Devil's Throat is a very short walk in Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park and well worth the stop. It is fairly unknown to many visitors and locals alike because it doesn't appear in many travel guides or in most of the park literature. A 150 foot trail from your car takes you to a spectacular hidden pit crater over 165 feet deep.
To find Devil's Throat take Highway 11 to Volcano and enter the Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park. Once you pass the park gatehouse make the first left onto Crater Rim Drive. Continue on Crater Rim Drive 3 miles until the intersection with Chain of Craters Road. Turn left onto Chain of Craters Road and proceed approximately 2.2 miles to the Hilina Pali road. Just past the Hilina Pali road is a small patch of gravel on the right. Park there. You should be able to see the dirt trail on the other side of Chain of Craters Road from you.
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This hike is a very short 50 foot dirt trail. All you will need is your camera.
Things To Be Careful Of
The following are general cautions and warnings for this trail:
If you have children do not under any conditions allow them to run or walk ahead of you. Always keep them right next to you. There is a 165 foot drop at the end of the trail.
Most of the trail is easy walking, but as you near Devil's Throat the trail is a bit more broken and there are small fissures in the ground. Walk carefully through this area.
Under no conditions should you do this trail if it is dark, or if vision is obscured due to fog or other conditions.
What You Will See
Devil's Throat is an amazing, if not scary site. It is the most easily accessible pit crater in the Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park.
A pit crater is usually formed along fault zones. In the park many pit craters are along both the East Rift Zone and South West Rift Zone. A pit crater forms when the ground over a deep fault sinks. This is often due to a rapid drop in the level of magma in the fault, or by earthquakes. The drop of the ground is very fast, a matter of only a few seconds.
Devil's Throat was formed in early 1912. Discovered by the volcanist Thomas Jaggar, the initial pit crater had an opening of about 20 feet in diameter and was about 250 feet deep. The crater got larger as it got deep, like a cone, and the base of the crater was estimated to be about 70 feet in diameter. Over the years the roof of the crater has collapsed and has converted the cone shape into a cylinder with nearly vertical walls. The crater is now about 165 feet deep and 150 feet in diameter.
To find the crater, cross Chain of Craters Road and talk the dirt path. You will see 'Ōhi'a trees and Pūkiawe growing along the path. The path is fairly straight and takes you about 50 feet directly to the pit crater.
Please note there is absolutely zero protection from falling into the pit crater and there is absolutely NO indication that the pit crater is ahead of you until you are within a few feet of it. Keep your eyes ahead of you on the path at all times until you see the pit crater. You can not survive the 165 foot fall into the crater.
As you approach the pit crater you will notice the ground around the crater is fractured. The pit crater continues to disintegrate and periodically some of the cliff side collapses. The rocks near the edge of the cliff have a possibility of being unstable and collapsing into the crater. You may also want to be wary of strong winds that may cause you to lose your balance.
The crater itself is very deep. Since it is about as big around as it is deep it gives an extreme feeling of vertigo to stand near the edge. I found it very hard to take pictures near the edge due to the vertigo and the feeling that I would fall in. Very scary - but so very impressive.
Interestingly, a few years back local officials used to dump eradicated marijuana into Devil's Throat as a way to dispose of it. It worked until they discovered people had rappelled to the base and brought it back up.