Best Volcanoes National Park Hikes for Kids (and Things to Do with Kids)

Are you looking for the best Volcanoes National Park Hikes for kids? Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is one of the most popular attractions in Hawaii. Home to Kilauea, Mauna Loa, Mauna Kea, Kohala, and Hualālai, this park offers nearly 150 miles of trails for hiking enthusiasts.

Hawaii holds a special place in our hearts because the destination is stunning, and there are so many things to do with kids. We love Hawaii so much that we try to take a trip there every year at the end of the summer. And the Big Island is one of the best Hawaiian islands for kids.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is located on the Big Island, and it’s one of the best things to do with kids. This island is the youngest of the four main Hawaiian islands, and visually, it’s quite different. Volcanic rocks can be seen everywhere, which makes quite a unique landscaping compared to the more lush rainforest you may see on Kauai and parts of Maui or the busy beaches of Oahu.

It is a very special island and one I highly recommend visiting with kids as it is both fascinating and educational. In this post, you’ll learn about some of the best Volcanoes National Park hikes for kids. There are also many other things to do with kids here that I’ll explore. So, pack your suitcases and get your hiking gear ready for the ultimate family vacation.

This post contains affiliate links which means I receive a commission at no cost to you should you make a purchase using this link. See my disclosures.

family on big island Hawaii
The Big Island of Hawaii is very family-friendly. Photo credit: Bon Voyage With Kids

Best Hikes in Volcanoes National Park: About Volcanoes National Park

The Volcanoes National Park, located on the Big Island of Hawaii, was established on August 26, 1916. It covers more than 333,000 acres of land. The park includes two active volcanoes: Kīlauea and Mauna Loa.

Kilauea Volcano is one of the most active volcanoes in the world. It has been erupting nearly continuously since 1983, shooting lava fountains into the air. Mauna Loa is the largest, most active volcano on Earth and has erupted 33 times in recorded history. Hawaiian volcanoes are definitely an attraction for visitors around the world.

When visiting the Visitor’s Center, you can even see steam vents and volcanic gases spewing up. You can certainly see them if you take a helicopter flight above the volcanoes.

But there are other much older volcanoes that aren’t that active, too – Mauna Kea, Hualālai, and Kohala. These three are located on the north side of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

The park also includes a wide variety of ecosystems, from rainforests to deserts. There are 7 ecological zones, including lowland lush rainforest, seacoast, mid-elevation woodland, upland forest, rainforest, alpine, and subalpine.

The park is home to over 180 bird species, including the Hawaiian hawk, the ʻuaʻu, and the rare nene goose. You can also find many mammals and a variety of plants in this park, including the endangered Hawaiian monk seal.

When creating your Volcanoes National Park itinerary, check out the helpful Volcanoes National Park trail map on the park service website. It is definitely one of the must-do activities when visiting the Big Island with kids.

View of Volcanoes National Park from above.
Seeing Volcanoes National Park from above in a helicopter can show you areas not accessible by foot. Photo credit: Bon Voyage With Kids

When Is the Best Time to Visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park?

The Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is open year-round, and unlike other similar parks, it’s busy all year as the temperature in Hawaii ranges between 66-85 degrees all year long. Adding a visit to the Volcanoes National Park is a must for any Big Island itinerary in Hawaii.

Hawaii does actually get snow, though, during the winter at the summits of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa.

Best Volcanoes National Park Hikes with Kids 

The Crater Rim Trail

Another fun day hike is Crater Rim Trail which takes you along the summit caldera of Kīlauea. The Crater Rim Trail is about 11 miles, so it will take you most of the day, and it may be too long for small children. But part of the trail from the old Jaggar Museum south is closed because of the volcano eruption in Halemaumau Crater.

On the Crater Rim Trail, you’ll see extremely different landscapes, from verdant greenery to desert terrain, when you hike this trail around the active volcano. This trail’s difficulty is easy.

The Volcano House Hotel is the only hotel in the park, and it’s located on the edge of the Kilauea Caldera. It’s existed in several locations and forms over the years but has been in the park since 1846 when it was The Pitman House.

man walking through Kilauea Ike Trail
Kilauea Ike Trail, Photo credit: © MNStudio |

Kilauea Iki Trail

The Kīlauea Caldera Trail is steep and rocky as you’re traversing through a solidified lava lake over the crater floor. The Kilauea Iki Trail starts from a few different places and is shorter but moderate to challenging as it runs along the northern rim of the Kilauea Crater. But getting to walk on a crater floor is quite a unique experience which is why it’s one of the best hikes in Volcanoes National Park to do.

