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Thurston Lava Tube, Forest Trail Reopens After 1 Year Closure

March 26, 2021, 9:21 AM HST
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Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park reopened Nāhuku (Thurston Lava Tube) and the rain forest trail one year after it closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The half-mile loop trail is now a one-way walkabout with the intent to keep people safe. The trail goes counter-clockwise through the native rainforest, into the lava tube and back out through the rainforest.

“We are excited to again share the incredible experience of walking through native rainforest into a lava tube that was formed during a Kīlauea eruption more than 500 years ago,” said Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park Superintendent Rhonda Loh. “The one-way flow reduces social distancing conflicts in the cave and on the trail, and we are relying on visitors and our community to recreate responsibly. Please wear a mask when physical distancing cannot be achieved.”

Nāhuku is open 24 hours and is lit from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Bring a flashlight or headlamp if visiting during dark hours. Restrooms near the lava tube are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and a new vault toilet is available a half-mile away at the Kīlauea Iki parking lot.

All lava tubes present potential risks, including rockfall, low ceilings, standing water, tripping hazards and low light.

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The park closed the lava tube following the 2018 eruption and summit collapse of Kīlauea, reopened it in February 2020, then the pandemic struck and it closed again. During the eruption, large rocks were dislodged in the ceiling and new cracks appeared. A geomorphologist, mining engineer and other specialists determined Nāhuku could be reopened if safety mitigations were met. Two crack monitors were installed, and a low-hanging rock was marked off to prevent head injuries. Data from the monitors reveals little change in the cave’s structural integrity.

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