Backcountry Hiking

Pu‘u ‘Ula‘ula (red hill) cabin on Mauna Loa
Pu‘u ‘Ula‘ula (red hill) cabin on Mauna Loa

NPS/N. Judd

‘Āpua Point Campsite
Tent camping at ‘Āpua Point along the coast at Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park

Photo/Jacob W. Frank

Visitor Emergency Operations Center (VEOC)
Visitor Emergency Operations Center (VEOC)


For backcountry camping, there is a non-refundable $10.00 fee per trip (effective November 1, 2016), in addition to the park entrance fee. The fee is good for up to 12 people and 7 nights per permit. Failure to obtain a backcountry permit is a violation of 36 CFR 2.10(b)(8). Violators may be subject to fines up to $1000 and/or 6 months in jail. All eight backcountry campsites (Ka‘aha, Halapē, Keauhou, ‘Āpua Point, Nāpau, Pepeiao Cabin, Red Hill Cabin and Mauna Loa Cabin) require a permit, with a stay limit of three consecutive nights at one site. Campers can move to another backcountry site for the fourth night, but no more than 7 consecutive nights per permit. Stays longer than 7 nights require purchasing an additional $10.00 permit. Sites may be reserved up to a week in advance and are reserved upon receipt of permit fees. Fees for backcountry camping can be paid in person at the Backcountry Office by credit card, personal check, cash (exact change please), or online through up to a week in advance of your departure. Physical permits must be picked up no more than 24 hours in advance from the Backcountry Office, open daily from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Payments made through require obtaining a permit number in advance by calling or emailing the Backcountry Office. You will enter this number into the online form.


  • Permit requests to hike Mauna Loa from the Weather Observatory Trail may be done by phone.
  • Permits for campers using watercraft to access coastal camping areas may be done over the phone.
Off-site (dispersed) camping is allowed in the backcountry. Hikers must be at least 1 mile from a road or improved camp area and "out of sight and sound" of the trail. "Cat holing" is not allowed to dispose of human waste.

Backcountry Office contact information:
Telephone - 808-985-6178
Contact Us Email Form

Map and directions to the Backcountry Office ( jpg - 784KB )
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Back Country Planner
page 1 ( jpg - 5.03MB )
page 2 ( jpg - 3.59MB )

Hiking Tips Page

Hikers are encouraged to submit their trip experiences to our webmaster for posting on our hike journals webpage.

Essential Backpacking Gear:

  • first aid kit
  • trail map
  • emergency food supply, cookstove, fuel, utensils (Open fires and smoking are prohibited)
  • flashlight & extra batteries
  • biodegradable soap, toilet paper
  • signaling device (mirror, etc.)
  • minimum 3 to 4 quarts/liters water per person/day
  • tent/bivy sack
  • broken-in sturdy boots, moleskin
  • sunglasses, sunscreen, hat
  • sleeping bag
  • rain pants and jacket

NOTE: There may be other equipment necessary for your particular destination. Check with rangers for specific campground, cabin, and trail recommendations!

Minimum Impact Camping
All hikers are required to pack out everything they pack in. Do not bury your trash or discard it in pit toilets - Pack it out. Practice "leave no trace" camping.

We do not have streams in the park so backpackers must be self-sufficient and bring in all their own water. Some campgrounds have water catchment tanks (rain water collected from metal shelter roofs). Updates on their current water levels are available at the Backcountry Permit Office, 808-985-6178. Check with rangers when obtaining your permit!

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.

Allow 1/2 hour per mile when hiking on mid-elevation trails and more time as you gain elevation. Add additional time for scenic stops, and water 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 - avoid hiking during the heat of the day (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.)

Island weather is unpredictable. Visitors should be prepared for rain and wear layers of clothing to ensure their comfort while exploring the park.

At the 4,000' summit of Kīlauea, temperatures may be 12 to 15 degrees cooler than at sealevel. Coastal areas are often hot, dry, and windy with the possibility of passing showers.

Hiking on Mauna Loa (13,677') requires careful planning and preparation. Check the weather forecast before making this hike.

Health Hazards
Many hikes are 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 for treating 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 is prohibited.

Natural Resources
Help us protect your National Park. All plants, animals, rocks and other natural and archaeological or cultural features are protected by law against removal, injury, or destruction.

Cultural Resources
Please respect all archaeological sites and artifacts left by ancient Hawaiians. Do not move any rocks, climb on or alter any rock structures, such as lava trees, walls, heiau (ancient temples), or petroglyphs (rock engravings). Entry into caves is prohibited.

Special Note:
Dogs and firearms are prohibited in the wilderness.

Before you go, leave a trip plan with another person. Make sure they understand that should you be lost or injured on the trail, they are your only link to help and should report you overdue if you fail to contact them by a predesignated time.
If lost, stay where you are. Use bright colors and reflective materials to attract attention. Rangers will not start a wilderness search until 24 hours after they are notified that a hiker is missing.
To report a lost or overdue hiker, call Hawaii County 911 or Park Dispatch at (808) 985-6170.

Check Out of the Backcountry
At the completion of your hike, report out by stopping at the Backcountry Office or call (808) 985-6178. Permits are issued because of the dynamic nature of this volcano. In the event of an eruption, it is important for rangers to know who may be in danger.

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


Last updated: July 1, 2019

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 52
Hawaii National Park, HI 96718


(808) 985-6101

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