15 Volcano Hikes in Stunning Destinations Around the World

Steaming Bluff offers excellent views of Kīlauea Caldera and the changes at Halema‘uma‘u Crater.
Photo: NPS Photo/Janice Wei

Over thousands of years, volcanic activity has yielded a breathtaking array of incredible features, from craters and calderas to lava flows and tubes.

And these features aren't just terms from your elementary school science textbook: You can actually see them up close — all you have to do is hike an active volcano.

To help you get started planning your next adventure, we've rounded up 15 volcano hikes around the world that draw thrill-seekers, nature enthusiasts, and mountain climbing experts to their awe-inspiring peaks. A few are easily accessible to beginner hikers, while some require gear, technical climbing skills, high levels of fitness, and a fair bit of courage to reach the summit. And plenty of others offer a variety of spectacular trails in between the extremes.

But no matter which volcano you plan to hike – whether it's consistently quiet or continuously erupting – make sure you're up to speed on its alert levels before you leave for your trip, as trails may be temporarily closed due to strong gases, eruptions, and other volcanic activity.

01 of 15

Mount Etna

Mt. Etna - Italy
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Outside Italy's Catania sits the nearly 11,000-foot-tall Mount Etna, Europe's largest active volcano. Not only has Mount Etna been erupting longer than any other volcano in written history (its first eruption was recorded in 425 B.C.), it also erupts more frequently than most in the world.

Despite its high activity, Mount Etna is fairly safe for nearby residents. To visit, drive or take a bus from Catania's railway station to the parking lot at Rifugio Sapienza. You will then take a cable car to the station on Mount Etna; once you're there, you can hike along any number of trails.

02 of 15

Pacaya

Pacaya - Guatemala
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Pacaya is roughly a two-hour drive from Antigua, Guatemala. You can hire a guide at the visitor's center, or you can join a guided tour that leaves from Antigua. If the moderately steep hike seems too arduous, you also have the option to ride a horse to the top. Don't forget to pack chocolate and graham crackers for the hike: Your guide may hand you marshmallows to roast on the fumaroles.

03 of 15

Mount Aso

Mt. Aso - Japan
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At the center of Kyushu, Japan's third-largest island, lies Mount Aso. Its caldera is one of the largest in the world, with a 16-mile diameter and a 75-mile circumference. Five volcanic peaks can be found in the caldera; one of them, Mount Nakadake, is an active volcano that has a summit reaching 4,900 feet.

You can reach the Nakadake Crater by taking a bus from JR Aso Station in Aso, Kumamoto, Japan to Asosan Nishi Station, or you can also drive to a parking lot next to the crater.

While you're visiting Aso-Kuju National Park, be sure to check out the Aso Volcano Museum by the Nakadake Crater, as well as the nearby hot spring villages in Tarutama, Jigoku, and Aso. And if you're itching to get more hiking in, Mount Aso's other peaks offer plenty of trails.

04 of 15

Mount Mayon

Mayon Volcano - Philippines
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The most active volcano in the Philippines, Mount Mayon has erupted approximately 50 times since the 1600s, most recently in 2019. The trek up the mountain isn't easy, with Trail Adventours ranking it a seven out of 10 in "trail difficulty" for the two-day journey (although you may wish to tack on an extra day). If you're up for the task, head on over to Legazpi in Albay Province; from there, you can take the Buyuhan trail in Buyahan or the Buang trail in Tabaco.

05 of 15

Mount St. Helens

Mt. St. Helens - Washington, US
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You don't have to leave the country to hike a volcano. This 8,300-foot volcano in Washington state offers more than 200 miles of trails, where you'll find a wide variety of scenic points of interest among the rock and ash, including gorgeous waterfalls, lakes, canyons, an emerging glacier, and otherworldly caves. There are trails for hikers of all skill levels, from the stroller and wheelchair-friendly Meta Lake loop to the 32-mile Loowit Trail. The hike to the summit is no easy feat, but as long as you have a permit, it's well within your reach – no technical skills required.

06 of 15

Mount Ngauruhoe

Mount Ngauruhoe - New Zealand
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Lord of the Rings fans will recognize this volcano as Mount Doom from the famous Tolkien franchise, but luckily you don't have to navigate your way to Middle-earth to see its real-life counterpart. Located in Tongariro National Park, the oldest national park in New Zealand and a UNESCO dual World Heritage Area, Mount Ngauruhoe can be reached by hiking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.

Billed as one of New Zealand's best day hikes, this one-way 12-mile hike takes you through a volcanic landscape of crater lakes, glacial valleys, and ancient lava flows. The Tongariro Crossing itself can be done in seven to eight hours, but plan to spend an additional three hours for a rocky – and steep – side trip to Ngaurohoe's summit.

07 of 15

Mount Vesuvius

Vesuvius crater walk looking down on Naples.
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Perhaps the most famous of Italy's volcanoes is Mount Vesuvius, notorious for destroying Pompeii and Herculaneum in A.D. 79. Mount Vesuvius is mainland Europe's only active volcano, and despite having only erupted three dozen times, its close proximity to Naples also makes it one of the world's most dangerous.

