Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

As a frequent visitor to Yellowstone National Park, I am incredibly fond of our National Park System. For most of my life I have lived within a few hours of Yellowstone, so road trips and weekend getaways to the Park were easy to pull together. Sadly, throughout all of my visits I never really stopped to think about just how lucky I was to have such easy access to this incredible Park. It was during our visit to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park that I finally understood. Just as I had traveled thousands of miles to visit the Volcanoes, others travel just as far to see the park right in my own back yard. It was a humbling experience.

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The first logical stop when visiting any National Park is to stop by the Visitors Center. Kilauea Visitor Center had many great exhibits, photos, and interactive displays to teach visitors about the park and its many craters, calderas, rifts, vents, and active flows. One of the most helpful aspects within the Visitor Center was the itinerary wall where suggestions were made on things to see and do depending on how much time you had within the park.

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After a quick stop at the Visitor’s Center, we drove south on Crater Rim Drive and made a pit-stop at the Steam Vents. These two vents felt like a Sauna the moment that you stepped within reach of the steam, and the potent sulfuric smell had me beelining to fresher air immediately, after a quick photo opp of course–I did not want that smell stuck in my clothes and hair for the rest of the day. 🙂 While parked at the Steam Vents, we walked the trail to the edge of the massive Kilauea Caldera and were rewarded with an incredible view of the Halema’uma’u Crater.

Steam Vents Collage

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Cody at the edge of the Kilauea Caldera

When you visit the park, the Jaggar Museum is a MUST. The overlook perched on the edge of the Kilauea Caldera provides an up close view of the volcanic plume emitting from the volcano below. Aside from the incredible view, the Museum has scientific exhibits, displays, and interesting facts about the Volcano.

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Driving down Chain of Craters Road

Chain of Craters Road is where the full power and destruction of the volcano really starts to set in. Miles and miles of lava rock surround the two-lane road–at times as far as the eye can see–and if you look close you will notice that newer lava flows have buried the older flows, slowly continuing to build the beautiful Island of Hawaii.

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Standing within the open expanse of black volcanic rock is a humbling experience–you feel so small and powerless. The area is rugged and fierce, raw and exposed, and at times so empty. No matter how many times humans try to change and build upon the land, more powerful forces can destroy our creations within seconds.

 

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Yet, within the barren, lava rock graveyard, life begins to emerge; trees, plants, and even flowers have grown out of the cracks within the rock, offering hope and a new cycle of life. Upon closer inspection, there was extraordinary beauty amid all of the destruction.

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17 Comments

  1. Reenski
    July 1, 2014 / 5:10 PM

    I hope you skipped the petroglyphs!! Did you get the chance to hike the Kilauea Iki trail? It was incredible to see the life growing out of the gray rock down there… and the hike was brutal!

    • July 1, 2014 / 9:49 PM

      I was bummed we missed the petroglyphs, but it was raining REALLY bad. It sounds like I didn’t miss much though. 🙂 No, we didn’t hike the Kilauea Iki trail, it’s on my list for next time!

  2. July 1, 2014 / 6:43 PM

    I saw the volcanoes many years ago before they started erupting again. However, Yellowstone is still my favorite.

    • July 1, 2014 / 9:47 PM

      Yellowstone is an amazing place, do you have a favorite spot within Yellowstone?

      • July 1, 2014 / 10:47 PM

        Like most tourists, I’m a fan of the Old Faithful area. However, my favorite part is the drive in from Livingston. Enter through the original main gate. Then, make my way to the bison.

  3. Cody
    July 1, 2014 / 7:22 PM

    So many great memories.

    • July 1, 2014 / 9:41 PM

      It’s been a while since our trip to Yellowstone… maybe we should plan another one 🙂

  4. July 2, 2014 / 8:08 AM

    I lived the volcanoes national park too, and had the same feeling of powerlessness that you described. Lucky that you live so close to Yellowstone. One of these days we will make the LONG journey to be able to visit it.

    • July 2, 2014 / 3:44 PM

      Yellowstone is an amazing place. If you go, I would recommend going in May/early June (for a chance to see BEARS and their cubs) or September (when the Elk are in rut). If you go in the middle of summer (July-August) it is usually pretty hot out and the animals are all hiding in the shade.
      What was your favorite thing about Volcanoes National Park?

      • July 2, 2014 / 8:18 PM

        🙂 Thanks for the Yellowstone tips Krystle! My favourite part(s) were the middle section of the Chain of Craters road where you could see lava rocks all around and the sea far away (with life springing between the rocks, which you have photographed as well) and seeing the Halema’uma’u crater glowing at night, from the Jagger museum. I did a post on my visit too.

        • July 3, 2014 / 10:39 AM

          Those are two of my favorite things as well! 🙂 I’m off to check out your posts!

  5. July 3, 2014 / 12:32 PM

    I loved the Volcanoes National Park, it was an amazing experience, such a cool place to visit. We also drove down to see the Sea Arch and when it got dark we came back to the museum to see the glowing lava bubbling in the crater 🙂 It was such an emotional moment and the glow was so hypnotising 🙂

    • July 3, 2014 / 11:57 PM

      That glow is incredibly hypnotizing. I’m glad you had the chance to see it for yourself! 🙂 The sea arch was really cool too!

    • February 15, 2017 / 10:02 AM

      I hope you get to go. It is one of our favorite places on Earth.

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