“This short loop trail reveals a story of struggle for some of Hawai'i.”
— Brian Smith
Birding · Wildlife
This trail leads through a "Kpuka", a zone of older, richer vegetation that's encompassed by a younger lava flow from Mauna Loa.
Need to Know
Be aware that concentrated SO2 gasses (sulphur dioxide) and sulphur fumes from Halemaumau Crater can be dangerous for those with heart or respiratory conditions.
Restrooms (pit toilets) are available nearby at the picnic area.
Kpukapuaulu is a hotbed of biodiversity boasting the highest density of native tree species of any forest in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The nature of this treasured environment is embodied by its name: kpuka (island of ancient vegetation surrounded by a sea of younger lava flows), pua (flower), and ulu (growing)a rich oasis of growing plants.
As you get ready to enter this magnificent kpuka, under which is an 8,600-year-old lava flow, you'll see a lush jungle ahead of you. This is in stark contrast to the rocky terrain and scant vegetation of the younger 600-year-old lava flow that you start in. Kpukapuaulu is overflowing with life.
The abundance and variety of flora and fauna found in Kpukapuaulu is bolstered by more than 10 feet of moisture and nutrient-rich soil which was deposited by Klauea Volcanos multiple fiery eruptions. This forest receives a moderate amount of rainfall which has also produced a suitable environment for species ranging from the wetter rainforests to the drier forest. This richness of biological diversity reflects eons of plant succession that has raised a greater abundance of species.
If you plan to visit Kpukapuaulu, be sure to download the NPS interpretive trail guide.
Flora & Fauna
The recovery of the forest floor plants has not only increased the diversity of native plants here, but also restored plants of cultural significance, like the endemic Ê»alaÊ»alawainui (Peperomia cookiana), the indigenous palapalai fern (Microlepia strigosa), and the common kupukupu swordfern (Nephrolepis exaltata and cordifolia).