Pu’u Loa Petroglyphs Trail in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park gives you the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of kupuna (Hawaiian elders) to the Pu’u Loa (hill of long life). This area is a sacred gallery of petroglyphs. The etchings document the life and culture of native Hawaiian people and were used to cradle the piko (umbilical cord) of their children.
The piko was brought to this area in hopes of receiving the blessings of a long and prosperous life.
The earliest written observation of the petroglyphs at Pu`u Loa was in 1823 by Reverend William Ellis, a missionary to the Hawaiian and Society Islands.
Pu’u Loa Petroglyph Trail
The trail is approximately 1.4 miles round trip. One thing to note is this is not a flat paved trail. You are hiking along lava and up and down the lava flow. Please be prepared with sturdy shoes, water, sunscreen, a baseball hat, and a snack.
The trail is not long but the hot Hawaiian sun can do a number on you by the time you reach the boardwalk.
Once you reach the boardwalk at Pu’u Loa Petroglyphs Trail in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park make sure you walk in both directions. We saw different petroglyphs each time we walked along the path.
Depending on the time of day and where the sun is at can also change how the petroglyphs look on the rocks.
Check out the best things to do in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Along the way to the boardwalk keep an eye out for petroglyphs. The entire area is packed with petroglyphs and carvings!
This area has the largest concentration of petroglyphs in all of the Hawaiian Islands. More than 23,000 ki’i pōhaku (petroglyphs) have been identified in the area.
Please make sure you are prepared for the sun with water, a hat, and good shoes. I had on flip flops and it was not a very comfortable walk. I was able to do it but felt every pebble and rock as I walked along. I was very happy to reach the boardwalk and take a break.
It didn’t feel very hot out as we started out on the hike but once we were in the lava field it quickly heated up and I found myself turning red along the way.
Where is the Pu’u Loa Petroglyph Trail
The trailhead is located at the bottom of Chains of Crater Road.
There is a small pull out for cars, an interpretive sign and emergency call box at the parking lot.
Things to know when planning a visit to Pu’u Loa Petroglyph Trail
There is no water, bathroom, or shade along this trail. I know I keep saying this but I really want to make sure you are prepared and can enjoy the trail.
Please do not take any rubbings of the petroglyphs. This can cause them to erode faster and cause damage to them.
If you can try to plan your hike in the early morning to get the cooler temperatures.
Check out all of our Hawaii Volcanoes National Park travel posts and articles!