Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Information-

Weather & Climate
The park has distinct climate zones that vary according to elevation. Visitors should be prepared for a wide range of weather conditions. Weather at the summit of Kilauea (4,000' elevation) fluctuates daily and can be rainy and chilly any time of the year. Temperature varies by elevation and it is generally 14 degrees cooler at the summit than it is at sea level. The coastal plain at the end of Chain of Craters Road is often hot, dry, and windy. Bring rain gear, light sweaters or jackets, sturdy shoes, hats, water bottles, sun glasses and high UV factor sunscreen. For the island weather forecast, call (808) 961-5582.

Accessibility
The Kilauea Visitor Center, Jaggar Museum, Volcano House hotel, and Volcano Art Center are wheelchair accessible. Pullouts along Crater Rim Drive and Chain of Craters Road afford panoramic views of the park. For information on accessible pathways, other facilities and programs, inquire at the visitor center.

Getting Around
Explore the summit of Kilauea volcano via Crater Rim Drive, an 11-mile loop road that encircles the summit caldera. On the drive, visitors will pass through a desert, cross the caldera floor, and enjoy the beauty of a tropical rainforest.

If you have three to four hours, visitors may also explore the East Rift and coastal area via Chain of Craters Road. This road descends 3,700 feet in 20 miles and ends where a 1995 lava flow crossed the road. Depending on changing volcanic activity, there may be opportunities for viewing active lava flows. No food or fuel is available along the Chain of Craters Road.

FEES/PERMITS

Entrance Fee
PER CAR
$10.00 for 7 Days
$5.00-Pedestrian for 7 Days
$20.00 for Annual
 

For further information on Kilauea's activity visit US Geological Survey (Click here)

Lava Viewing InformationThings to know before you go!

LAVA WATCHING
| Where | Gear | Safety |

Where can we see lava?
From the Kilauea Visitor Center, follow Crater Rim Drive to the Chain of Craters Road intersection. Drive 20 miles to the turn-around at the end of the Chain of Craters Road and park along the mountainside of the roadway.

Rangers are on duty at the end of Chain of Craters Road from late morning until evening. Sometimes, lava may be seen in the distance flowing down the mountainside. Often, a red glow may be visible on the slopes after dark. A steam plume is visible when lava enters the ocean; it glows orange and red after sunset.

Lava flowing down the Highcastle steps 08/19/2002
The Highcastle steps. NPS photo by Jeff Judd 08/19/02

 

Photographers capturing surface lava activity on film.
Pahoehoe lava flow. Long Pants and shirt sleeves are recommended for lava viewing. USGS photo by USGS, Don Swanson 08/19/02

What might I see if I walk beyond the end of the road?
Lava is flowing on the surface and into the ocean beyond the end of Chain of Craters Road. Rangers on duty at the end of Chain of Craters Road try to mark out a trail with reflectors that visitors may follow to see lava flows nearby. The ranger report from Thursday, October 10, 2002, said that the hike to view lava flow activity was 5 to 20 minutes hiking time each way from the end of the road. This is the phone number to call for the daily Eruption Update message and for park information: (808)-985-6000.

Kilauea is a dynamic volcano. Lava viewing conditions change daily. Talk to the ranger in the Kilauea Visitor Center when you arrive for current information.

Check the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory Kilauea Update for daily information on lava flow activity:

 
Lava viewing conditions are different everyday. Note the end of Chain of Craters Road in the background. Long Pants and shirt sleeves are recommended for lava viewing. It was a very short walk for visitors to see flowing lava on September 5, 2002.

What do we take on the trail? What do we wear?

DO NOT attempt this hike unless you have all items listed below:
FLASHLIGHT
1 for EACH person with extra batteries - if you will be viewing lava after 6:00pm.

BINOCULARS to see lava from a safe distance.

CLOTHING
Long pants (adds protection in case you fall), Raingear, Hat.

BOOTS
or other sturdy closed-toed shoes

FIRST AID KIT
The slightest fall can cause deep cuts. Falling on lava is like falling on broken glass.

WATER
1 or more quarts/liters, per person

SUN SCREEN
SPF 15 or greater

Additional Information:

 
Lava flowing on the surface. June 24, 2002
Visitors watching lava flow on the surface. Long Pants and shirt sleeves are recommended for lava viewing.
June 24, 2002

Travel Safely

DANGERS INCLUDE: REQUIRED READING:
  • VOLCANIC FUMES
  • STEAM AND EXPLOSIONS
  • METHANE GAS EXPLOSIONS
  • COASTLINE COLLAPSE
Viewing Lava Safely - Common Sense is Not Enough!
 

 

VOLCANIC FUMES

Learn more about volcano gas and "vog"

Volcanic fumes are hazardous to your health. Persons with breathing and heart difficulties, pregnant women, infants, and young children are especially at risk. All persons should avoid breathing these fumes. They contain hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, and glass particles.

DO NOT STAND OR WALK IN OR UNDER THE FUMES!

STEAM AND EXPLOSIONS
WHERE LAVA ENTERS THE OCEAN

photo courtesy of G. Brad Lewis

Read what the scientists have to say about volcano steam explosions

Lava enters the ocean at 2,100°F (1,140°C). Sea water explodes into steam and boiling water. Molten lava and rocks blast skyward. Blocks the size of microwave ovens are tossed hundreds of yards/meters inland. Ocean waves wash on hot lava and flash to steam. In June 1998, large violent steam explosions began without warning, throwing molten lava in all directions. Falling debris built a 30 foot (10 m) spatter cone at the lava entry within 15 minutes.

STAY 1/4 MILE (400 m) INLAND OF THE STEAM CLOUDS!

METHANE GAS EXPLOSIONS

photo courtesy of G. Brad Lewis

Underground explosions occur in front of lava flowing over burning vegetation. Plants burn without oxygen as they are covered by lava, creating methane gas. The gas fills underground lava tubes. When the methane ignites, the ground explodes up to 100 yards/meters in front of the advancing lava flow. Rocks and debris blast in all directions.

DO NOT APPROACH LAVA FLOWING THROUGH VEGETATION!

  

Wilipe'a and W. Highcastle lava benches. USGS graphic 08/02/02

BENCH COLLAPSE
photo courtesy of G. Brad Lewis

New land, called a bench, is formed where lava enters the ocean. The bench is unstable and can collapse into the sea without warning.

  1. Lava enters the ocean and shatters into pieces.
  2. Large and small pieces slide down the steep underwater slope.
  3. Rubble continues to build to the surface until new land is created.
  4. As the bench grows, the weight of new lava added to the surface becomes enormous.
  5. A huge underwater avalanche occurs and the bench drops into the sea. Violent steam explosions follow.

Bench collapses are frequent and continuous. In April 1993, one person entered a closed bench area and died when the half-acre he was standing on collapsed. More than twelve others, who were standing nearby, required medical attention. In December 1996, a huge 27 acre bench collapsed into the sea without warning. In May 1998, one person went beyond warning signs, entered a closed bench, and disappeared in the fume cloud. He is still missing and is presumed dead.

STAY AT LEAST 1/4 MILE (400 METERS) INLAND. DO NOT ENTER THE BENCH AREA!

For further information on worldwide volcanic activity visit Volcano World (Click here)

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