From Puu Puai Down the Devastation Trail

Hilo Hawaii Hikes

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The 1959 eruption in Kilauea Iki that built Puu Puai with lava fountains up to 1900 feet high devastated the area south-southwest of Puu Puai. Since then, that area has been left to regenerate on its own—a sort of experiment. Hikers passing through the area on the famous Devastation Trail have been an ingredient in the experiment, too, but they are kept to a boardwalk in order to keep from trampling the new plants. You’ve probably seen photos of the Devastation Trail that make the area look as if it were nothing but a carpet of naked cinders with the bleached bones of dead trees poking through it. Now, most of the area is covered with new growth, but there’s still a bare patch for you to photograph. From the parking lot, you head generally north through the rubble of the 1924 steam eruption (more on that below) along a path marked by wire strung between wooden posts. You pass through an area stained with sulfur deposits, where steam oozes from dozens of little vents. The route is fairly level until you turn left and climb ever so slightly to a fenced overlook with an interpretive sign. Offerings to Pele—oranges, apples, grapes, pears, leis, bottles of gin, bouquets of flowers—lie on an altar-like boulder beyond the fence. Please treat this site, and these offerings, with respect. Far below, Halemaumau huffs and puffs steam plumes through its sulfursplashed, reddish walls and lava floor, while white-tailed tropicbirds soar through the hot mist.
Hawaii Trails: Walks, Strolls and Treks on the Big Island

DESCRIPTION FROM:

Hawaii Trails: Walks, Strolls and Treks on the Big Island

by Kathy Morey (Wilderness Press)

The 1959 eruption in Kilauea Iki that built Puu Puai with lava fountains up to 1900 feet high devastated the area south-southwest of Puu Puai. Since then, that area has been left to regenerate on its own—a sort of experiment. Hikers passing through the area on the famous Devastation Trail have been an ingredient in the experiment, too, but they are kept to a boardwalk in order to keep from trampling the new plants. You’ve probably seen photos of the Devastation Trail that make the area look as if it were nothing but a carpet of naked cinders with the bleached bones of dead trees poking through it. Now, most of the area is covered with new growth, but there’s still a bare patch for you to photograph. From the parking lot, you head generally north through the rubble of the 1924 steam eruption (more on that below) along a path marked by wire strung between wooden posts. You pass through an area stained with sulfur deposits, where steam oozes from dozens of little vents. The route is fairly level until you turn left and climb ever so slightly to a fenced overlook with an interpretive sign. Offerings to Pele—oranges, apples, grapes, pears, leis, bottles of gin, bouquets of flowers—lie on an altar-like boulder beyond the fence. Please treat this site, and these offerings, with respect. Far below, Halemaumau huffs and puffs steam plumes through its sulfursplashed, reddish walls and lava floor, while white-tailed tropicbirds soar through the hot mist.

©   Kathy Morey/Wilderness Press. All Rights Reserved.

Activity Type: Hiking
Nearby City: Hilo
Length: 1
Elevation Gain: Minimal
Trail Type: Out-and-back
Skill Level: Very Easy
Duration: 15-30 minutes
Local Contacts: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Local Maps: USGS Kilauea Crater
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