US National Parks

Hawai’i Volcanoes

Characterized by a scarred landscape created by over a million years of volcanic activity, Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park represents one of the most dramatic and distinct environments in the US National Park system.

Located on the big island of Hawai’i, Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park protects not one, but two active volcanoes: the lava spitting Kilauea and the 13,678 foot Mauna Loa.

While activities in the Park range from climbing Mauna Loa to viewing massive lava tubes to even taking peaceful strolls through the lush Hawaiian wilderness, due to poor weather I concentrated my stay there on trying to reach an active lava field- an activity that has become synonymous with visiting the Park.

While lava flows are not consistent or even guaranteed (Kilauea can go dormant at anytime), they are presently best viewed by entering the Park through the small town of Kalapana and then hiking out across the hardened, black terrain formed by previous eruptions.

This hike is difficult and for those interested in visiting, I suggest bringing sturdy boots (the terrain is definitely ankle twisting territory), a headlamp (you can’t enter until 3pm and it gets dark fast), and enough food and water for a solid 3-4 hours of hiking. Also of note- there are no signs or markers and the lava can appear anywhere on any given day, so I highly recommend consulting with the shuttle company in Kalapana before hand to make sure you head towards the right areas, as you could very easily hike for several miles and find nothing.

All that said- when you do find lava flows, they are absolutely spectacular. Here is video I put together and the photos I took from both my lava trek and my full day on the island of Hawai’i!

Welcome to Mordor: The Lava Flows of Hawai’i from TheMorganBurke on Vimeo.

Lava up close

The Entrance to the Thurston Lava Tube

Rainbow Falls

Rainbow Falls


lava rock

Rock from a previous volcanic eruption

Akaka Falls

Akaka Falls

Lava in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Inside the Thurston Lava Tube in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Inside the Thurston Lava Tube

Hiking Across the Volcanic Terrain

Hiking Across the Volcanic Terrain

Volcanic Tube

Halema'uma'u Crater

Halema’uma’u Crater at night

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Categories: US National Parks