Devastation Trail

Devastation Trail is another easy hike that’s stroller and wheelchair accessible. The trail is just one mile, so it takes about an hour. You’ll want to bring water, sunscreen, rain gear, and a hat to be prepared for windy, dry, and hot weather conditions.

Uēaloha (Byron Ledge Trail)

Uēaloha, otherwise known as the Byron’s Ledge Trail, is a moderately challenging trail that’s a little over a mile long. The park website gives a warning here not to climb the Pu’u pua’i cinder cone on Byron Ledge Trail.

Kūpinaʻi Pali (Waldron Ledge)

This loop trail is a walk through history that ends with a panoramic view of Kaluapele – the Kīlauea Caldera. This trail is about one mile long and an easy hike with wheelchair accessibility. The Waldron Ledge Loop Trail contains several trails that circle Waldron Ledge and leads back to the visitor center.

Halema’uma’u Crater Trail

The Halema’uma’u Crater Trail has been used by visitors to the Volcano House for years as you access it in that area off  Crater Rim Trail.

It’s a little under a mile one way from this location or 1.3 miles from Crater Rim Trail to Kīlauea Iki and Nāhuku, the Thurston Lava Tube. Either way, it’s moderately difficult.

sulfer banks trail big island volcano hikes
Trail through the sulfur vents at Volcanoes National Park Big Island, Photo credit: © Alexeykamenskiy |

Ha‘akulamanu Sulphur Banks Trail

This trail is an easy 1.2-mile round trip hike from the Kīlauea Visitor Center. You can pick up the other end of the trail that’s wheelchair accessible across the street from the parking lot at the Steam Vents.

Nāhuku (Thurston Lava Tube)

This trail leads you through the lush green rainforest before taking you into the 500-year-old lava tube where hot lava once flowed.

The name Nāhuku means protuberances and likely refers to the drips of lava that used to hang from the ceiling. A lava tube is essentially an underground passage that was carved out by the hot lava.

It’s a 1.5-mile moderately difficult hike, and you can’t walk around Crater Rim Drive in this area for safety reasons. Also, you’ll find restrooms located near the lava tube that are open from 9 AM to 5 PM.

The Thurston Lava tube is one of the most unique experiences in the park that you can’t see in many other states.

entrance to Thurston Lava Tube Volcanoes National Park Hawaii
Entrance to Thurston Lava Tube, Photo credit: © Bilmacstudios |

Maunaulu – Pu’u Huluhulu via the Napau Crater Trail

This popular trail is 2.5 miles long and can be found near Pahoa, Hawaii. It will take about three to four hours to hike, and while most of the trail is easy, it includes a steep climb to the Pu‘uhuluhulu cone. The trail starts from the Maunaulu parking lot, and the National Park Service advises you to stay on the trail.

Puu Loa Petroglyphs Trail

This hike is moderately difficult and is approximately 1.4 miles long. Puu Loa Petroglyphs Trail is a coastal trail that runs through an old lava field where you can follow in the steps of the elders. Here you can view the 23,000 petroglyphs that document the culture and life of native Hawaiians.

It runs above the sea and provides glimpses of the Pacific Ocean along the southern coast. It’s one of the best park hikes that showcases the history of the Hawaiian people.

Kīpukapuaulu Puaulu Trail

This trail is an easy trail about 1.2 miles long. The dirt path loop begins at the Kīpukapuaulu parking area with slight declines and inclines. The Kīpukapuaulu Trail could be hot, windy, or wet, so bring the proper clothing, water, rain gear, and sunscreen.

trail sign in Volcanoes National Park
Trail sign in Volcanoes National Park, Photo credit: © Stevegould |

Lliahi Trail

This trail is a 1.5-mile loop that offers beautiful views and is moderately difficult to hike. The best time to go is when it opens at 9 AM. Just beware; part of it may be closed because of the damage done by the 2018 earthquakes.

volcanoes national Park lava
Lava flowing from the active volcano in Volcanoes National Park. Photo credit: Bon Voyage With Kids

Lava Hikes and Tours

Lava hikes and tours are one of the unique experiences in Hawaii. As of September 2021, there is an active lava lake with molten lava flows in the Halemaʻumaʻu Crater.

