The Nāpau Trail – Over the lava

A surface lava flow on Napau trail.

An early part of the trail follows a surface flow down the side of a hill with a small ohia tree toughing it out in the lava.

A lava channel on Napau trail.

In a couple of places the trail goes through sunken areas that channeled the lava.

Steam vents on the eastern side of Mauna Ulu.

Steam vents on the eastern side of Mauna Ulu.

Cairns mark the route across an ocean of lava toward Makaopuhi Crater.

Cairns mark the route across an ocean of lava toward Makaopuhi Crater.

 

The Nāpau Trail in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, is a 13-mile round trip. It passes over extensive lava fields, plunges into dense forest, and ends at the Nāpau Crater overlook. The overlook offers a terrific view (weather permitting) of Puʻu ʻŌʻō, one of two active vents on Kilauea Volcano. In today’s post I’m going to cover the lava fields portion of the hike with the second part coming tomorrow.

From the Mauna Ulu parking area, the first mile or so is a well-trodden trail to Pu’u Huluhulu (hairy hill) cinder cone. The foot of Pu’u Huluhulu is where the Nāpau Trail branches off across the lava. It’s a stark landscape, but with lots of interest. The trail passes over surface flows and through channels where lava rivers ran.

The Park’s website notes that the Nāpau Trail “follows the path that magma takes as it makes its way underground from its source at the summit to the point where it comes to the surface near Puʻu ʻŌʻō.” The many steam vents around Mauna Ulu are testament to this.

And in this hostile landscape, nature is at work. The lava fields are dotted with tenacious plants establishing a toehold.  Ohia trees and ferns are most frequently seen, but grasses and other plants lend color to this sea of gray and black.

It’s 2.2 miles of unbroken lava from the Pu’u Huluhulu junction to the rim of Makaopuhi Crater, but at that point the trail changes in an almost surreal way. I’ll post that section tomorrow.

For more information about this, and other hikes on the Big Island, go to bigislandhikes.com.
For more information about Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, go to nps.gov/havo/.
For more information about Kilauea Volcano and it’s eruptions, go to hvo.wr.usgs.gov/kilauea/history/main.html.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking down into Makaopuhi Crater.

Looking down into Makaopuhi Crater, which most recently erupted in 1972.

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