Know Before You Go: Take plenty of water and plenty of sunblock. This was a hot hike and it’s short on shade in many spots. We found that, as Midwesterners, we burn faster in spots like Hawaii that are closer to the equator. Bug spray is also a good idea because we did find mosquitoes in the rain forest portions. Also, avoid inhaling the steam at the steam vents. It’s hazardous to your health. In fact, visitors with heart or respiratory conditions, pregnant women, infants or young children are advised to avoid this walk. Parking can fill up fast so it’s best to arrive at the park before 9 a.m. Length: 1.2 mile round trip from Kilauea Visitor Center’s western end of the parking lot. Time: 30 minutes round trip depending on how fast you go and how long you stop. Difficulty: Easy Terrain: mostly paved, some aggregate/dirt. Dog-friendly: No. Dogs are only allowed in certain parking lots and roads in the park, not on trails. Kid-friendly: Yes, but keep the kiddos away from the steam vents. Young children are advised to avoid this walk.
The Sulphur Banks hike is only a little over a mile round trip, but it gives you a beautiful look at the effects of volcanic gases on nature. They seep out of the ground along with groundwater steam. Some gases deposit crystals while others break down lava to clay. Iron oxide turns the clay soil reds, browns and yellows. It’s best to avoid standing in the steam that comes out of the vents because it can contain carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide. Avoid touching the area around the vents as it could contain sulfuric acid.
We hiked this trail then connected with the Steam Vents Trail for a short out-and-back to the holes in the ground that create a mysterious smoky haze in the air. Parking can fill up after 9 a.m. at the Visitor Center and is tough to find near the Steam Vents, so we arrived before 9 and walked to the Steam Vents for a good look.
Of all the hikes we did in Hawaii, we found those at Volcanoes National Park to be the most incredible - partially because you only need to walk another half mile and the landscape changes dramatically. We chose to do several short hikes instead of one long one so we could see more of the park. We saw a range of sulfur banks, steam vents, lava deposits and rain forest. This park was a gorgeous sampler platter of natural wonders that you can only access in Hawaii.