Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
|Volcanoes National Park, Big Island, Hawaii (Bob Abraham)|
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park's three main roads offer motorists and cyclists great opportunities to get acquainted with the natural wonders of the park. For example, those with cars or bikes can take one of the short drives around Kilauea Crater via Crater Rim Drive . This 11-mile drive circles Kilauea's summit caldera and craters, passes through rainforest and desert, and provides access to well-marked scenic stops and short walks. Highlights include Sulphur Banks, Steam Vents, Jaggar Museum, Halema'uma'u Crater, Devastation Trail, Kilauea Iki Crater, and Thurston Lava Tube.
Chain of Craters Road
This 40-mile round-trip drive intersects with Crater Rim Drive, descends 3,700 feet to the coast, and dead ends where a 1995 lava flow crossed the road. Allow three or more hours depending on how often you stop. Note: There are no services along this road. Gasoline and a general store are available in Volcano Village, one mile from the park entrance station on Highway 11 toward Hilo.
Chain of Craters Road follows a line of pit craters formed in prehistoric times. The Pauahi Crater, three miles from the intersection of Crater Rim Drive, has a wooden platform where visitors can view the inside of the crater and Mauna Ulu, a large lava mountain. Next, pull into parking lot at Mauna Ulu, which means "growing mountain." A short walk from here reveals the remnants of the old Chain of Craters Road, before it was covered by the 1969-1974 eruption.
Mauna Loa Strip Road connects the Kilauea area with the Mauna Loa trailhead, by way of the Hawaii Belt Highway. Stop along Mauna Loa Strip Road and explore the Tree Molds, just after you've turned off the highway. Move on to Kipuka Puaula, 1.5 miles farther along. It's a one-hour, one-mile loop trail through an "island" in the lava flows, rife with rare plants and an astonishing variety flowers, shrubs, vines, and ferns. Continuing along Mauna Loa Strip Road will take you through another oasis of mature forest, with magnificent old trees lining the road. At the end of the road lies the trailhead for the 18-mile trek to the summit of Mauna Loa. There you will also find a fine view of Kilauea and the ocean in the distance.
The Mauna Loa Observatory is accessible via Route 200/Saddle Road, a two-hour drive from the Kilauea Visitor Center.
Don't forget, the general rule is that trails are closed to bicycles, so the park will be a road touring experience, not a mountain bike adventure. However, do check with the rangers, because there are occasional exceptions to the rule.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication