Hiking in Search of Lava on the Big Island of Hawai’i :: Part 1

After almost 2 weeks exploring the Hawai’i islands, it was time to finish the adventure on the Big Island with only one goal in mind – the active volcano. Created when 5 volcanoes erupted and overlapped each other, several lava trails are visible when looking at the Big Island on Google maps. As a result, it’s very easy to find a mix of ʻAʻā lava (stony and rough) and Pāhoehoe lava (smooth and unbroken) everywhere you look.

Road Closed Hawaii - Chain of Craters Rd

Today’s Image – Road Closed

A road sign marks where the Chain of Craters Road once was before the 2002-2004 lava flow. An eruption that started on January 3rd, 1983 which still continues today earns Kīlauea the title of most active volcano in the world located on the eastern edge of Hawaii’s Volcano National Park. For a better understanding of the activity and scale, take a look at this map of recent lava flows from the Puʻu ʻŌʻō and Kupaianaha vents.

Touring by Air – Oct 5th 2012

Starting with a helicopter, the first item on the schedule checklist was to fly over the active vents. It’s difficult to take in such a wide landscape in a short amount of time but looking down into an open and active vent was worth the price of admission. It was also beneficial to see the destruction and geography from above before any hiking was started.

Volcano Aerial

Volcano Vent - Big Island, Hawaii

Volcano Vent - Puʻu ʻŌʻō - Big Island, Hawaii

Volcano Vent -  Kīlauea - Big Island, Hawaii

Below: Clear cut lines are formed from flowing lava that dissect forests into segments. These divisions are also very noticeable when driving the south west coast. The rapid transition between driving through trees and driving over a lava desert was incredible.

Lava Flow - Big Island, Hawaii

Below: It’s hard to see in this photo but the remains of a road burns red under new hot lava that continues to cover everything in it’s path.

Lava Flow - Big Island, Hawaii

Volcano National Park

From inside the national park, you can follow the switch backs of Chain of Craters Rd down the mountain to the coast where the road will change into a marked hiking path over lava. I refer to this as a path and not a trail because it’s simply white markers every so many feet. (Google Street View)

Road Closed - Big Island, Hawaii

Road Closed - Volcano National Park

Road Closed - Volcano National Park

But there is no active flow in the national park. The currently active Puʻu ʻŌʻō vent is much more east and dumping over private land. My next post will continue the story with a 10km guided hike from the eastern town of Kalapana in search of red flowing lava.

You can subscribe to this photoblog “Focused on Light – Stories from the Field” by Email or by RSS to be notified we new posts are available.

“As of January 2011, the eruption has produced 3.5 km3 (1 cu mi) of lava, covered 123.2 km2 (48 sq mi) of land, added 206 ha (509 acres) of land, destroyed 213 structures, and resurfaced 14 km (9 mi) of highway with lava as thick as 35 m (115 ft).” — wikipedia

Published in Travel on December 2012

1 Comment

  • Alex Dumpfree December 2012 at 3:05 am

    What a horrible and terrific history! it Was incredible story but it’s true. :(

  • Add a Comment

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    Join us for eight days in 2017 while we explore one of the most beautiful countries in the world.

    GREENLAND GRANDEUR – An OFFBEAT Workshop Greenland Trip Information