The best time to look at the lava is at night, as it glows blood red. You can take guided lava tours or view it yourself from the public lookouts, like the one-mile hike from the Devastation Trail parking lot located along old Crater Rim Drive. You can also view it from Uēkahuna near the old Jagger Museum and the Kilauea Overlook.

What Else You Can Do at Volcanoes National Park

Volcanoes National Park visitor center
Volcanoes National Park, Photo credit: Bon Voyage With Kids

The Kīlauea Visitor Center 

Right now, the Kilauea Visitor Center theater and exhibits are closed, but you can still access the restrooms, bookstore, and lanai. The Visitor Center is located off Highway 11 off Crater Rim Drive between the 28-29-mile marker.

Volcano Village

You’ll find Volcano Village outside the main entrance to the park off the Mamalohoa Highway. This artist community lies in the rainforest ecosystem and is home to creative people, scientists, and farmers who love the peace of the beautiful rainforest. Visit the local farmers market on Sunday morning, browse art galleries, or enjoy a fine meal or baked goods.

Helicopter tour over Volcanoes National Park
One way to see the Volcanoes National Park is from above on a helicpoter tour. Photo credit: Bon Voyage With Kids

Volcano National Park Trails Activities Just for Kids

While you’re enjoying Volcanoes National Park hikes, consider some of the other family-friendly activities.

Become a Junior Park Ranger

There are plenty of things to do in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park for kids. One fun activity is for kids up to 12 years old, where they get to become junior park rangers. The kids get to do some fun activities while they’re at the park, and they even get a junior ranger badge.

This activity is free, and the activities are broken up into age groups. One program is for kids from 7 to 12 years old, and the other is for younger children 6 and under. 

Visit the Lava Viewing Area

Visit the lava viewing area, where you can rent bikes or take an evening tour. It’s a four-mile bike ride to the edge of the park, where you lock up your bicycle and continue on foot across the igneous rocks towards the smoke. You won’t find any trails here, but seeing the younger lava flow is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for many people.

Take a Drive on the Chain of Craters Road

This drive is one of the most scenic in Hawaii, with extensive ocean views. You can also see the recent slow-moving younger lava flow that’s cooled and hardened. Stop at the Kīlauea Iki Overlook to see the crater created in the 1959 volcanic eruption.

At the end of the Chain of Craters Road, you’ll see gorgeous views of the Hōlei Sea Arch. It stands 90 feet and frames the skyline and ocean behind it. It’s a great place for scenic pictures.

BVWK Pro Tip
Take a helicopter ride over the volcano to see it from above! It’s one of the coolest things to do on the Big Island with kids.

Things You Need to Know When Visiting Volcanoes National Park

Here are some helpful things to know about visiting Volcanoes National Park trails.

General Operating Hours

Hawaii’s Volcanoes National Park is open 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, except for national holidays.

The Kahuku Unit is open Thursday – Sunday from 9 AM to 4 PM. It’s also open during national holidays.

Temporary and Severe Weather Closures

Right now, the park has a high volume of visitors, so you can expect unplanned temporary closures of popular roads and parking lots when they become full. Avoid the peak times of sunrise and sunset if at all possible. Consider visiting at odd times, like 5 AM or after 8 PM. 

In the last year and a half, severe weather closures include Hilina Pali Road beyond Kulanaokuaiki Campground, Kīpukapuaulu, Mauna Loa Road beyond the first cattle guard, Mauna Loa Trail, the summit cabin and the wilderness area above Red Hill Cabin were closed due to hazards from the recent eruption. Though, as of March 20th, 2023, Red Hill Cabin is now open and requires a permit for overnight use.

Always check the National Parks Service website for closures and reopenings, as due to recent eruptions, weather, and related road conditions can cause changes to openings and closures.

Also, the restrooms and parking area at the old Jagger Museum and the Uēkahuna West eruption viewing area are closed until further notice. This closing is to protect some native geese nesting there.

The Kealakomo Overlook and picnic tables are closed, too, due to a broken railing that needs to be replaced, but the parking lot is still open.

