2018 Lava Flows Hike
ROUND TRIP MILEAGE: 2.5 MILES
ELEVATION GAIN: 60’
The 2018 lower Puna eruption cycle created mass devastation in the region with lava fountains up to 300 feet and 6.9 magnitude earthquakes. Many homes were lost as well as roads, beaches, coves, and even a lake. The cycle marked the end of a nearly 30 year eruption of Kīlauea volcano. The Big Island has been free of lava since. This hike travels out of MacKenzie State Recreation Area across one of the newest lava flows from the 2018 eruption. Hiking across this new lava requires utmost care because it’s extremely sharp and rough. Along the way, you’ll find a brand new black sand beach southwest of the better known new Pohoiki beach. Although this hike is short, it will take much longer than you think because the hiking is so slow through the new lava flows.
Trailhead: Find the trailhead deep in the Puna District in the southeastern side of the island along the beautiful Kapoho-Kalpana Road, Hwy. 137, also known as the Red Road. Hwy. 137 was paved with red cinder rocks in the past, hence the name, but it's just black asphalt now. There is a brown sign with yellow lettering with "MacKenzie Park" between the 13 and 14 mile markers, closer to mile marker 14. Turn makai (toward the sea) and park your vehicle in a designated spot. There are restrooms and picnic areas at the trailhead.
Gear: This coastal hike will be warm, humid, and windy. Bring plenty of water. Sturdy boots are a must for the extremely rough new lava flows.
Hike: From the trailhead and picnic area, hike northeast through the tall ironwood trees of MacKenzie State Recreation Area. Watch your footing through the fallen ironwood needles. Keep away from the sea cliffs because waves routinely break over the top of them along this dangerous coastline. After about a mile, you encounter the 2018 lava flow looming above you near the boundary of MacKenzie SRA. Look closely for a rough new trail climbing up and onto the new lava flow. If you choose to continue, hike with extreme care. Newer lava like this is still extremely sharp. Tripping and falling just isn’t an option. Take your time and follow the extremely rough trail marked with baby palm trees and white coral. Along the way, find a brand new black sand beach. It’s very steep and it’s future is uncertain as the waves crash against the Puna coast. Pass the beach and continue on the rough lava path. When you can see some houses luckily spared from the devastation ahead, the trail cuts north to Hwy. 137. If it’s clear, look mauka (uphill) where you can spot a few of the lava vents from the eruption cycle. Although there is a small shoulder on the newly-bulldozed road, I don’t recommend hiking along it. Carefully return the way you came.