Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Aug 26, 2020 | General Information

Table of Contents
In 2018, an eruption of the Kilauea volcano changed the island of Hawaii forever. From May through August, large lava flows covered land southeast of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park destroying over 700 homes and devastating residential areas in the Puna District. At the same time, the summit area of the park was dramatically changed by tens of thousands of earthquakes, towering ash plumes and a massive collapse of Kilauea caldera.

Be sure to see the then-and-now photos of the dramatic changes of Kilauea’s summit provided by the USGS (United States Geological Survey).. Beginning in May, 2018, the lava lake that existed inside Halema‘uma‘u crater disappeared and Lava flows from Puʻu ʻŌʻō crater ceased as well. The lava however continued to spew from volcanic vents heading toward the coast and caused tremendous destruction. Currently there is no molten lava or lava glow to see anywhere in or out of the park. Kilauea Volcano is not erupting. No significant changes in volcanic activity have been observed recently.

The story of Kilauea’s summit explosion and the aftermath includes a great deal of drama and impressive efforts to reopen the Park. On April 30, 2018 Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō collapsed. On May 4 a magnitude 6.9 earthquake, the biggest since 1975, shook the island. The Park was closed but reopened just a few days later. Halema’uma’u lava lake started draining. The Park closed again. The USGS expected more summit explosions, which happened a few days later. The summit collapsed. Nevertheless a partial reopening of the Park was set for the end of September 2018. Sewage and water lines, roads and everything else in the Park had to be evaluated for restoration and visitor safety.

By the end of November 2018 trails like Crater Rim Trail and the The Ka‘u Desert Trail began to reopen. The Volcano House resumed meal service. By April 2019 most of the Kīlauea Iki Trail was reopened but parts of the trail remained closed until September. A park interdisciplinary team conducted field surveys for potential new trails. The Federal Highway Administration repaired damaged roads. In the summer of 2019 Federal disaster recovery funds were appropriated to complete work on the Park. Road and trail repair continues in 2020.

The pond at the bottom of Halema’uma’u, which began forming at the end of July 2019, continues to slowly expand and deepen to more than 80 feet. The Hawaii Volcano Observatory continues to closely monitor geologic changes, earthquake activity, gas emissions and any other sign of increased activity at Kilauea and it maintains visual surveillance of the volcano with web cameras and field visits.

In 2003 a large (116,000 acres) section of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park was added by the purchase of land from a large ranch estate. Nearly doubling the size of the Park, Kahuku has several trails.The Kahuku Unit’s Forested Pit Crater and sections of the Glover Trail are open to foot traffic only, but with certain restrictions. Kahuku Road in the upper paddocks remains closed to vehicle traffic to help prevent the spread of Rapid ‘Ōhi’a Death which is a disease that is decimating Hawaii’s Ohea forests. Hiking to the Forested Pit Crater and open sections of Glover Trail is only allowed via the Pit Crater Trail or Pali O Ka’ Eo Trail. Hikers must stay on all designated trails as well as spray and brush their footwear at the Decontamination Station on the Pit Crater Trail before proceeding onward.

Visitors to the Park should know that the Jaggar Museum is closed as well as Crater Rim Drive between Kilauea Military Camp and the Museum, Crater Rim Trail beyond Kilauea Military Camp and from Volcano House to Kīlauea Iki. Visitors should check with the National Park Service about which roads, trails, campgrounds and parking areas are closed or under repair. The good news is that at least portions of a number of trails are open like Halema‘uma‘u Trail, Devastation Trail, Kilauea Iki Trail, Crater Rim Trail, Ka‘u Desert Trail, and Napau Trail.