Wednesday, April 11, 2018
Another fabulous US National Park experience! All they are missing is one of those always-amazing introductory films. But they make up for it with well-done ranger talks, extremely knowledgeable, patient rangers, well-marked trails, and extraordinary sights that will take your breath away. The 4-mi hike through the crater is not difficult, but is made MUCH more meaningful if you purchase the trail guide before you go, at the Visitor's Center. Trail takes you through multiple climate, geological, and topographical zones. Definitely worth the time. The 1-mile hike is a shorter hiking alternative and may fit your schedule better, but is significantly less interesting and varied. The Jagger Museum is more like a typical National Park Visitor's Center than a "museum" in terms of high educational value. Make it a must-do! Some interactive components and video's of recent eruptions; likely your only opportunity to see some "Pele's Hair." Ideal schedule is to go to the Jagger Museum early in your visit, before hiking, to learn what you'll be seeing. Then return at sunset for a deeper dive into the exhibits, then walk outside to watch the astounding orange glow from the volcano - visible only after dark, and - if you're lucky - a bit of lava sputtering into the air.
Though the park closes in the evening, the gates remain open. That means you can drive into the park, navigate your way to the Jagger Museum overlook, and watch the spectacle when no other tourists are jockeying with you for the best view. It's a little different every night, and from hour to hour. If you are in the area several nights, take in this spectacle after dark at least twice - ideally after the crowds have retreated. Take a rain poncho, a warm coat, and a flashlight.