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Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is the highlight of our Big Island trip. There are tons of information online or in travel books for you to plan the trip. I would not repeat the information here. The book I highly recommend is Hawaii The Big Island Revealed.

Before the trip I had done extensive research trying to find the trail condition of Napau Crater Trail at NIGHT. But I was not able to find any. So I'd like to add it here and hope it could help you plan your trip.

My trip was in November 2011. At that time, the Pu'u 'O'o vent, which can be reached relatively closely via Napau Crater Trail, were very active. I assumed it would be a good photo opportunity at night. The campsite at the end of the trail was also closed due to the hazard. My original plan was to start the hike in afternoon, get to the Napau Crater overlook before the sunset, take photos, then hike back to my car. Considering the round trip is about 14 miles, I knew it won't be easy at night but I just did not know how dangerous it could be.

After talking to a ranger in visitor center the day before the hike, we eventually decided not to hike at night as it would be too dangerous. Soon after we started the hike, we were glad we made the right decision.

The trail can be divided into three sections. The first section is from trail head to Pu'u Huluhulu Crater. It is about a mile long with reflective marks on the ground. It will be fine to hike this section at night as long as you have a flashlight. At Pu'u Huluhulu Crater you can remotely watch the smoke from Pu'u 'O'o vent.

The second section is between Pu'u Huluhulu Crater and Makaopuhi Crater. It is about 4-mile long open dry lava field coming from Mauna Ulu 1969-1974 eruptions. After passing Pu'u Huluhulu Crater, we did not see any other hikers during the day. Hiking here is a fascinating experience. Everything in this area is black as you can imagine. There is no designated trail on lava field. Cracks are everywhere. If you fall, you could get seriouly injured. Especially when you get close to Mauna Ulu Crater, cracks get bigger and wider and you have to make a sharp turn. Otherwise, you could drop into the crater. The only way to navigate in this area is looking for piled lava stones, which are of course in black, called Ahu. There are many places the distance between Ahu are very far. Even at day time, it is hard to find them. At night, even with full moon and the strongest flashlight, I bet you won't be able to find most of them. I also carry a hiking GPS. Although it can tell me the direction, it won't help to keep me on the exact trail we passed at day time. Besides the navigation issue, it was also EXTREMELY windy in this open area with occasional rain shower. Hiking this section at night is very dangerous and I strongly discourage doing so.

The last section is after Makaopuhi Crater. The trail becomes very narrow in rain forest. You won't have navigation issue though. It is just slightly muddy.

Halema'uma'u Crater Sunrise, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii

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Halema'uma'u Crater Sunrise

The photo was taken at Jaggar Museum.

Halema'uma'u Crater after Sunset, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii

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Halema'uma'u Crater after Sunset

The photo was taken at Jaggar Museum about half hour after sunset. I like the clouds reflected glow coming from the vent.

Mauna Loa Sunrise, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii

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Mauna Loa Sunrise

The photo was taken at Jaggar Museum.

Kilauea Iki Crater Sunset, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii

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Kilauea Iki Crater Sunset

The photo was taken at Kilauea Iki Crater Overlook.

Pu'u Loa Petroglyph Trail, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii

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Pu'u Loa Petroglyph Trail

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