Haleakala National Park is on the Hawaiian Island of Maui. The Haleakala volcano used to be part of Volcanoes National Park, but was made into it’s own separate National Park in 1961. This is another huge park and has two distinct entrances: the road to the summit of Haleakala; and, the coastal area. The drive to the summit is a winding uphill stretch from the center of Maui. The coastal entrance is twelve miles after the town of Hana.

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On our first visit, we tackled the Haleakala visitor center (on the crater) and enjoyed the views from the multiple turnouts. Generally visitors see this park by car as the hiking is mostly strenuous. We on the other hand decided to jump at the chance to do the fourteen-mile “sliding sands” day hike and questioned the park ranger thoroughly in advance to prepare.


When we returned for the hike, we set out early as we knew we could be out for a good six hours if not longer. At the park entrance visitor center we happened upon a couple of backpackers in need of a ride to the top, which we traded in exchange for an apple. Turns out that one of the hikers by the name of “Billy goat” is a well-known thru-hiker who now spends his life hiking America’s Triple Crown. Without thinking about it we gave them a ride all the way to the top and had to back track down the mountain to the parking lot where we were to leave our car. Enough folks must do this one-way hike as the park has a specific turnout designated for hikers to catch a ride to the trailhead at the top. Indeed we didn’t have to wait long for a ride – thank you ladies from Florida. Call it karma, if you will.

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We started our hike at the main visitor center where we descended into the crater knowing this would be a downward hike until the last couple of miles and then up, up, up.

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The first four miles led us to the bottom of the crater and we took the fork to the Halali’i crater. Every time the volcano spews lava from a new area a new crater is formed and we counted at least eleven on the map. The ranger suggested we take the extra mile to go around the Halali’i crater to enjoy some great color and we were glad we took his advice. The scenery from inside the main crater is fascinating and the further we went the more we were impressed. About ten miles later we found ourselves at the backcountry campground where we shook out the sand from our boots and enjoyed lunch in the relative shade of the overnight cabin.

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This is the rare silversword plant endemic to Haleakala. Although silverswords can live for as long as 90 years, they only flower once and then die soon afterward.

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After lunch we headed for the last stretch of trail to tackle the steep uphill climb.

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This part of the hike was fabulous as we entered and exited the clouds billowing from the valley below. The scenery was marvelous and as we rounded the mountain we were treated to a much needed and very much appreciated cooling breeze and shade. We agreed that even though this was one of the more challenging uphill climbs that we have done it was also one of the most satisfying.

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We were excited about what the coastal side of the park had in store for us and we decided to tackle it a few days later. Heading out on the road to Hana we’ll tell you straight up to take some motion sickness medicine if you have had any problems in the past. The road twists and turns and twists and turns and twists and turns. The coastal trek is around 65 miles and by car it will take you about three (yes, three) hours to get to the park entrance. Oh right, we should also mention that there are a number of one-way bridges to be shared (hopefully not at the same time) that lend an excitement factor as well as serving to increase the travel time. Shaka!

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We tackled the half mile Kuloa point trail first which leads to a couple of small waterfalls near the ocean. The nearer lower waterfall pool was crowded so we clambered over the rocks to the upper waterfall and took a dip to cool off with a few adventurous cohorts.

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We returned to the car and changed into our hiking gear (meaning we exchanged flip flops for hiking shoes) and headed out to the Pipwai Trail. The hike is about eight miles and we gained about 800 feet of elevation on the way. The trail snakes through a guava forest, which leads to a 184-foot waterfall and through an eerie bamboo forest until you arrive at the base of the 400-foot Waimoku Falls. It was a good hike and gave us a good workout.

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We do recommend the drive down and the hikes, but leave early as we were exhausted and had to navigate the road in partial darkness on the way back!

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Next Up: Maui Highlights