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 pay.gov 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 pay.gov require obtaining a permit number in advance by calling or emailing the Backcountry Office. You will enter this number into the pay.gov online form.
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.
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. Stays are limited to 3 consecutive nights. 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.
Along the trail is the "Old Pulu Factory". Please view this 06:22 minute video for information, "Preserving the Ruins of the Hawaiian Tree Fern Industry"
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.
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: October 6, 2018