On our second full day on Hawaii we headed to Volcanoes National Park on the
southeast side of the island. It had been raining in Hilo when we left and
was still raining lightly at the Visitor Center in the park with heavy overcast
and poor visibility. We first
attempted to visit the Kilauea hihgpoint, only to find that the road and
trail have been closed for several years, since the crater floor collaped
in 2018 and the rim was deemed too unstable for public safety. Others continue
to stealth this one, but we were discouraged by the extra distance we'd have to
hike in the rain. The wetness in
this part of the park would linger most of the day and we'd be pretty wet
after a few short hikes. In the afternoon we headed southwest, intending to
visit the southernmost point of the island, more than an hour away. We never
got there, stopping with better weather to tag a few more easy summits on the
This one is located not far from the end of the park road at the coast (where
the cool Holei Sea Arch can be found). We drove down the road to get
out of the rain and this worked nicely - overcast still, but dry. A
3/4mi trail leads to some Hawaiian petroglyphs. At the end of
the trail is a small looping boardwalk around the petroglyphs.
The highpoint is found just outside the boardwalk on a very small knoll,
maybe five feet higher than the boardwalk. Not much of a summit, but the
petroglyphs were interesting. Most of them were small, circular divots
(much like the dimples on a golfball) used in ceremonies to ask for long life
for newborns, their umbilical cords placed in the divots with a rock over them.
Pu'u Huluhulu / Mauna Ulu
Driving back up towards the Visitor Center, we stopped at the
Pu'u Huluhulu TH
from which both of these summits can be reached. It rained for most of the hike
and it was here that we found ourselves damp and wet, despite rainjackets. A
trail goes east for some miles, passing by a handful of small vents and craters
from past eruptions, getting within a few miles of Pu'u O'o, the site of the
most recent eruptions that had gone on almost continually for decades, starting
in 1983 until it ended abruptly in 2018. The trail travels over
lava fields and through small forested areas to a
trail junction at the base of Pu'u Huluhulu. The left branch goes up
the forested slopes of the cinder cone to a small concrete & rock
viewspot with handrails around it. No views from the top today as we
were swimming in the clouds. The actual highpoint and
benchmark are found just to the northwest, made easier by a
use trail through forest and uluhe ferns encroaching thickly on both
Back at the trail junction, we continued east on the fork heading to Napau
Crater, leaving it very shortly to head southeast to Mauna Ulu. Though
bigger than Pu'u Huluhulu, the gradient of this shield volcano is more
gradual. Upon reaching the rim, we were surprised by the size and depth
of the crater, its walls partially vegetated with sun-shy
ferns and small trees. The wind was
blowing strongly here and the rain whipping our faces, so we had trouble
enjoying the views. The highpoint is found on the southeast side of the
crater which we dutifully navigated to before returning back the way we'd come.
This is the highpoint of a small subsidiary crater called Kilauea Iki on the
northeast side of the far larger Kilauea Crater. The Devastation Trail
goes along the base of Pu'u Pua'i and along the crater rim. Signs
indicate the summit is closed (due to unstable ground), but a use trail leads
up gravel slopes to the summit in a few minutes. It had
temporarily stopped raining,
but the low clouds muted most of the otherwise impressive views of
both Kilauea Iki and Kilauea Craters.
Tired of the wet, we head out of the park and southwest on Hwy11. Puehu is
a summit found about 30mi south of the park.
Summit is used loosely here. The topo map shows a small bump with 33ft of
prominence about 400ft south of the highway. Though short, one needs to wade
through thick and tall nonnative grasses threaded with half-hidden
vines waiting to trip you up. As you near the point you will find
a vertical bluff some
40-50ft high not accurately depicted on the topo map. Worse, the location of
the benchmark and supposed highpoint are some 70ft beyond the edge of the
bluff. The map does show a borrow pit here, so it's possible that the
benchmark was excavated away ages ago. There is no quarry work taking place
here anymore, just a collection of beehives kept in the same location below.
We walked to the edge and called it good.
Pu'u o Ka'au
This minor point is found along the coast about 5mi further southwest off Hwy11.
A spur road off Hwy11 takes one to Whittington Park, a delightfully
secluded park on the edge of Honu'apo Bay. Pu'u Ka'au is found across
an estuary from the park. Our first effort was to go around the edge
of the estuary, but this proved too boggy and we retreated. We then
tried to cross the narrow opening where the estuary meets the bay, but
the water channel here was far too deep. We were resigned to giving up when Tom
fishing on the other side. They didn't look like they'd swam there, so we got
out a phone to check the satellite view. This showed a dirt road north of the
park going out to the coast and a short distance from the point, and we drove
off to investigate. The dirt road services some informal picnic sites
along the coast (signed for No Camping). A short hike along
the rocky lava coast leads to the summit where
a benchmark is found among the center of a chest-high pile of rocks.
Beautiful coastal views all around, something we'd never have found
without chasing such silly little points on a map.
Pu'u o Lokuana
This is a small, grass-covered cinder cone near the entrance to the Kahuku Unit
of Volcanoes National Park, found at the southern end of Mauna Loa. There are
grassy trails leading to the summit from the south and
north sides, a short,
easy stroll from either of two parking lots. There are a few other summits in
this interesting area, but the gates are closed at 4p and we had time for only
one. Will have to come back for a second visit to explore this area more.
This last summit is found above 2,000ft on the southern slopes of Mauna Loa, on
used for ranching. Ka'alaiaki Rd off Hwy11 at the small town Na'alehu can be
used with other public roads to get within a mile of the summit to the east.
An unsigned but locked gate must be crossed to access an old, no longer
traveled ranch road that leads to the summit, really just the
highpoint of a gentle ridgeline. Some cows were grazing on the land below us to
the north, but little
other activity about during our visit. On our way back we noticed a truck
pulling a flatbed stop by the spur road where we'd parked. Our initial fear that
he was there to tow our jeep was short-lived when we discovered he was there
to pick up a small bobcat bulldozer that was parked nearby. He didn't seem
troubled by our presence as we drove by, even asking if everything was Ok while
giving us a friendly wave.