The Nāpau Trail and Naʻulu Trail are open, however, due to the extreme instability of the area they are subject to closure at any time. Everyone who plans to hike the Nāpau Trail past Puʻu Huluhulu OR the Nāulu Trail must self-register at the hiker's check-in station located at the trailhead or on the trail just past the trailhead at Kealakomo.
Following the East Rift Zone of Kīlauea, the Nāpau Trail provides opportunities for hikers to experience a diversity of environments in Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park. The 14 mile round trip (7 + hours) hike is through varied terrain ranging from recent lava flows to dense tree fern rain forests.
Begin this hike from the Mauna Ulu parking area, 3 1/2 miles down the Chain of Craters Road. Your destination is Nāpau Crater where hikers may gaze at Puʻu ʻŌʻō vent steaming and fuming in the distance. There is a campground and pit toilet at the end of the trail.
Overnight camping is currently permitted, however this status may change depending on volcanic activity. Contact the Backcountry Permit office at (808) 985-6178 for current camping information.
The Nāpau Trail passes through lava flows from the Mauna Ulu eruptions. Mauna Ulu (Lit. growing mountain), a recently formed shield volcano, erupted from 1969 through 1974 leaving an altered landscape of incredibly fascinating geologic features. Trekking over lava rivers and through lava channels, appreciating the fragile beauty of lava trees, peering into pit craters, and imagining a time when molten rock once sloshed like water in a perched lava pond, hikers will find that this trail offers an experience for all to enjoy.
The Nāpau Trail begins at the Mauna Ulu parking area (approx. 3.5 miles down the Chain of Craters Road). The Naulu Trail, which links to the Nāpau Trail, begins at the Kealakomo parking area (approx. 9.7 miles down the Chain of Craters Road). Neither trailhead has public telephones or public transportation. It takes about 20 to 30 minutes to drive from the Kīlauea Visitor Center via Crater Rim Drive and Chain of Craters Road to get to the trailheads.
The lower end of the historic Kalapana trail has been covered by miles of lava.The upper section of the trail is no longer maintained, densely overgrown and is extremely difficult to follow. DO NOT plan on using this trail.
The ahu (stone cairn) trail markers can be difficult on first sight to distinguish from the surrounding lava. However, the trails are well marked and hikers soon become accustomed to spotting the cairns in the black lava fields. Sunlight may be intense. Hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen are preventive measures against sunburn. Start your trek early to avoid being on park trails during the hottest times of the day.
The Nāpau Trail traverses a portion of the East Rift Zone of Kīlauea and follows the path that magma takes as it makes its way underground from its source at the summit to the point where it comes to the surface near Puʻu ʻŌʻō. The hike is through exposed lava fields and lush rain forests. Pace yourself, drink plenty of water. Pack extra clothing and your sleeping bag in plastic for waterproofness. Raingear is essential. Stay warm and dry; hypothermia (low body temperature) is a killer. Be prepared to treat injuries caused by falls on sharp, glassy lava.