If getting away from the crowds is on your list at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, then this primitive camping area is one of the places to do it. This lovely primitive camping area has 9 designated sites, 1 pit toilet that was kept clean and well-stocked, and an ADA accessible paved path that accesses many of the camping sites. The sites are a short walk from the parking area so you have to carry your gear to the site. There is no water available at the campground so be prepared. Water is available at the visitor’s center up the hill about 7 miles away.
The campground offers expansive views of Mauna Loa and the surrounding area including some pretty cool night-time glow of the eruption in Kilauea crater. One of the great benefits of camping in the park is the proximity to many hiking trails, but also to some of the better night time viewing. The popular Kilauea overlook is packed like a rock concert as soon as the sun goes down. Parking is a disaster, and the overlook is simply too crowded. If you can wait until around 9-10pm until you arrive you can have a much easier time finding parking at the trailhead and space along the overlook. Then it’s just a short drive back to your tent, and not an hour’s drive back to your hotel in Hilo. Just outside the park is Volcano Village with a small market and gasoline station for groceries and limited camping supplies. For something specialized like camping gas we had to drive to a hardware store outside of Hilo. The Volcano House Lodge near the park visitor’s center offers two restaurants with the same menu, one is more of a bar and grill, the other a sit down style.
Hiking is extensive in the park, and many trails will carry you far from the crowded center of the park, but be sure to be prepared with layers, water and snacks. Hiking across the lava flows offers no discernable trail except for the regularly spaced ahu stone piles(cairns) which are the only way to navigate. Should the weather turn or fog roll in, visibility can be greatly reduced. Cycling is also a great activity along the park roads, but be ready for a great deal of elevation change.
Note: This campsite is NOT free. It was $10 per night.