, and you’ll be able to peek into the vent below the Pu’u Pua’i cinder cone that erupted 1,900 feet into the air.
Ahu (stacked rocks) mark the trail across the crater floor. Please do not disturb them or build new ones.
Know Before You Go
- The Kīlauea Iki Overlook is located two miles from the Kīlauea Visitor Center on Crater Rim Drive in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park.
- The Kīlauea Iki Overlook is the trailhead for the Kīlauea Iki Trail, a four mile loop trail that crosses the center of the crater and travels around the rim.
- If hiking the Kīlauea Iki Trail, bring water, food, a hat, and sunscreen, and be prepared for severely hot and humid temperatures, rain, and wind.
- Download the Kīlauea Iki Trail Guide.
- If the Thurston Lava Tube parking area is full, you can park here and walk a half mile to to the lava tube.