Nearly one year after the historic caldera collapse, most of the popular Kilauea Iki Trail has been repaired and is now open to the public.
Last May, Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano experienced an unprecedented eruption that displaced thousands of residents, reconfigured the state’s coastline, and forced the months-long closure of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Now, as the first anniversary of the volcanic explosion nears, much of the protected area has reopened in time for National Park Week, including two-thirds of the scenic Kilauea Iki Trail.
Following the Kilauea eruption on May 3, 2018, officials ordered residents and visitors to evacuate the area as earthquakes and flowing lava destroyed trails, roads, and over 700 homes. From May 11 until September 22, 2018, most of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park remained closed due to what the National Park Service (NPS) called “unsafe, unpredictable, and unprecedented eruptive activity at the volcano’s summit.”
Today, last year, lava overflowed the vent within Halemaʻumaʻu crater and spilled out onto the crater floor. In May, lava disappeared and now, there is no molten lava on the island - and Kīlauea is forever changed! #NationalParkWeek #TBT #2018KilaueaEruption— Hawaii Volcanoes NPS (@Volcanoes_NPS) April 25, 2019
NPS Photo/Janice Wei pic.twitter.com/VgxNudSBrN
Since last fall, staff have worked arduously to repair the park’s infrastructure, gradually making portions of the area accessible to the public. According to the NPS, most of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is now open, including a 2.4-mile one-way stretch of the popular Kilauea Iki Trail, which officially joined the list of repaired park sections on April 19. Still, areas in the national park remain closed due to lasting damage and safety concerns. (For a full list of area closures in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, visit the NPS’s advisories page.)
Is it safe to visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park?
As of March 26, Kīlauea has been marked “normal”, which means that it is in a non-eruptive state (although it’s still an active volcano). The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory continues to monitor Kilauea for any sign of reactivation.
According to the NPS’s website, “The open areas of the park are as safe to visit as they were before last summer’s closures. Unsafe areas and areas that require further evaluation remain closed to visitors.” Still, visitors are urged to check for safety information and updates and should be prepared to change plans based on volcanic activity.
How severe are the changes to the Kilauea Iki Trail?
NPS offials say the park’s summit area was dramatically changed by last year’s Kilauea eruption and caldera collapse. However, an FAQ section on the NPS website says that trail crews made “significant repairs” to the Kilauea Iki Trail switchbacks that “were destroyed when large boulders near the [volcano] rim were loosened by earthquakes, then crashed down through the trail.”
Last year our park changed. A lot. Thatʻs why weʻve been working to design a new park map depicting the massive changes of the Kīlauea caldera. Hereʻs a first look at a new base layer. What changes do you see from the old one? #HVNPRecovery pic.twitter.com/VIYF41l6FQ— Hawaii Volcanoes NPS (@Volcanoes_NPS) April 12, 2019
The trail section that leads to Byron’s Ledge near Halema‘uma‘u (Kilauea’s summit crater) remains closed due to damages. However, visitors can safely observe the changes to the Kilauea crater, which park officials describe as “staggering to anyone who has seen [the landscape] prior to the 2018 eruptive events.” On the south side of Halema‘uma‘u, parking is available at Devastation Trailhead. It’s safe to walk to the vantage point along Crater Rim Drive, which is open only to pedestrians and bicyclists.
On Thursday, May 9, at 7 p.m., members of the management team at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park will share stories of their successes, challenges, and continued efforts toward the park’s recovery as part of a special After Dark in the Park presentation held in the upgraded Kilauea Visitor Center auditorium. The “Road to Recovery: One Year Later” event is free to attend, but park entrance fees apply.
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