There are many wondrous, enigmatic and fascinating attractions on the Big Island of Hawaii, some better known than others, many out of the way and generally off the beaten track. Tour Guide Hawaii has produced an encyclopedic collection of the most up-to-date information, presented as short GPS-cued videos, in an app downloadable to iPhone and iPod Touch that covers the entire Big Island, highlighting the popular and the uncrowded, the famous and the secluded, the adventurous and the relaxing.
Along the Mauna Loa Scenic Road…Tree Molds, Kipuka Puaulu and Mauna Loa Summit Trailhead
This gateway to the southern flank of Mauna Loa, the largest active volcano in the world, lies about 2 ½ miles west of the main entrance to the park. Between mile markers 30 and 31 on Highway 11. The road traverses lava desert, o’hia scrub savanna, fern forest and ends where the hiking trail starts to the icy heights of Mauna Loa’s summit.
A small fork off the main road heading east just after the start of Mauna Loa Road leads to a series of tree molds that formed when lava poured through the deep tropical forest. The trees were too wet to burn and the lava simply cooled around the trunks. Later, as the trees rotted, these unusual, deep pit molds were left behind. Definitely worth a visit, and there are pit toilets available at the Tree Molds.
About 1 ½ miles further along Mauna Loa Road is Bird Park, or Kipuka Puaulu. A forested island in a giant lava flow, this micro-ecosystem preserves forest plants and animals and is a haven to many bird members of Hawai’i’s endangered species. Cool, quiet, restful and inviting, there is a one-mile nature trail around this tropical forest oasis.
Mauna Loa Road is closed at various elevations at various times due to fire hazard. If one has the time and an adventurous heart, it is well worth the trip to drive to the end of the road and perhaps even hike a ways up it. The start of the Mauna Loa summit trail is here, but for most people, that goal is at least two days hard hiking distant. The world’s largest active volcano is a LOT bigger than it looks!
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All media copyright 2010 by Donald B. MacGowan. All rights reserved.