2023 National Park Admission Fees 

The entrance fees to the park or as follows:

  • Private vehicle – $30
  • Motorcycle – $25
  • Bicycle – $15

A one-person pedestrian ticket is $15 and gives you access for 7 days.

Non-Commercial group passes, entering in a bus or vehicle that holds over 16 individuals, are $15 per person. Guests 15 and under are exempt from the entrance fee.

Hawaii Trip-Park Pass is $55 and is good for one full year from the date of the first visit to Volcanoes National Parks.

Lava meeting the sea in volcanoes national park hawaii
The lava flows out into the sea. Photo credit: Bon Voyage With Kids

What to Bring to Volcanoes National Park 

 There are a few things to bring with you on your Volcanoes National Park hikes, including:

  • Food and water
  • The right clothing and footwear
  • A compass and trail map
  • Mosquito repellant
  • Waterproof phone case
  • A well-made day bag to carry everything
  • First aid and emergency kit with a lighter or matches, whistle, basic first aid supplies, and an emergency shelter.

You want to be prepared in case you get stranded in the park somewhere, so these supplies can help save your life if you bring them with you. There are some extras you can bring, like flashlights or headlamps, a field guide, an outdoor journal with a pen or pencil, two-way radios, and binoculars.

Tips for Making Your Visit to Volcanoes National Park

Here are some quick tips to make your Volcanoes National Park hikes even better.

  • Get to the park early to explore the Thurston Lava Tube as there won’t be as many visitors before 10 AM.
  • Visit the Halema‘uma‘u Trail Crater after 9 PM or before sunrise after the other visitors have left.
  • Be sure to visit the Chain of Craters Road as it has many pullouts, scenic points, and unique hikes fewer people know about, like Pu‘uloa Petroglyphs and Mauna Ulu. It starts at the Kīlauea Summit and goes 19 miles to Hōlei Sea Arch.
  • If you’re hiking the Kīlauea Iki Trail, get there before 8 AM so you can explore the 4-mile adventure and leave before it starts getting crowded at 10:30 AM. It’s one of the most popular and scenic trails in the whole park.
  • Be sure to explore Kahuku as it is rarely crowded, free to visit, and open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays. You’ll find the former ranch located on the mountainside of Highway 11 close to mile marker 70.5.
  • Be sure to visit the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park website to plan your trip. You’ll find a handy visitor checklist that includes plenty of tips and things you need to know to plan your trip to the National Park.
smoke coming from volcano in Volcanoes National Park Hawaii
You can see smoke when hiking in Volcanoes National Park. Photo credit: Bon Voyage With Kids

Volcano National Park Hikes FAQ’s 

What hiking trails are at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park?

Volcanoes National Park has several hiking trails and activities, including:

  • Devastation Trail
  • Crater Rim Trail
  • Kūpinaʻi Pali (Waldrom Ledge)
  • Ha’akulamanu (Sulphur Banks)
  • Kīpukapuaulu
  • Halema’uma’u Trail
  • Kīlauea Iki Trail
  • Puʻuloa Petroglyp0hs
  • Uēaloha (Byron Ledge)
  • Keanakāko’i
  • Nāhuku (Thurston Lava Tube)
  • Keanakākoʻi Crater
  • Footprints and Maunaiki
  • The Kahuku Unit
  • Halema’uma’u Crater Trail

How long is the Volcano National Park hike?

There are many different hiking trails in this national park, but there are a few great Volcanoes National Park Day hikes you’ll enjoy. One is the Kīlauea Iki, a six-mile hike that takes around four to five hours to walk from Devastation Trail.

But if you start from the Kīlauea Iki Overlook, it’s approximately 3.3 miles and takes around two to three hours. 

How much time do you need at Volcano National Park?

There are so many great Volcanoes National Park hikes that you should plan to visit at least one full day. You can experience many of the park’s highlights, especially since parts of the park are closed due to the volcanic activity that started in 2018. 

Final Thoughts on Volcano National Park Hikes

Now you know some of the best hikes in Volcanoes National Park and other fun, family-friendly activities you can do on your Hawaiian vacation. You’ll find so many amazing things to do in Hawaii with kids, whether it’s visiting the Disney resort or just touring the islands.

Volcanoes National Park hikes should be at the top of your list, and you may even want to stay in the Volcano House Hotel. Treat the family to a unique Hawaiian vacation unlike any other. Also, here are some great places to stay in Maui with families.

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