Trails through non-native vegetation may be steep and rocky. Steep cliffs (pali) mark the flank of Kilauea. Trails may be steep and rocky. Watch your footing along the hot and windy trails. Maximum elevation change between trailhead and campsite is 3,000 feet (1000m). Stay on the trail! Do not cut across switchbacks as this accelerates erosion. Trails are marked by stone cairns (ahu) that may be difficult to see in the rain and mist, and impossible to find in the dark. Trails are rocky and uneven, and may be overgrown with thick vegetation. There are no trees or shelter from the sun along the various trails to Halape.
Intense sunlight, wind, humidity, and high temperatures can lead to dehydration, heat exhaustion or stroke. Cold wind and driving rain are possible any time of year and may cause low body temperature (hypothermia). Hot, dry winds blowing over non-native grasses can sap your energy and dehydrate hikers quickly. Pace yourself, drink fluids, eat snacks, and avoid hiking during the hottest times of day (usually mid-day 10 am to 2pm). Wear sunglasses, sunscreen, and a hat. Take layers of clothing to regulate body temperature.
During the day, temperatures can soar into the high 90s or higher. There are NO trees to provide relief from the sun. Carry and drink 3 to 4 quarts of water per person (per day). The elderly, infants, and those taking antihistamines and certain types of medication for high blood pressure or depression are especially at risk for heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
The Heat Equation: High Temperature + High Humidity + Physical Work = Heat Illness or Death.
Seismic and Volcanic Hazards
An earthquake can cause a locally-generated tsunami (seismic sea wave) at the coast. If you feel a strong earthquake, move to high ground immediately. Earthquakes can also produce large rock falls -- avoid potential rock fall areas. A volcanic eruption is possible at any time; stay upslope and upwind from active lava flows and their gasses. Volcanic gas (vog) can present breathing problems miles downwind from its source. Stay on the trail -- earth cracks, thin crusts, and lava tubes are numerous.
See additional information about destructive earthquakes and tsunami:
Thick grass and brush create a fire hazard in the coastal area. Do not smoke while hiking. Campfires, firearms, and fireworks are prohibited.
In the Ka'u Desert and coastal areas west of Ka'aha, there may be unexploded WWII ammunition. If you should see any, DO NO TOUCH IT. Report the location to rangers.
Pesky and Dangerous Animals
Centipedes, scorpions, and black widow spiders are common in stone walls and rocky areas. Sharks are sometimes seen in coastal waters. Beware of sea urchins (wana), tubeworm casts, and sharp rocks when wading or swimming. Mongooses, mice, and feral cats thrive on unattended food supplies. Store food securely and keep a clean camp. To keep out insects, tents with fully zipable screens are recommended.
Protect Precious Plants, Animals, and Archeological Sites
It's a Good Idea and It's the Law
Turtles - Endangered Hawksbill sea turtles nest and threatened Green sea turtles rest on park beaches. Do not camp in areas posted as turtle nesting areas at `Apua, Halape, and other beaches. Federal and state laws protect all sea turtles from harm.
Archeology - Respect and help protect Hawaiian archeological sites. Do not climb on or alter any rock structures, such as walls, house platforms, pits, and mounds. Avoid walking on or making rubbings of petroglyphs.
Fishing - Fishing along the coastline from the park's eastern boundary to a point midway between Keauhou and Halape is restricted to native Hawaiian residents of the Kalapana area. It is your responsibility to understand and obey all fishing regulations.
Swimming - There are very few sheltered swimming sites along the coast. Rough seas, high surf and strong, unpredictable currents are typical of the park's coastline. Avoid entering the open ocean. Help protect the rare plants and animals that live in tidepools and brackish ponds - rinse off all soap and sunscreen before entering them.
Pets and Stock Use - Dogs and other pets are not allowed on park trails or in wilderness areas. Horses, donkeys, and mules are allowed in the backcountry with a valid backcountry permit (limit of 6 animals per site). Tether livestock at least 100 feet from campsites in an area that presents no hazard or sanitation problems to other campers. Hikers encountering horse parties should quietly step off the trail and allow the animals to pass.
Leave No Trace - Pack out everthing you pack in. Do not put rubbish in pit toilets. Keep wilderness areas beautiful and clean. Practice Leave No Trace ethics when hiking and camping.
Post your trip journal on our webpage!
See our Journal webpage for examples and more information about Halape and other areas of the park. Email pictures and text to: Webmaster
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