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The most common question rangers at Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park hear is “Where's the lava?” An easy yet cryptic answer is “Everywhere!”
Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, on the Island of Hawai‘i, provides safe access to, and shares the fascinating natural and cultural history of, Kīlauea and Mauna Loa volcanoes — two active volcanoes in the 3,600-mile-long Hawaiian archipelago formed entirely by volcanic activity.
While the nature of volcanoes is dynamic and ever-changing, viewing at Kīlauea's mesmerizing summit area has been consistent since March 2008, when Halema‘uma‘u Crater awoke for the first time since 1924.
Halema‘uma‘u is home to Pele, the Hawaiian volcano goddess. Pele's presence is almost palpable to visitors at the Thomas A. Jaggar Museum and overlook, where a voluptuous plume of gas and ash rises from a lava lake several hundred feet below the crater floor. Jaggar Museum honors the scientist who developed the early monitoring techniques of volcanology. Here, you can see real-time seismograph readings of our living planet.
Venture after dark (and why not, the park is open 24 hours a day), for a riveting sight — if the weather cooperates, the fiery orange glow is reflected in the plume and clouds above. Be sure to bring a flashlight and dress warmly — it gets chilly at the 4,000-foot elevation after sundown.
This amazing park — a 333,086-acre World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve — is a wonderland just 30 miles from Hilo International Airport. Famous for its two active volcanoes, the park also protects lava tubes, native rainforests home to flora and fauna found nowhere else on Earth, and deserts of volcanic cinder.
The park hosts Hawaiian cultural programs, special events and ranger-led treks that amaze visitors daily. Hikers can spend an hour, a day, or a month exploring the park's 150-plus miles of trails that curve through lush forests, rocky deserts, remote seashores, and up the icy 13,677-foot summit of Mauna Loa. Trails range from short, easy strolls to demanding back-country treks.
Recently, lava from Kīlauea's remote Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō vent poured into the Pacific Ocean, providing a dazzling view for hikers able to make the arduous 10-mile roundtrip trek from the end of Chain of Craters Road to the new West Ka‘ili‘ili ocean entry. The ocean entry has since diminished, but Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō continues to erupt (the vent's been active since 1983), and conditions change often.
At the Kīlauea Visitor Center, you can find out the latest conditions from park rangers, and get your bearings. It's also the place to learn about daily guided hikes, cultural programs, Hawaiian music concerts, and other park happenings of interest to visitors.
Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park will celebrate its centennial anniversary in 2016, and it remains one of the most visited attractions in Hawai‘i. It’s an incredible place for visitors and locals alike to explore the area's fascinating culture, biology, and geology.
By Jessica Ferracane, Public Affairs Specialist, Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park