A top activity when exploring the Maui is to visit Haleakala National Park. My favorite way to explore the National Park is to do a Haleakala Crater Hike. If you’re not into hiking, don’t worry, there are many reasons to visit Maui.
Haleakala Crater Summit Travel Guide
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Before you Visit Haleakala Summit
NATIONAL PARK PASS: Haleakula is a U.S. National Park so it does cost $25 per vehicle to enter.
DRESS WARM: The elevation at the summit is 10,023 feet so YES it gets pretty cold so plan accordingly. I’m talking like 30 40 degrees cold so a warm jacket, long pants and a beanie are recommended, especially in winter. Also bring a blanket or if you’re in a jam a beach towel to snuggle under and watch the sun set or rise.
IS IT ACTIVE? Although there has been no activity for centuries, It is still considered an active volcano.
About Haleakala Summit
Maui is a demigod and according to the myth, the sun god La was fond of sleeping so he would race across the sky shortening the days making it impossible to accomplish that days work in such short time. As La shined its first ray above the rim of the crater, Maui lassoed the sun and forced it to slow its journey across the sky in order to lengthen the day. Hence the name Haleakala.
Why Go to Haleakala Summit
Many people visit Haleakula summit for 1 reason and that is to watch sunrise or sunset. It is truly a breathtaking experience. You get to see the sun rise above or set below the clouds as the summit is above it.
If you plan on watching sunrise between 3 am to 7 am you have to make a reservation ahead of time. Tourism has increased and now they only let a certain amount of people in everyday for sunrise. Spots fill up quickly and sometimes months in advance so planning ahead and it only costs $1 to reserve your spot. You can make a reservation here.
Not up for going at it alone, book your tour here.
If you are planning on watching sunset then no need to make a reservation. Maui may seem like a small island and just because you can see Haleakala summit doesn’t mean that its super close. Make sure you give yourself ample time to drive up the crater on the switch backs. Depending on where you are driving from but for example if you’re coming from West Maui it will take a couple hours to drive there one way.
Trail: Sliding Sands/Keoneheehee Trail
Duration: 4-5 hours
Distance: 8 miles out and back
The most popular Haleakala Crater hike is Sliding Sands Trail or Keoneheehee Trail which starts 500 feet below the summit. You’ll feel like you’re walking on the surface of Mars as you hike along the black sand and descend 2,500 feet down into the crater.
The elevation and sandy trail makes this one strenuous. You can hike through the crater by connecting to the Spur Trail towards Holua and eventually onto the Halemauu Trail.
Trail: Halemauu Trail
Duration: 5 to 7 hours
Distance: 5 miles down the switchbacks and back up
Hiking Sliding Sands and up the switchbacks of the Halemauu Trail is a great Haleakala crater hike and one of my favorite day hikes on Maui. The Halemauu Trailhead starts at 8,000 feet.
Park at the trailhead and hitchhike the 1,500 feet up to the Haleakala Visitor Center parking lot where Sliding Sands Hike starts. After you’ve hike the challenging 11.6 miles at least you’ll end at your car. 🙂
Trail: Pa Kaoao Trail
Duration: 1 hour or less
Distance: Less than .5 miles round trip
A shorter, easy walkable Haleakala crater hike that will give you great views of the crater is the Pa Kaoao Trail. This trail starts at the summit of Haleakala at 9,740 feet just outside the House of the Sun Visitor Center. If you’re short on time this trail will give you the panoramic views above the clouds.
Trail: Hosmer Grove Loop Trail
Duration: 1 hour or less
Distance: .6 miles
Another easier trail is the Hosmer Grove Trail which is located just inside the entrance to Haleakala National Park. Since this trail is lower in elevation than the summit you’ll pass through sub-alpine tress like eucalptus, sugi pine, spruce, cedar, Douglas fir, deodar and sandalwoods. There are also campgrounds.
Camping at Haleakala
There are a few campgrounds available to camp at in the crater. Hosmer Grove Campground is available on a first-come, first-served basis. No permits or reservations are required or accepted to camp. This campground has picnic tables, BBQ grills, drinking water, and toilets. Temperatures can get very cold at night so come prepared.
Kipahulu Campground is located on the east side of the crater which can be reached on the way to Hana via the Hana Highway or it is possible to hike through from the summit but you’re in for a long day of hiking with all your gear. Also first-come, first-served basis, no permits or reservations are required. Kipahulu Campground has picnic tables, BBQ grills, and toilets. No water is available; However, drinking water is available at the Kipahulu Visitor Center restrooms.
Holua and Paliku are primitive camp sights that require permits. Space is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Holua and Paliku campsites have toilets and water available nearby. The water is non-potable and must be filtered or treated before drinking.
Cabins in Haleakala
There are 3 cabins available to stay in while at Haleakala Crater National Park that require advanced reservations; Hōlua, Kapalaoa, and Palikū. The Wilderness cabins are accessible only by trail. Check them out www.recreation.gov. The permits can be picked up at the same place you’d pick up your permit for the Hōlua and Palikū camp sights on the day you’re hiking in. It cost $75 per night per cabin which accommodates up to 12 people.
Sunrise would definitely be an amazing sight at Haleakala Crater National Park. Hawaii is my bucket list destination but it is damn expensive.
I know it is very expensive but there are ways to keep down the costs, like happy hours and camping. I’m working on a budget tips for Hawaii post that I’ve discovered after a decade of living here that I’m excited to share with you. Stay tuned.
This looks like an awesome adventure! Thanks for sharing!
Your pictures are amazing! I love hiking and this is right up my alley! Although I’m not a morning person, I think I’d opt for the sunrise hike… you can’t beat those views!
The views are on top of the world. And its like your on the surface of the moon when you’re hiking in the crater.
I agree. Your pictures are amazing. We went in 2016 but didn’t make it to the sunrise spots. But, you didn’t get a photo of the crater? Special place, Haleakala.
Most of my photos are me inside the crater..No aerial views of the crater tho. And yes its a special place indeed.
I agree, it can get cold and I have seen people underestimate how low temperatures can get in the tropical paradise of Hawaii. Mauna Kea is almost 14,000ft and there is skiing.
I know! There was actually snow on Haleakala this year and it stayed for a few days.
Wow, it would be quite the experience to camp on a crater. I think I’d take a cabin! I loved the sunrise option too. I’m glad they are capping the people allowed to view it. This should be implemented more at other popular tourist attractions.
Yes I opt for the cabin too, but I’ve done both, the cabin requires you to haul less stuff in and out.
I love the place and your photos were stunning! I will put this on my bucketlist. Thank you for sharing <3
Thank you and of course!
Haleakala National Park looks like an exciting place to visit. I would probably go for the easier trail, Hosmer Grove Trail.
Any hike is a good day in my book!
Sunrise looks stunning in your picture. Can you rely on the weather?
Yes you can for sunrise. Haleakala usually becomes clouded over by noon but if you’re going for sunrise you can definitely depend on the weather holding up and don’t forget your jacket!
Hawaii is in our bucket list, and I like the sound of the sunset and sunrise views. I don’t know if I can survive hiking but maybe. I love the sunset views here. Thanks for sharing!
I love trekking and exploring these unseen destinations. Life finds a new meaning in the wilderness.
I couldn’t agree with you more.
I read a lot of posts here. You spend a whole lot of time
writing, Thanks for sharing!
Thank you. I do spend a lot of time writing and I enjoy it. I’m glad you are reading! I will keep them coming. 🙂