Trail in Kilauea Iki Crater,1997

The Kilauea Iki Trail

(4 miles, 2 hours)

(August 1997)

Kilauea Iki crater, the "little Kilauea" crater, is not an active volcano at the moment. From the many trails that you can hike in the Volcano National Park, the Kilauea Iki is a must. This loop of 4 miles takes about two hours and leads through a jungle-like vegetation as well as across black lava. The trail can be described as medium heavy, and medium heavy only indicates that you have to descend 300 feet down to the bottom of the crater and ascend again, and the temperature can be around 90 degrees or higher already on a normal day. The trail itself is short, has no difficult passages for average people and the bottom of the crater is rather flat. You can click here for a map.

At the morning we left our hotel in Hilo and went to the airport, where we booked a helicopter flight (see index). Afterwards we drove the 29 miles from Hilo to the Volcano National Park. The ten-dollar entrance ticket to the park we bought the day before was valid for seven days.

View from Kilauea Iki Overlook

We parked the car at the Kilauea Iki Overlook. From this viewpoint we could look down on the trail at the bottom of the crater. We hiked the loop counterclockwise. I regarded it as an advantage of this direction that the ascent part is not so steep as in the other direction. For the relative short distance we took only one bottle of water.

Trail at the rim of Kilauea Iki Crater

The trail leads along the rim of the Kilauea Iki crater, at the beginning without major height differences through a forest with beautiful fern trees. We crossed several other trails, and after 25 min we stood at the beginning of the descent into the crater. It was easy, with steps and handrail like a staircase.

At the bottom of the crater

The day before, when it was rainy, we had seen several places in the crater where steam was emerging. Today, without rain, we noticed only few steam clouds. At these places one could feel from the radiation that the ground was still hot.

Trail in the crater

Well known rules say thay you should not eat anything within the crater before giving a donation to Pele, and that you should not pick up any pieces of lava and take them to your home. As the lava is not quite cold yet, it is surely wise to obey all these rules.

Ascent from bottom

After leaving the bottom of the crater, the trail now passed through forest again, and at the first bench we rested for a moment and emptied our bottle with mineral drink. The forest of O'hia fern trees was still more beautiful here than at the other side of the crater.

After several switchbacks we were wet of sweat and stood at street level again on the parking lot of Thurston Lava Tube. It is convenient to combine the hike with a visit to this site.

Thurston Lava Tube

Although it looks like I am quite alone on the picture, Thurston Lava Tube is perhaps the most frequented place in the Volcano National Park. The molten lava formed a tunnel inside a broad lava stream, and it seems that every tourist has to walk through this tunnel during his visit to Big Island.

Only half a mile of the loop was left now, before we were back at the car. We had needed about two hours for the hike including Thurston Lava Tube.