On the way to the summit of Haleakala there is
an overlook that should not be, well, overlooked :) Here you'll
get a different view of the crater than the one from the summit.
A short trail starts from the parking lot just beyond mile marker
17 on Highway 378. The crater has different colors here, or that
was my impression. In fact the sunlight and swirling clouds keep
changing the hues and patterns. Now, if you're lucky (we weren't
that lucky) you might encounter a strange phenomenon. Sometimes
in late afternoon when the clouds are low inside the crater
and the sun is right behind you, usually around sunset, you'll
be able to see the reflection of your own shadow on the clouds,
ringed with a rainbow. The native Hawaiians have likened the
experience to seeing one's soul.
View from the summit (Pu'u 'Ula'ula)
This must be one of world's most amazing views.
The view of the crater will take you breath away. Streaks of red,
yellow, gray and black trace the courses of recent and ancient lava,
ash, and cinder flows. I imagine this is how Mars looks like. I
took about 100 pictures of the crater, I just couldn't stop.
Haleakala's summit elevation is 10,023 feet (3055 meters), but
it's believed that once it was much higher than this. Hawaiian
volcanoes gradually sink into the ocean because their weight slowly
bends down the Earth's crust beneath them.
Southeast of the summit of Haleakala is the
Magnetic Peak, Maui's second highest point with an elevation of
10,008 ft (3,050 m). This is a peak that can play tricks on people
who try to get oriented :) The iron-rich cinder cone that is
Magnetic Peak had a magnetic field strong enough to mess with
Sliding Sands Trail
The Sliding Sands trail begins at the
visitor center near the summit of Haleakala. It's the main
trail into the crater descending 2400 feet over a distance of
approximately 5 miles. The trail offers a closer view of the
cinder cones and the lava flows and you don't need to go its
entire distance to find some of the most amazing views. We
didn't go the entire distance, because of lack of time, but
we still enjoyed it. The colours are out of this world. The
trail is in good condition, sandy, but good to walk. Remember
that a good rule is that it will take you twice the time to
hike back than it took you to descend and that hiking at this
high altitude might slow you down even more. The return ascent
is steep and hard going. The trail joins the Halemau'u Trail
a mile west of Paliku Cabin. You can exit via Halemau'u Trail
or loop around by way of other connecting trails and exit
the way you came.
This outlook accesible on the way down
from the summit, provides another spectacular view of the crater
floor dotted with cinder cones painted in red, brown and gray.
From this distance the cinder cones seem small but can be as
tall as 600 feet. The cinder cones are considered to be
geologically young, having formed in the last 2500 years.
Downslope from the overlook's parking lot is an area covered
with many silverswords. Beware, there's lots of bees in this area.
The Haleakala silversword is endemic to
Haleakala National Park growing at high elevation inside the
crater and along the slopes of the volcano. It is the most
famous member of the endemic Hawaiian silversword. It's
considered a first class example of adaptation, having managed
to live in such a harsh environment as Haleakala. Their silver
hairs allow them to retain water and protect themselves from the
intense sun at this altitude. The silversword flowers only once
during its life and then it dies. Their Hawaiian name is
'ahinahina which means "gray gray". The silverwords were near
extinction in the 1920's because of human vandalism and due to
the introduced wild goats. Today they are protected and with the
wild goats being eliminated from Haleakala, the silverswords have
rebounded. There are several trails that highlight silverswords
and there's a few of them located near the summit's shelter.
Haleakala is a worldwide destination for
bird enthusiasts, being noted for its unique birdlife. Due to
its relative isolation for a long period of time, Hawaii was an
ideal ground for the development of unique native life. Very
famous is the nene, the only remaining species of Hawaiian goose.
However, most of the birds you'll see in the park are introduced
species like pheasants, chukars, skylarks, mockingbirds. For
example we've seen many chukars on the park roads.
The Kipahulu area of Haleakala National Park
is lush and green and full of waterfalls in total contrast to
the red and gray bare lands of the Haleakala crater. To get there
you'll have to drive the highway to Hana, a narrow, twisting,
full of hairpin turns and one lane bridges road. At Kipahulu you
can hike and swim in the pools (when the streams are low). From
the Kipahulu Ranger Station, trails lead upstream through the
rainforest to larger waterfalls and spectacular overlooks of the
coastline. Kipahulu has a long history of human habitation. Many
historic and archeological sites are visible from the trails in
'Ohe'o Gulch aka Seven Sacred Pools
'Ohe'o Gulch is located in the Kipahulu part
of Haleakala National Park. For many years this place was called
"The Seven Sacred Pools" a name that was actually a marketing
gimmick intended to attract tourists to the area (the pools are
not sacred and there aren't seven of them). It a series of lovely
waterfalls and swimmable pools that cascade until reaching the
ocean at the volcano's base. The flow of water made its way through
volcanic rock and the rainforest engulfs the place with lush
vegetation. It's a very lovely spot. When we visited the pools
were close to swimming due to floods. The 'Ohe'o Gulch is located
at the end of the highway to Hana, a narrow, twisting, full of
hairpin turns and one lane bridges road. There is also a campground
just on the other side of the 'Ohe'o Gulch parking lot.
Above the clouds
As you drive up to the summit the road passes
through a bank of clouds and then emerges above the clouds. The
view from above the clouds is simply a impressive sight giving one
a feeling of being on top of the world. The summit also usually
rises above these clouds giving you a clear view of the crater floor.
This is the reason so many people come here to watch the sunrise or
the sunset. The attraction of the sunrise on the volcano for which
people get up at 3 am (so they have time to get to the top), is that
you are above the clouds and the effects of the sunrise above the
clouds is spectacular.
The long and winding road
The first part of the journey is the drive to
the volcano itself, a twisty, 30 miles trip through ranchland. This
drive through upcountry Maui to Haleakala is a great roadtrip
experience. The road climbs quickly, a total altitude gain of
10000 feet (3000 meters) and soon you'll find yourself above
the clouds, looking down on fields and beaches. The road to the
top travels through numerous climates, which are surprisingly
sharply defined: open forest, grasslands, desert, and seemingly
barren volcanic ground. You will see numerous signs telling
motorists to watch out for cyclists, which use this road to come
down from the summit. After you passed the park entrance you'll
see signs advising you to watch for Nene birds crossing the road.
View of the island
During the drive through upcountry Maui to
Haleakala from place to place the clouds will part and you'll
be able to see the south Maui shoreline from the highway.
It's a beautiful sight, worth stopping for a better look. Just
make sure you pull over where you have enough space not to block
Hosmer Grove is a half mile long trail
through a small forest of introduced trees. At the beginning
of the 20th century, Hosmer planted different kinds of trees
like pine, spruce, cedar and eucalyptus, as an experiment to
see if they would survive in Hawaii's climate. He was trying
to develop a timber industry on Maui. Some of the trees survived,
but most of the species he planted didn't fit well in this
climate. At the start of the trail you can pick up a brochure
that describes the introduced trees. Nowadays, the Park Service
tries to reduce the proliferation of these introduced species,
because many threaten the survival of native plants and animals.
The grove is a good place to see birds. I didn't find this
place very interesting, especially after coming from the crater.