The Thurston Lava Tube is the must do hike in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. If you only have time for one stop, make it this one. The hike is short and easy, though there is a little bit of climbing, including some steps.
The lava tube is located just south of the Visitor Center, and the main problem is parking. There are just a few pullouts on the right, or west side, of the road. Luckily, because the lava tube hike is short and easy (only 0.5 mile roundtrip), there is a pretty quick turnaround, so cars are leaving their spots all the time.
After you park, cross the road and turn to the right. The trail through the Thurston lava tube is a loop, and there is one-way traffic. The paved trail immediately starts a few short, steep switchbacks, but it only drops about 40 feet, and the entire trip is only a half mile from the car around the loop back to the car. This hike is definitely easy enough for everyone. Unfortunately there are stairs at the end of the lava tube, so wheels can’t make it around the loop.
At the bottom of the hill, a dark, gaping opening appears among the lush vegetation. This is the best place for pictures on the hike, but the traffic is pretty heavy, so take your photos quickly. The lava tube is straight and flat, with a ceiling height of at least 7 feet. The walk is comfortable, and there are no obstacles. The trail is also lit, so you won’t need your phone or a flashlight. The lava tube runs for about a hundred meters through the hill. At the end, there are a few steps climbing back up to road level. Then, you complete the loop and head back to the car. The entire hike takes only about 20 minutes, but the Thurston Lava Tube is the best hike in the park.