For solitude in a mesmerizing lava landscape, head 2 miles across the Kaʻu Desert to our favorite viewpoint: the barren summit of Mauna Iki (3032ft). Take in sprawling Mauna Loa and steaming Kilauea, while the vast Kaʻu Desert appears to melt into the ocean. The trail's north end is sometimes referred to as Footprints Trail.
If you continue past the summit, it's 7 miles to Hilina Pali Rd past craggy cinder cones, fissures and chasms. Take note of sulfur dioxide levels as you'll be smack in the fallout zone – hence the distinct lack of vegetation.
Look for the Kaʻu Desert trailhead parking between mile markers 37 and 38 on Hwy 11. Start early; midday can be brutally hot and dry.