End of Chain of Craters Road Trail is a 1.6 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Pahoa, Hawaii that features a cave and is good for all skill levels. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, and scenic driving and is accessible year-round.
The hike begins on a paved portion of Chain of Craters Road that is inaccessible to vehicles. Look for outstanding views of cliffs and windswept coast. In April 2003, lava flows covered the road. From the pavements end, and when lava flows are in the area, longer trails across rough rock may lead to better views of the lava or steam. After sunset, distant views of red lava or steam clouds are sometimes possible. Great star gazing on clear nights. Prepare for hot, windy, and rainy weather. Bring water and food. Flashlights are essential after dark for each person. Volcanic fumes are often present in this part of the park. From the ranger station, the road continues as a pedestrian walkway accessible to wheelchairs and strollers to the point where lava flowed over the road. From there, you must hike over the old lava flow by foot.
The trip to the steam plume is long and hot! Your will walk about 4 miles on a gravel service road then another couple miles across an old lava field to the best viewing spot of the plume near the ocean. The day we hiked I would guess the viewing spot was about ½ mile from the actual out pouring of lava. We did not see any red lava only steam an what looked like an occasional explosion of rock. From talking to others it sounds like the barricade has been moved back significantly from recent weeks due to shearling cliffs. The day we were there there was a surface flow occurring about ½ mile straight back from the ocean cliff. I would recommend plenty of water, snacks and sturdy shoes. My ankles were pretty sore afterwards due to all of the uneven terrain that you walk on, I was wearing Chaco shoes. Glad we did it!
To get to the steam plume you can either bike or walk from the east or hike in from the west. We hiked in from the west. Great hike to the steam plume. Not technical at all, but bring plenty of water. It may be raining and cool on top of the ridge, but sunny and hot on the road. The road/trail is cinder all the way in, with a porta-potty about halfway through. It's about 4 miles in on the road, then you'll hit the NPS roadblock. It's then about a mile over lava field to reach the vent. As of JAN 17, you won't be able to see any lava - either going into the ocean or surface. The recent bench collapse changed the access. The terrain changes though, so you might get lucky. Either way, you'll see a lot of sulfur vents and be standing right over the lava tube. Check with your wife before exploring. AMAZING ocean and lava views all the way in. HIGHLY recommend the hike. Make a reservation at The Rim, for a phenomenal post-hike dinner! ***Wife's Tip Corner: You can do this trail in anything... technically. But highly recommend sturdy shoes, bandana for the vog, and work gloves as some of the lava is very sharp (my husband took his gloves off for a second and got a lava splinter). Ladies - your man might believe he is a volcanologist and go "exploring" over lava vents. I turned my back for one minute and off he went. Recommend a bell or little kid leash.***
This hike is best at sunset. Be prepared to walk 4 miles on a gravel road and then one mile on lava. 10 miles all together. The lava is worth seeing and the walk there is beautiful.
Did this hike at night and while it was fairly flat it has small rocks that roll under your feet. This was a long hike to the lava flow but was beautiful and worth seeing at night!!
Nice place, lots of people, but an easy hike, parking could be an issue for you
Really neat place to visit. If its the right one, its literally on the side of the highway. We stopped right by a lava cave. We were able to climb down and through it. The deeper in the cave the darker it was until the very end, where there was another opening.
Very cool area, and observing the flows was unreal. Terrible crowds though.
Take some time to read the signs along the way that talk about all the plant life you may see. I found it very interesting. And of course you have to take the picture by the mostly buried "Road Closed" sign. I agree, don't wear flip flops. Sturdy shoes everywhere in Volcano National Park are strongly recommended.
Also, take some time as you drive down and back to stop at the scenic points and look. There are a lot of craters worth seeing along the way, some with their own trails.
Don't wear flip flops!