Hiking to the top of an active volcano might sound a little too daring (or frankly insane) to some, but those who are up for the adventure will be rewarded with epic views and bragging rights for life. Explore these four amazing active volcanoes with trails ranging in skill level from beginner to advanced. Happy climbing!
Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii
Located on the southeastern region of Hawaii’s Big Island, this national park offers 150 miles of trails where you can witness hot lava flowing freely and explore pristine rainforests. An 11-mile trail circling the open rim of active volcano Kilauea provides the chance to peak into the magma-filled crater while being bathed with natural steam. There is also a shorter 4-mile trail that leads down to the caldera floor.
Serious backcountry adventurers can obtain a permit to summit 13,678-foot Mauna Loa—the world’s largest active volcano.
Mount Etna, Italy
On the East Coast of Sicily, you’ll find Mount Etna—Europe’s most active volcano and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Its geologic history shows that the volcano has been periodically spewing ash and lava for thousands of years, with its first recorded eruption in 475 BCE.
You can visit Mount Etna all year, but the best time is from April to September. You don’t need to be an expert hiker to summit the volcano, but you do need some determination: The ascent is steep and technical and there can be ice underfoot. It’s best to make the climb with an expert guide for safety. As you summit, the power and depth of the smoking crater in front of you is worth the effort. The rumbling of the magma erupting underground and the otherworldly moonscape that surrounds you will be something you won’t soon forget.
Mount Batur, Indonesia
On the northeastern side of Bali, not far from Ubud, lies Mount Batur, one of Indonesia’s most popular volcanoes to hike. Most visitors explore the volcano at dawn to catch an awe-inspiring sunrise. Aside from the pre-dawn wake-up call (usually around 2 a.m.), the two-to-three hour hike itself is moderately challenging and suitable for most hikers—though hiking in the dark adds an element of the unknown. At the summit, watch the sun rise above the clouds before wandering around to spot monkeys playing at the mountaintop temple, and looking for places where steam curls gracefully out of the volcano.
Poás Volcano, Costa Rica
Poás Volcano National Park is located 1.5 hours north of San José—the capital city of Costa Rica—and well worth the drive. Just a 10-minute walk up a paved road at the park will bring you to an observation deck where you can gaze into the mile-wide caldera and see the deep turquoise lake that forms in the middle. Poas’ second crater, a bright green tropical mountain lake, is a breathtaking spot to view birds and other wildlife. After visiting the craters, you can hike down well-marked paths into forested areas with unique ecological systems. Visit in the early morning to ensure you can see into the crater before it becomes covered with clouds and steam.