|Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii|
Waldron Ledge-Sulphur Banks
|This hike combines several of the interconnecting trails at the summit of Kilauea: Waldron Ledge Loop (itself formed of sections of Crater Rim, Byron Ledge and Halema’uma’u Trails), Sandalwood and Sulphur Banks Trails. Together, they make an interesting and varied trip through Kilauea’s contrasting landscape – views into the barren caldera with its flows of smooth black lava, native rainforest, steaming vents, and banks of bright yellow and foul-smelling sulphur.
From the visitor center, cross the road towards Volcano House Hotel and keep left at the fork for the short distance to Crater Rim Trail. Keeping left, follow this trail for 1 mile/1.6 km, which takes you along the north-east rim of Kilauea Caldera above a cliff called Waldron Ledge. This section of Crater Rim Trail, which makes an 11.6-mile circuit of the volcano’s summit, offers excellent views into the caldera.
At the junction, Crater Rim Trail heads east to Kilauea Iki Overlook, but you turn sharp right towards the caldera. Ignore the trail branching off to the left after a few minutes, a short connector to the rim of Kilauea Iki Crater. Continue ahead to join forested Byron Ledge Trail after a few more minutes.
Turn right, descend from the ledge, and bear north for the 0.5 mile/0.8 km to the junction with Halema’uma’u Trail. Keep right to continue north, and begin the climb out of the caldera.
After 0.4 miles/0.6 km, turn left to complete the climb on Iliahi (Sandalwood) Trail. On this 0.4-mile stretch to the north rim, there are more great caldera views through the green rainforest. You may even spot some sandalwood trees along the way, although only a few remain.
At the top, you connect with Crater Rim Trail – consider extending the hike by a mile or so, as the Rim Trail to the west (left) of here is another interesting section, passing steam vents above aptly named Steaming Bluff.
It is all easy walking from now on, and no more than 1 mile/1.6 km to the visitor center. To return via Sulphur Banks, cross the Rim Trail and Crater Rim Drive a couple of minutes later. The final part of the hike is a real contrast to the dramatic caldera views and beautiful rainforest that has come before. You may well smell the banks before you see the steam or bright yellow mineral deposits – this is one of the few places on Kilauea where the vents give off the foul, rotten-egg smell of hydrogen sulphide.
|Location: The Big Island of Hawaii. The Park is located in the south of the island. Entrance fee $10 per vehicle, good for 7 days.
Directions: The Park entrance station is just off Hwy 11, 95 miles south-east of Kona and 30 miles south-west of Hilo. Keep right onto Crater Rim Drive for Kilauea visitor center in 0.3 mile.
Trailhead: Visitor center.
Length: 3.75 miles / 6.0 km
Trail Type: Loop
Elevation Change: 400 ft / 122 m
Duration: 2 hours
Trail Condition: Well maintained.
Features: Caldera views, lava, rainforest, steam vents.
Climate: Changeable, with temperatures around 60 F at Kilauea’s summit. It is often overcast and rainy.
Accommodation: Volcano House Hotel (tel. 808 967-7321) is on the caldera rim opposite the visitor center. Two free drive-in campgrounds, first-come, first-served – the most convenient is Namakani Paio, clearly signed off Hwy 11, 3 miles west of the entrance station. The village of Volcano, 1 mile east of the Park on Hwy 11, has lodges, cottages and B&Bs.
Trail Notes: Obtain maps and information on trails and current volcanic activity from the visitor center (tel. 808 985-6000). Be aware of volcanic fumes at Sulphur Banks.
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