Hiking Kilauea Iki to Thurston Lava Tube Trail
Kilauea Iki to Thurston Lava Tube Trail is a heavily trafficked loop trail with in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. This trail is unique because of the way the trail takes hikers through the crater floor of an active volcano. While the last time Kilauea Iki erupted was in 1959, evidence of lava beneath the surface is still evident. As rain water falls through the cracks in rocks, steam coming through the ground is visible throughout the crater. The hike is also unique in that the trail takes hikers through where lava cut paths straight through dense patches of thick tropical jungle.
Kilauea Iki can be done as a stand alone hike without doing the Thurston Lava Tube but the trail ends right where the lava tube trail begins. The lava trail is quite easy about about one mile in length. The trail takes you through a lit up lava tube that was carved out of rocks. This tube is an iconic part of the park and a must do. Each trails can be done as individual hikes or together as one loop.
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- Overall Difficulty 30% 30%
- Overall Views: 90% 90%
Kilauea Iki To Thurston Lava Tube Quick Facts:
Open in maps. Cost is the price of admission to Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. You can also have an annual America The Beautiful pass as well. The trail head is incredibly popular and easily marked by park signs and maps. There are a few parking lots: one for Kilauea Iki, one for Thurston’s Lava Tube, and an overflow parking lot. Because of the ease of access and popularity to both of these spots, the parking lot is usually full during the day hours. I suggest just waiting for a parking spot. A lot of people go there for the views and don’t do the actual hike.
Kilauea Iki Trail To Thurston Lava Tube Pictures:
Who Kilauea Iki Trail To Thurston Lava Tube Trail Is For:
Novice Hikers: If you’re new to hiking, this is a perfectly challenging hike to test your hiking skills. The trail has a pretty nice decline in the first mile followed by a steep incline to get back up out of the crater. The challenging part is down in the crater where temperatures can be hot along the black lava if the sun is out. The elevation gains are within a short distance (about half a mile) so for those not used to elevation, it can be challenging.
Advanced Hikers: This is a perfect hike with incredible views.
Expert Hikers: This is is a perfect hike with incredible views.
It’s always a good idea to be aware of what type of hiking level you’re at.
Best Time Of Year To Kilauea Iki and Thurston Lava Tube:
The time of year doesn’t make a difference. Winter time can be a few degrees cooler but not really by much. In cloudy conditions temperatures can vary from 75F to 90F. Hardened lava is a glossy black and absorbs heat so when the sun is out ground temperatures in the crater can read near 100F. Heavy downpours of rain are common any time of year as are windy conditions. The forest canopy is shielding to most of the sun and rain.
Kilauea Iki and Thurston Lava Tube Trail Conditions:
This is a popular trail clearly marked on park maps and road trails. There are two trail heads. One trail head begins at the Turston’s Lava Tube parking lot and the other one begins at the Kilauea Iki parking lot. The most popular way to begin the trail is at the Kilauea Iki parking lot. The trail head loops through the crater floor. The crater is carved out of cliffs of over six hundred feet. The trail descends down the six hundred feet in the fist mile or so through a clear defined path with dense jungle on one side and a sheer vertical drop off on the other side.
Once the trail winds down the crater wall, the path opens up into the crater floor. On the crater floor you’ll have views of the vent where the lava came out of, steam coming out of rocks, and the surrounding forest/cliffs. The jungle part of the trail is not exposed to sun and the forest canopy collects most of the rain. However, the crater floor is completely open to the elements and you can get quite wet if it’s raining. If the sun is out, the black lava can push the temperature to around 100 degrees. The trail on the crater floor is for the most part defined. Look for stacked rocks on among the lava to guide your way. The trail is heavily populated so you shouldn’t have any issue finding your way around.
As the trail winds through the crater and back up the crater walls it ends at the Thurston Lava Tube Trail. Here there are two options: to continue the loop trail about another half mile to complete the Kilauea Iki loop trail or stop to see the lava tube. Thurston’s lava tube is about a mile in length down a small decline and back up a small incline. The trail takes you through a popular lava tube. I think it’s worth it to just do both if you’re able to. The lava tube trail is mostly a paved incline/decline with a handrail. The actual lava tube portion is damp and humid from rain water that has dripped through cracks in the porous rocks. The inside of the tube is lit by a lighting system placed by the park service. Once back up the trail, continue back on the Kilauea Iki Crater Trail for about half a mile to the parking lot.
The trail weather conditions can always be changing. The elevation is high and mornings can be cool with temperatures in the 50’s in the shaded forest. However, the crater floor can be quite hot in the direct sun as I mentioned. Rain can also be common. Hiking layers are recommended. One to two liters of water should be fine as well as a small snack if you think you’d need it.