• Halema`uma`u Just Before Dawn

    Hawai'i Volcanoes

    National Park Hawai'i

Nāpau

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.

(see Area Closures and Advisories)

 
Visitors enjoy the beauty of the lava landscape near Makaopuhi Crater

Hikers enjoy the beauty of the lava landscape near Makaopuhi Crater

NPS photo by Norrie Judd

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.
 

Hiking Tips (pdf-217KB)
Please view this four minute video - "Plan for Safe Viewing of Lava Flows"

 

Trailheads
No drinking water is available at the trailheads or anywhere along the Nāpau, Naulu, and Kalapana Trails. We do not have streams in this area so backpackers must bring in all their own water (recommended: 4 quarts/person/day).

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.

 

Trail Conditions
Hiking over rocky terrain is strenuous. Hiking boots provide the best traction and protection when hiking on lava. Long pants afford some protection if one should fall on the sharp, glassy lava. The Nāpau and Naulu trails traverse over rough, unstable ʻaʻa and pahoehoe lava. There may be only a 200' elevation change on the Nāpau Trail and a 500' elevation change on the Naulu Trail. Allow 1/2 hour per mile when hiking on these mid-elevation trails. Add additional time for scenic stops and breaks.

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.

 
Health Hazards
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.
 

Volcanic Hazards
Volcanic eruptions are possible at any time. In the unlikely event of a lava outbreak along the trail, move uphill and upwind of eruptive activity. Earth cracks, thin crusts, and lava tubes are numerous.

Fire Hazards
Trails in the park traverse areas which contain very flammable grasses and brush. Open fires and smoking are prohibited!

 
Give us your feedback - Let us know about trail, cabin, or campsite conditions. Did you notice anything damaged or dangerous conditions that rangers should be aware of? File a Trip Report.
 

Did You Know?

Skylight reveals lava flowing to the ocean.

Large volumes of lava move in lava tubes beneath the hardened surface of recent flows. Skylights form when the roof of a lava tube collapses, revealing the molten lava flowing like a river within the tube.