We took a full day to drive around Volcanoes National Park, and I’d love to go back some day and spend longer hiking and exploring the park. We started out at the Visitors’ Center, which was extremely crowded. I was nervous that the whole park would be jam-packed, but for the most part it wasn’t bad at all.
Our first main stop was at the Jaggar Museum, a small museum on volcanology with a few displays. The best part of the museum is the views it offers of the caldera and main crater of Halema’uma’u (photo above).
I’m not entirely sure which crater is shown below; if I remember correctly, I think it’s just another viewpoint for the Halema’uma’u crater.
A nice clear view of Mauna Kea:
We took a short walk along the Devastation Trail. An absolutely priceless bit of info at the start of the trail (specifically, the last sentence):
You are standing at the edge of devastation. For five weeks in late 1959, towering lava fountains blasted from Kilauea Iki Crater. Heavier clots of molten lava dropped at the fountain’s base, but trade winds deposited lighter cinder for over 6 miles downwind. As sheets of scorching cinder hailed down through the forest, birds and insects fled for their lives. Unable to escape, some trees were buried alive while others were completely stripped of their leaves and bark.
Luckily, life is resilient and plants and trees are flourishing once again.
Next, we were going to stop at the Thurston Lava Tube, but the parking lot was packed and we decided to pass it by.
We headed onward to the Chain of Craters road.
First stop on the road: the Lua Manu Crater, just 330 feet in diameter and 125 feet deep, formed about 200 years ago.
Next, we took a long and pretty side road off to west for 4 miles to reach a picnic area for our lunch. Although there were a couple of tents set up, the area was otherwise completely abandoned. There’s our minivan and (happily) a small toilet facility.
We also got really lucky and saw a family of nene. The nene is Hawaii’s state bird, kind of a cousin to the Canadian goose, and they are endangered. I’m told it’s quite rare to see a baby chick.
After lunch, we headed on to the Pauahi crater, approximately 1900 feet long, 400 feet deep, and 300 feet wide. The crater floor was created by an eruption in November of 1973, coincidentally the month and year of my birth.
We stopped to look at an area from the Mauna Ulu eruptions, which took place between 1969 and 1974. Mauna Ulu recorded the second highest fountaining eruption, 1700 feet – Kilauea Iki has the record of 1900 feet.
I love this view of the road – you can really get a sense for how desolate some of these areas are.
At the Kealakomo Overlook, we finally got a nice view of the Pacific Ocean, as well as a great shot of the lava field that covered the ancient village of Kealakomo.
Life always find a way:
Near the end of the Chain of Craters Road, you can take a 1-½ mile walk through a lava field to the Pu’u Loa Petroglyphs. This is a sacred place for many Hawaiians and has been used ritually for over 500 years. The petroglyphs date between 1200-1450. Most of the images are “pukas”, in which a portion of a newborn’s umbilical cord was placed to ensure long life. You can see a lot of these in the second and third photos (the small circular holes).
The walk to and from the petroglyphs was as stunning as the rest of the park.
At the end of the road, there is a sea arch. We didn’t make it all the way to the actual Holei Sea Arch, but we saw the beautiful cliff side before turning for home.