Earthquake Trail – Waldron Ledge Loop – Kupinai Pali

The Waldron Ledge (Kupinai Pali) Hike on the Crater Rim Trail: Walk the Intriguing “Earthquake Trail” in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Local Expert's Rating:
5.0 / 5
The Bottom Line:

Enjoy spectacular views over the Kilauea Caldera from the Waldron Ledge on this hike along a decommissioned section of the road. It’s rather trippy walking along the old pavement, that remains after 1983 earthquake damage. And the vistas over the caldera from the Waldron Ledge overlook are mind-blowing—some of the best to be had in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

- The Local Expert Team

The Waldron Ledge—aka Kupinai Pali—forms an escarpment along the eastern side of the great Kilauea Caldera (Kaluapele). Part of the Crater Rim Trail in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park accesses this brink via an old roadway with a dramatic story. The Waldron Ledge hike is a short, easy exploration with major scenic payoffs.

Once, this “trail” was a road. It was part of the Crater Rim Drive, which until 1983 ran closer to the caldera wall. On November 16th of that year, a 6.7-magnitude earthquake along the Kaoiki Fault Zone ravaged the road, splitting and collapsing sections of pavement.

Wisely, the road was routed farther east, and the damaged portion became part of the Crater Rim Trail. This Waldron Ledge or Kupinai Pali reach of the Crater Rim Trail is still sometimes referred to as the “Earthquake Trail.”

Just about a mile long, the Earthquake Trail proceeds along the old pavement, which despite obvious damage in places is still intact and level enough to make this a mostly wheelchair-accessible route. (There are side trails that aren’t wheelchair-accessible, but the main hike is.) It’s also very easy to get to, starting just east of the Volcano House across the road from the Kilauea Visitor Center.

Heading southward, the trail comes edged by lush forest with koa trees, tree ferns, and a variety of native and non-native shrubbery. Some wonderful flowers can often be enjoyed along your stroll. 

Not far from the Volcano House, there’s a split with a spur leading to an overlook of the Kilauea Caldera. This isn’t wheelchair-friendly, given the steep drop, but it’s worth checking out otherwise. That said, the main vantage comes farther south. The Earthquake Trail splits into a loop, with the westward arm accessing a scenic overlook.

This viewpoint is utterly spectacular. You’re looking straight out over the gigantic caldera of Kaluapele. This is the collapsed crater of Kilauea Volcano, stretching nearly three miles across at its broadest. Within the caldera, the (often-steaming) pit crater of Halemaumau—the home of the volcano goddess Pele—is clear and obvious. Other landmarks include the burly cinder cone of Puu Puai as well as the gigantic loom of Mauna Loa.

Complete with a picnic table, this Waldron Ledge viewpoint is a fine place to stop awhile and savor one of the Big Island’s grandest vistas. After this loop, you can turn back to the trailhead. It’s also possible to link the Earthquake Trail with a longer trek on the Crater Rim Trail, including accessing Kilauea Iki and other trails for a big circuit.

But even if you just do the there-and-back to the viewpoint, the Earthquake Trail is well worth an hour or so of your visit to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. It can be a surprisingly quiet outing, despite its fascinating history and dazzling lookout.

Insider Tips:
-This paved section of the Crater Rim Trail is also open to bicyclists, in case you want to do some pedaling in the national park.
-Don’t venture off the trail into the surrounding forest: There are fissures and other earth cracks in the ground around here. (Doesn’t the tilted and split pavement suggest a volatile landscape?)