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by Eija Rissanen

According to Hawaiian folklore, the summit of Haleakala, the giant shield volcano that forms most of the island of Maui, was once home to the grandmother of the demigod Maui who captured the sun and forced it to slow its journey across the sky in order to lengthen the day and allow human beings to grow crops, and fish, and live. Nowadays, Haleakala is one of the places most frequently visited by both visitors and locals.

Haleakala National Park includes the summit caldera, Kipahulu Valley, on the southeast slope, and the Kipahulu area, which extends all the way to the shoreline. Haleakala rises from sea level to more than 10,000 feet, and with the altitude, its geography changes from subtropical rainforest at sea level to subalpine desert in the crater.

Haleakala National Park has more than 30 miles of hiking trails varying from challenging half-day hikes to an 11.2-mile trek across almost the whole crater area. The Sliding Sands Trail and the Halemau‘u Trail explore the crater area, and the Kaupo Trail descends from the crater to the coast offering a good crosssection of the mountain’s different ecological zones. All hiking trails in the crater area are also accessible by horse, and horseback tours can be arranged.

In addition, Haleakala National Park has two drive-in campgrounds, two wilderness campgrounds, and three wilderness cabins. The drive-in campgrounds are located at Hosmer Grove near park headquarters and on the coast in Kipahulu, about 10 miles (40 minutes in a car) south of Hana. The wilderness campgrounds are located in the crater, in Paliku, along the Kaupo Trail, and in Holua, along the Halemau‘u Trail. The tree wilderness cabins are in Paliku, Holua, and along the Sliding Sands Trail in Kapalaoa. Wilderness campgrounds are free, but permits are required. A fee and reservations are required for the wilderness cabins, and reservations can only be made by participating in a monthly lottery.

For more information and for a map, contact Haleakala National Park 808-572-4400 or www.nps.gov/hale.


Seeing the sun set or rise above the clouds at the 10,000-foot summit is popular with visitors and locals alike. Arrive at least a half an hour before sunset or sunrise to see the colors change, and remember to dress warmly. The temperature near the top tends to vary between about 40 F and 60 F. Good sunset locations are the Halemau‘u Trail and the summit, and good sunrise locations are Leleiwi or Kalahaku Overlooks, the summit, and Haleakala Visitor Center.

Photo by Eija Rissanen

The Haleakala Crater area can be explored by hiking, camping, and horseback riding. The size of the crater area is about seven miles across, two miles wide, and nearly 2,600 feet deep.

Courtesy of Pony Express

The whole crater area glows in all shades of red, yellow, gray, and black. These streaks of colors trace the courses of recent and ancient lave, ash, and cinder flows. The summit rises at the background.

Photos by Eija Rissanen




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