Mauna Iki Trail

 A desert in Hawai'i? The Kaʻū Desert isn't technically a desert because it receives too much rainfall. The desert-like appearance of Kaʻū is due to the combination of the rain shadow from massive Mauna Loa and acid rain created from the gases erupting from Kīlauea Volcano. The ph of this acid rain can be as low as 3.4 and inhibits most plant growth. The lava here is also very permeable, percolating most rainwater deep into the earth before plants can avail themselves of it. This desert is an amazing and unique landscape on an island full of such landscapes. This hike begins at the Kulanaokuaiki Campground along the Hilina Pali Road and travels to the Twin Pit Craters for a moderate dayhike. The Mauna Iki Trail continues all the way to Hwy. 11 as described here.

Trailhead: The trailhead for this hike is the Kulanaokuaiki Campground along the Hilina Pali Road. From Chain of Craters Road, turn onto Hilina Pali Road and follow it for several miles until the road is closed due to the 2018 eruption. At this closure, turn right and drive to the Kulanaokuaiki Campground. The campground has a vault toilet, but no other services. Plan accordingly.

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park Overview



Gear: This is a long hike into one of the most remote areas of Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park. Bring plenty of extra water and food. The hike is 3000' above sea level, so temperatures are much cooler than coastal destinations. Wear boots and don't forget your raingear.

Hike: From the campground, walk back to Hilina Pali Road and pass the road closure signs. (It’s ok to walk along the road even though it’s closed to vehicles). Walk less than a half mile and find the trailhead for the Mauna Iki Trail departing to the west. The trail is marked with periodic ahu (cairns) through the rough lava. There is a considerable amount of ash from the 2018 eruption cycle along the way. After two miles, you reach a large rift where you hike down through a weakness in the cliff. After descending the short slope, the terrain and lava colors change and you’re close to the Twin Pit Craters. These craters house white-tailed tropicbirds who nest in the walls. Stay away from the eroding edges of these craters. This is the turn-around for this hike, but you can continue all the way to Hwy. 11 as described here.

mauna iki trail from hilina pali road hike.jpg