Vesuvius National Park offers 11 different trails for beginners and advanced hikers. According to ITALY Magazine, while Trail 5 – the hike to the Gran Cono (Big Cone) – is the most popular, you can get the best views of the park by opting for the more manageable Trail 4. Head to the official website for directions to Vesuvius.

08 of 15

Masaya Volcano

Masaya Volcano - Nicaragua
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Masaya Volcano is one of two volcanoes within Masaya Volcano National Park, its highest peak reaching 2,000 feet above sea level. What makes this volcano extra-special is a one-of-a-kind night visit— you can drive up to the crater in the evening and peer into the glowing and bubbling depths of its lava lake. Of course, you'll want to go back during the day to explore, too.

09 of 15

Mount Rinjani

Mt. Rinjani - Indonesia
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The second-highest volcano in Indonesia, the 12,200-foot Mount Rinjani can be found in Mount Rinjani National Park. Few make it to the summit, but you can take a multi-day trip to the crater rim to see Segara Anak, the volcano's awe-inspiring and sacred crater lake; Aik Kalak, its natural hot spring; and Mount Barujari, the crater's active "baby" volcano.

To embark on this historically spiritual journey, head to either one of two access points: Senaru or Sembalun Lawang on the Indonesian island of Lombok. The government discourages hikers from climbing the mountain without a guide, so signing up for an organized trek is your best option.

10 of 15

Arenal

Arenal - Costa Rica
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This 5,400-foot volcano can be found in the rainforest landscape of Costa Rica's Arenal Volcano National Park. Arenal hasn't spewed lava since 2010, but you can still hear it rumble while it puffs and smokes.

It's illegal to hike Arenal (as well as the park's other volcano, the dormant Cerro Chato), but there are lots of trails in the park to keep you occupied, many of which are short, flat, and perfect for novice hikers. For unparalleled views of Arenal Volcano and Lake Arenal, take the Colades de Lava trail, which goes through scenic secondary forests and lava fields. And while the park isn't known for its wildlife, see if you can spot parrots and toucans among the trees.

11 of 15

Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park

Steaming Bluff offers excellent views of Kīlauea Caldera and the changes at Halema‘uma‘u Crater.
NPS Photo/Janice Wei

Explore Hawaii's famous volcanic landscapes on the Crater Rim Trail across the caldera of Kīlauea, accessible from several locations on Crater Rim Drive. The Kīlauea Iki Overlook, Devastation Trail, and the Sulphur Banks Trail also make this national park one to add to your travel list.

12 of 15

Villarrica

Villarrica - Chile
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Villarrica is one of Chile's most active volcanoes, as well as one of the only volcanoes in the world to have a lava lake in its crater. Unless you're a mountaineering expert, you'll need a guide and equipment to hike this behemoth. Guided tours leave from Pucón, and when you get to the mountain, you can save yourself an hour and a half of hiking by taking the chairlift. While a snowy, icy hike may sound a bit daunting, the exhilarating sled ride down the slopes should be enough to motivate you (and ease your fears about how you're going to get back down).

13 of 15

Eyjafjallajökull

Eyjafjallajokull - Iceland
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Reykjavík, the Blue Lagoon, and Thingvellir National Park might spring to mind when you think of Iceland, but the tourist hotspot is also home to the volcano Eyjafjallajökull, whose May 2010 eruption infamously halted flights across Europe for nearly a week.

It's a dangerous hike to Eyjafjallajökull's 5,500-foot summit, so you may want to consider booking a guided tour for the trek. Rather than climb to the top, you could alternatively take the 15-mile Fimmvörðuháls trail, which is thought to be one of the best day hikes in the country. With stunning views of waterfalls, rivers, and lava fields amid the dramatic backdrop of Eyjafjallajökull and the glacier Mýrdalsjökull, it's easy to see why.

14 of 15

Cotopaxi

Cotopaxi - Ecuador
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Cotopaxi is one of the most active volcanoes in the world, in addition to being – at 19,300 feet – the second-highest mountain in Ecuador. Located outside of Quito in the Andes Mountains, you may want to hire an accredited mountain guide if you want to hike to the icy summit.

But you don't have to hike the volcano to enjoy the rest of Cotopaxi National Park: You can also take the slightly less strenuous trail to the Jose Ribas Refuge, or opt for the peaceful, nature-filled path around the lake, Laguna Limpiopungo.

15 of 15

Whakaari/White Island

Whakaari/White Island - Bay of Islands, New Zealand
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Commonly known as White Island, New Zealand's only active marine volcano can be found in the country's Bay of Plenty. As only 10 percent of the volcano is visible above the sea, you can easily see the crater without having to hike up steep trails.

To get to the island, you'll have to sign up for a guided tour. The volcano tragically claimed the lives of several visitors in a fatal 2019 eruption.

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