There was once a time in 1959 when fountains of lava from Kilauea Iki crater erupted nearly 2,000 ft. into the sulfur-filled air. As lava spouted from the small crater near the summit of Kilauea volcano, it formed a lava lake which measured ten feet deep and was a bubbling cauldron of freshly-formed Earth. To date, the area is home to some of the most intense activity volcanologists have experienced in the Hawaiian chain.
While that particular event may have been over 50 years ago, Kilauea Iki crater today is still one of the most visited spots in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, and it’s reputed that even after five decades that parts of the Earth are still warm to the touch. Strangely enough, the most popular hike in the National Park actually cuts across the floor of the crater, and this strenuous two hour journey begins its descent from the edge of a tropical rainforest.
Even though the crater looks tame from above, hikers who tackle Kilauea Iki crater speak of the surreal feeling of hiking across virgin terrain that was so violent in the recent past. Gazing up at the rim of the crater, it’s humbling to think that this mile-wide opening was once consumed with magma as it gushed from the fiery Earth.
Although Kilauea remains an active volcano, the center of the activity is in a separate section of park, and Kilauea Iki seems to have calmed for the immediate time being. Nevertheless, steam vents will still rise from areas with moisture, and a hike across Kilauea Iki crater is a literal walk into the heart of one of the most active volcanoes on the planet.
For those with an interest in volcanoes and history this is a spot that will leave you in astonishment and wonder, and the otherworldly terrain of the crater floor is like none other you will experience in the Hawaiian chain.