Going to spend some time on Maui, Hawaii? Don’t miss spending some time hiking on Haleakalā. If you can fit it in, catch a sunrise from the peak (Sunsets are less spectacular as the volcano’s top is usually shrouded in clouds by evening). There are few places like this where you can drive from sea level to 10,000 feet in a couple of hours and go from beaches, lush tropical surroundings to stark desert.
Haleakalā National Park encompasses some 33,000 acres of the volcano. One of America’s greatest National Parks, it’s the premier hiking site on Maui with choices in trails from a few minutes to several days. Standing over 10,000’ it is often chilly with temperatures that can dip into freezing, and snow can at times, cover the ground in winter.
Haleakalā’s so called “crater” actually isn’t a crater but resulted from of two large valleys that eroded away and than merge at the summit of the volcano. Haleakalā also isn’t extinct, but dormant, having erupted several times over the past 1,000 years.
The summit area of Haleakala National Park boasts over 32 miles of hiking trails. These trails range in difficulty from short 10 minute walks to multi-day overnight trips, and each trail shows different faces of Haleakala.
One of the most spectacular things you will ever experience is catching a sunrise from the top of Haleakalā ,but unless you are hiking on foot you will need to get a Sunrise Reservation. All visitors in private or rental vehicles wanting to view sunrise at Haleakalā National Park must make sunrise viewing reservations ahead of time on recreation.gov. HERE
Hiking on the volcano is almost like being transported to another world from multi-colored shifting sands to stark cliffs and spires, the incredible scenery is incredible. Because it’s isolated on a mid-Pacific island standing 10,000 feet tall the park has a number of interesting species that include the silversword a plant that’s unique to Haleakalā. Living among the desert cinder landscape of the Haleakalā slopes and Summit, silverswords are characterized by the silvery hairs on their sword-like succulent leaves and their low-growing rosette. They can live up to 90 years. Also found on the volcano is the Hawaiian petrel or ‘ua’u an endangered species of migratory seabirds along with the world’s rarest goose, the nēnē.
Because of the fragile landscape hikers must remain on the designated trails. It’s the law and getting caught off the trail could result in serious fines. Trails are designated and carefully marked because you are hiking near some of the world’s rarest plants and animals. Venturing off of the trails could do serious harm to local plants.
From the Visitor’s Center the most popular trail heads down into the crater along the Sliding Sands – Halemau’u combo trails which is a C-shaped trail into the most picturesque portion of the Haleakala crater with a minimum hike of 12 miles. The first 4 miles of the trail is the largely downhill to the spectacular Sliding Sands trail leading into the crater that features views of a extra-terrestrial landscapes. Returning to the Visitor’s Center requires that 4 mile trek going uphill.
Halemau’u Trail: This trail traces the contours of the cliff walls of the crater before terminating at a loop for viewing ʻāhinahina (Haleakalā silverswords), and other endangered species.
The Supply Trail is fairly steep trail, and becomes steeper as it nears the connection with the Halemauu Trail at 3.5 miles. At the end of the Supply Trail, head down the Halemauu Trail about a quarter mile for some incredible views of Haleakala’s crater.
Keonehe’ehe’e to Halemau’u: This one-way hike through Haleakalā crater requires you to hitchhike back to the place you began which is pretty common practice.
Hosmer Grove Loop Trail: This very short loop travels through a forest with diverse tree and interesting bird species.
Kīpahulu District is a detached portion of Haleakalā National Park accessible 12 miles past Hāna. It is not possible to access Kīpahulu from the main area of the park. This district trail offers the best waterfall hike on Maui as well as a sculpted lava coastline with several ancient Hawaiian settlement sites.