The Kahuku Unit

A rolling, pastoral landscape on the slopes of the largest volcano on the planet

 
Green hill with red volcanic soil exposed under blue sky with clouds
 
Located on the volatile shoulders of Mauna Loa, the Kahuku Ranch was once one of the biggest cattle ranches in Hawaiʻi, producing beef and hides for more than 150 years. The apparent tranquility of ranch-life, however, was punctuated by volcanic violence that continues to transform the land to this day.

Share in the wonders of this 116,000 acre landscape shaped by both man and nature.
 
 
View a map of the Kahuku Unit (1.8 MB PNG)
 
A green grassy hill with two trees in the foreground

NPS Photo/J. Wei

Take a Hike

The Kahuku Unit has a variety of options for day hikes:

  • Pu‘u o Lokuana Cinder Cone Hike this short, but strenuous climb to the top of Pu‘u o Lokuana cinder cone. 0.4 mile (0.35 km) loop, 130 feet (40 m) elevation change
  • Pu‘u o Lokuana Trail Take the trail along historic ranch roads to a hidden pasture. See lava tree molds and the flows from 1868. 2 miles (3.2 km) loop, 130 feet (40 m) elevation change
  • Kamakapa‘a Trail Follow this easy trail through grassy meadows to the top of a small cinder cone. Sweeping views from the top take in the full breadth of lower Ka‘ū. 1/2 mile (0.8 km) loop 40 feet (12 m) elevation change
  • Palm Trail Hike or bike through scenic pastures for one of best panoramic views in Kahuku. See volcanic features along the 1868 fissure and cross the main lava channel. 2.6 miles (4.2 km) loop 310 feet (95 m) elevation change
  • Pali o Ka‘eo Trail Walk the trail through woodland meadows along the top of the steep grassy slope. Vistas along the way take in the coast of Ka‘ū from Ka Lae (South Point) to Nā Pu‘u o Pele. Make it a loop and return by walking a portion of the Pit Crater trail and road. 2.1 miles (3.4 km) 410 feet (125 m) elevation change
  • Pit Crater Trail This strenuous hike leads steeply up old pasture roads to the edge of a huge pit crater. Continue hiking for an additional 1.7 mile (2.8 km) loop before returning on the same trail. Hikers must decontaminate at the ROD Quarantine Gate. 2.4 miles (3.9 km) from Pit Crater Trailhead to the Forested Pit Crater, 1,165 feet (335 m) elevation gain
  • The Glover Trail This hike culminates on the edge of a huge pit crater with a pristine Hawaiian rainforest protected within its sheer walls. 5.6 mile (8.8 km) round-trip loop to the Forested Pit Crater from ROD quarantine gate. Additional, 1.6 mile (2.6 km) round-trip spur trail towards 1926 flow. Hikers must decontaminate at the ROD quarantine gate.
  • The Kona Trail Experience relics of Kahuku’s ranching era as you hike through pasture land and across the 1887 lava flow on this trek. 7 mile (11.1 km) round-trip from the ROD quarantine gate. Hikers must decontaminate at the ROD quarantine gate.
 

“A vast serpent upon the beautiful pasture lands”

-Missionary Titus Coan describing the Mauna Loa lava flows that reached Kahuku in 1868
 
A hill covered in ferns overlooks a forest below

Photo Gallery: Kahuku Unit

Photos of the Kahuku Unit

An ʻōhiʻa tree growing in a green pasture

History of the Kahuku Unit

From the first arrival of Polynesians to the ranching period, Kahuku has a rich and varied past

Black and white image of a paniolo on a horse herding cattle

The Paniolo

These Hawaiian cowboys managed livestock on the large ranches of Hawaiʻi Island, including at Kahuku

Black and white photograph of devastated houses in a field of rubble

1868 Eruption of Mauna Loa

One of the deadliest disasters in Hawaiian history

A green meadow with small mounts and distant trees. Ferns line the foreground.

Kaʻū Field System

Walls and mounds that helped grow crops to feed the people of Kaʻū are still visible in Kahuku today

Close up of ʻōhiʻa lehua flowers

Rapid ‘Ōhi‘a Death

Please help prevent the spread of this terrible disease

Last updated: May 13, 2021

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

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

Phone:

(808) 985-6011

Contact Us