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Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii
The Big Island's southernmost volcanoes, Mauna Loa and Kilauea, jointly constitute Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, thirty miles from Hilo and eighty from Kailua.It is possibly the most dramatic of US National Parks; along with two active volcanoes (of which one is likely to erupt anytime), it includes desert, arctic tundra, and rainforest.
The main focus of the park is Kilauea Caldera, close to the rim of which both the visitor center and the fascinating Jaggar Museum of Geology offer orientation. Enthusiastic hikers should set aside time to follow the long trails that explore the caldera floor, now solid. Both the Halemaumau Trail, a seven mile round trip, and the Kilauea Iki Trail, involve picking your way from cairn to cairn across a landscape of cracked lava.
The Chain of Craters Road winds down to the sea from Crater Rim Drive, sweeping around a succession of cones in an empty landscape where the occasional flowering shrub pokes up.The end of the road is a fifty mile round trip from the park entrance, and there are no facilities along the way. It is possible to walk across the congealed lava blocking Chain of Craters Road to see molten lava gush out from the earth - sometimes directly into the sea.
The park has two free campgrounds, while the famous Volcano House on the very edge of the crater offers spectacular views, and has good food. The Park's Volcano Update Line has information on weather conditions and ranger-led activities.