Napau Crater Trail
Length: 12.5 total miles
Elevation Gain: 1,220 feet
The Napau Crater Trail begins at the Mauna Ulu parking area (approx. 3.5 miles down the Chain of Craters Road
). The Naulu Trail
, which links to the Nāpau Trail, begins at the Kealakomo parking area (approx. 9.7 miles down the Chain of Craters Road). Neither trailhead has public telephones or public transportation. It takes about 20 to 30 minutes to drive from the Kīlauea
Visitor Center via Crater Rim Drive and Chain of Craters Road to get to the trailheads.
Hiking over rocky terrain is strenuous. Hiking boots provide the best traction and protection when hiking on lava. Long pants afford some protection if one should fall on the sharp, glassy lava. The Nāpau and Naulu trails traverse over rough, unstable ʻaʻa and pahoehoe lava. There may be only a 200' elevation change on the Nāpau Trail and a 500' elevation change on the Naulu Trail. Allow 1/2 hour per mile when hiking on these mid-elevation trails. Add additional time for scenic stops and breaks.
There is a pit toilet at the Mauna Ulu trailhead and at the Napau campsite - please use them. Do not put trash in the pit toilets.
The Nāpau Trail traverses a portion of the East Rift Zone of Kīlauea and 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 hike is through exposed lava fields and lush rain forests. Pace yourself, drink plenty of water. Pack extra clothing and your sleeping bag in plastic for waterproofness. Raingear is essential. Stay warm and dry; hypothermia (low body temperature) is a killer. Be prepared to treat injuries caused by falls on sharp, glassy lava.
Volcanic eruptions are possible at any time. In the unlikely event of a lava outbreak along the trail, move uphill and upwind of eruptive activity. Earth cracks, thin crusts, and lava tubes are numerous.
Trails in the park traverse areas which contain very flammable grasses and brush.