Following the East Rift Zone of Kīlauea, the Nāpau Trail provides opportunities for hikers to experience a diversity of environments in Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park. The hike is through varied terrain ranging from recent lava flows to dense tree fern rain forests.
The Nāpau Trail passes through lava flows from the Maunaulu eruptions. Maunaulu (Lit. growing mountain), a recently formed shield volcano, erupted from 1969 through 1974 and left an altered landscape of incredibly fascinating geologic features. Trekking over lava rivers and through lava channels you can appreciate the fragile beauty of lava trees, peer into pit craters, and imagine a time when molten rock once moved like water. Also along the trail is the "Old Pulu Factory." Learn more about these pulu stations from the 1800s.
Nāpau may be accessed from two trailheads:
The Maunaulu parking area (6.2 mi/10.0 km to Nāpau Crater)
The Nāulu Trailhead on Chain of Craters Road (5.2 mi/8.4 km to Nāpau Crater)
The Nāpau Trail begins at the Maunaulu parking area (approx. 3.5 miles down the Chain of Craters Road). The Nāulu Trail, which links to the Nāpau Trail, begins across the road at the Kealakomo parking area (approx. 9.7 miles down the Chain of Craters Road).
There is a campground and pit toilet near Nāpau Crater overlook. Stays are limited to 3 consecutive nights.
GPS Coordinates of Nāpau Crater: 19.37377, -155.14293
All eight backcountry campsites (Ka‘aha, Halapē, Keauhou, ‘Āpua Point, Nāpau, Pepeiao, Red Hill Cabin and Mauna Loa Cabin) require a permit. See the Backcountry Hiking page at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park for instructions on how to obtain your permit.
Neither trailhead has public telephones or public transportation. It takes about 20 to 30 minutes to drive from the Kīlauea Visitor Center via Crater Rim Drive and Chain of Craters Road to get to the trailheads. No drinking water is available at the trailheads or anywhere along the Nāpau, Nāulu, and Kalapana Trails. We do not have streams in this area so backpackers must bring in all their own water (recommended: 4 quarts/person/day).
The lower end of the historic Kalapana trail has been covered by miles of lava.The upper section of the trail is no longer maintained, densely overgrown and is extremely difficult to follow. DO NOT plan on using this trail.
Leave No Trace
Hikers are required to pack out everything they pack in. Do not bury or discard trash in pit toilets - Pack it out. Practice "leave no trace" camping