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Kau Desert & Footprints Trail

A Volcanic Desert Under The Hawaiian Sun

A desert in Hawai'i? The Ka'u Desert isn't technically a desert because it receives too much rainfall. The desert-like appearance of Ka'u is due to the combination of the rain shadow from Mauna Loa and the acid rain created from the gases erupting from Kilauea Volcano. The ph of this acid rain can be as low as 3.4 and inhibits most plant growth. Stunted ohia trees give the appearance of bonsai. The lava here is also very permeable, percolating most rainwater deep into the earth before plants can avail themselves of it.


This desert is an amazing and unique landscape. Attesting to the power of the volcano here are two-hundred year old fossilized human footprints in mud-ash. Their origin isn't entirely clear, but it is surely fascinating to walk among the footprints of the ancient Hawaiians in this desolate place.

Visit Ka'u Desert & Footprints!

Operated By The National Park Service

Contact Information:

Phone: +1 (808) 985-6000

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