Haleakalā National Park, Maui

This entry is part 18 of 18 in the series American National Parks
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Haleakalā National Park, Maui

This is part of a series where we visit America’s beautiful national parks and monuments.

Visiting Maui is a dirty job, but somebody has to do it. Not dirty like Mike Rowe dirty, but dirty as in awesome place to vacation. One of the highlights for many people visiting Maui is a visit to the Haleakalā National Park.

Like it’s cousin, Volcano National Park on the Big Island of Hawaii, Haleakalā stretches from the ocean to mountaintop. This wide range of elevations make several meteorological zones posible in a relatively short distance. Visitors should be aware that the temperature can be very cold at the Haleakalā crater visitor center. Dress accordingly.

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Map of Haleakalā National Park, Maui PHOTO

Hiking is the main activity on Haleakalā. Two primary trails provide access to the crater which stretches nearly seven miles across and down 2600 feet in elevation. Like so many national parks we have visited, the trails start at the higher elevations. Hikers or families should keep in mind that after you have hiked down you need to hike back up. Because most visitors are staying in tropical resort areas, it is easy to not dress for the conditions you may encounter at the summit of Haleakalā.

With over 30 miles of trails in and around the crater there is plenty of hiking to be had. The park service has this to say about the hike down: “When beginning your hike on a downward slope, allow for twice the time hiking to get out, e.g. 15 minutes hiking down + 30 minutes up = 45 minute hike. Soft cinder trails create hiking conditions similiar to walking on a beach in some areas.”

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This is a tough lesson I learned at the Grand Canyon a few years ago. Lots of people like to start walking down the trail but eventually you have to turn around and head back up. On this visit it was some foreigners that had hiked well into the Grand Canyon where I was with my boys. This group was not dressed for the hike and were wearing footwear more suitable for a cocktail party. The women had awful blisters and it was hot. Unfortunately for them, there was no other way to get back out of the canyon except to walk out under their own power. They were miserable when we saw them down on the trail and even worse as we passed them on our way out.

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Halakealā Visitor Center

Our first trip to Haleakalā was during our honeymoon a few decades ago. We were broker than broke but somehow scraped enough money together to rent a car for the day so we could drive up Haleakalā. If you visit this beautiful national park you will experience the winding, but well maintained road to the summit. We were sure our little rental car wouldn’t make it to the top as every time we took our foot off the gas to slow for a corner it made some disgusting sounds.  We did make it to the top and we were so taken by the stark landscape that we promised to return one day.

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Winding road to Haleakala

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Revisiting Haleakalā many years after our first visit.

The visitors center is the logical place to start at the crater. There are great views and resources to help you plan your visit. Keep in mind that there is no food or lodging available here. There are some cabins which are more of a shelter for hikers which must be reserved well in advance.

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View across Haleakalā Crater from the visitors center

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Top of Shifting Sands Trail at the visitors center

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Hikers on Shifting Sands Trail


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