While I was happy with taking the shorter hikes at Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island of Hawai’i, my children had a different idea. When we took a look out over the crater from the overlook on the Devastation Trail, the kids pointed down and said “We want to go THERE!”
I understand the appeal. How often do you get to walk through a big lake of lava rock? But I could tell it was going to be a pretty steep decline, then an incline to get out of the crater. But we gave it a shot!
It was a 4 mile loop, with a large portion of that being switchbacks in the shady rainforest getting to and from the crater. The rainforest is full of hapu’u pulu ferns and `ohi’a trees with red lehua blooms. It seemed to be a pretty popular hike, and we passed a lot of people coming back up from the caldera.
When you get to the bottom of the crater, there is no shade and you are walking about a mile each way through a desolate, black lava rock filled crater. You can see steam vents on either side of you. This is amazing, as the lava flow that created this caldera was in 1959. Yet the land below your feet is still cooling!
The kids did great on the Kilauea Iki Trail. At 4 and 6, they were fantastic troopers and enjoyed the hike a lot. I think it helped that the scenery changed from rainforest to crater. I would suggest making sure you had appropriate water to hike with, and slathering on quite a bit of sunscreen.
National Park Service : Kilauea Iki Train in Volcanoes National Park