Hawaii, Big Island, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, hiker taking photos along a trail through native rainforest at Thurston Lava Tube.

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Thurston Lava Tube

Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park

On Kilauea's eastern side, Crater Rim Dr passes through a rainforest thick with tree ferns and ohia trees to the overflowing parking lot for ever-popular Thurston Lava Tube. A 0.3-mile loop walk starts in an ohia forest filled with birdsong before heading underground through a gigantic (but short) artificially lit lava tube. Unfortunately, at time of research, the tube was closed for ongoing safety assessment studies relating to rockfalls resulting from the 2018 lower Puna eruption, but was expected to reopen in 2020.

If open, it's normally a favorite with tour groups, so come early or late to avoid the crowd. Lava tubes form when the outer crust of a lava river hardens while the liquid beneath the surface continues to flow through. When the eruption stops, the flow drains out leaving only that hard shell behind. Nahuku, as this tube is called in Hawaiian, was 'discovered' by controversial figure Lorrin Thurston, the newspaper baron (and patron of famed vulcanogist Dr Jaggar) who was instrumental in overthrowing the Kingdom of Hawaii.

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