The Halemauu Trail is a 8.5 mile full day hike that takes you down 4 miles of switchbacks to the crater floor and ends at the start of the Keoneheʻeheʻe (Sliding Sands) in the Haleakalā Crater. From here you’ll connect and it is another 2.5 miles up Sliding Sands Trail to get out of the crater. So in total, the Halemau’u Trail down and out of the crater is 11 miles total.
Maui has tons of hiking trails but if you’re an avid hiker looking for epic views inside a dormant volcano, the Halemauu Trail is right up your alley. Not only will you be greeted with epic views of the inside of Haleakala crater but along the way you’ll see exotic plant life like the silverswords. These are a rare and endangered plant that can only be found in Haleakalā crater, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa on the Big Island of Hawaii.
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We’ll get into all the details to prepare you for a trip to the Summit District of Haleakalā National Park. I’ll cover everything you need to know to hike the Halemau’u Trail. Here’s what to expect:
- When to hike the Halemauu Trail.
- Halemau’u Trail location.
- Trail facts and information.
- Tips for hiking inside Haleakala National Park.
- What to pack for your hike
- Other Things to do nearby.
- Additional planning resources.
Halemauu Trail Quick Facts
- Difficulty: Difficult
- Duration: Full day
- Elevation Gain: 1100 feet (only on the Haleamuu Trail)
- Distance: 11 Miles in and out of the crater connecting with Sliding Sands Trail
How to Get to the Halemauu Trailhead
Travel Tip: Haleakala National park has 2 separate entrances, the Summit and Kipahulu District. These districts do not connect to each other.
It cost $30 for an entrance fee which is valid for 3 consecutive days. This is valid for both the Kipahulu and Summit Districts. An annual National Parks Pass also grants you access to the park which will be your cheapest option.
Once inside the summit entrance, you will drive up to about 8,000 feet. The parking lot for the Halemau’u trailhead will be on the left between mile marker 14 and 15.
There will be a sign saying ‘hiker pick up’, the trailhead parking lot will be around the bend after the sign on the left hand side of the road. There are restroom facilities in the parking lot.
When is the Best Time to Hike the Halemau’u Trail
The best time to hike the Haleamauu Trail is starting early in the morning. Since this is a full day hike, it will require a full day to complete if hiking to completion.
Reservations to enter the summit of Haleakala National Park are required from 3-7 as watching the sunrise atop Haleakala is a popular tourist activity. Plan on starting the hike anytime after 7am unless you make reservations.
It is possible hike Haleakala any time of year as the weather is pleasant all year round. In the winter time temperatures are 10° cooler. The summer months have a less likely chance of rain. On a sunny day it may feel cool but don’t forget to wear your sunscreen as you’ll get burnt.
Hikers must be properly prepared for high altitudes and cold, rainy conditions at any time. Weather in the Summit Area is unpredictable and ever-changing. Prepare for harsh UV rays, wind, rain, and cold temperatures year-round.
Practical Trail Information
For the purpose of this article, we’re going to start the hike at the Halemauu trailhead which takes you down the switchbacks and across the crater floor to Sliding Sands trail. From here you would hike up Sliding Sands to the summit of Haleakala.
Then you’ll either have to catch a ride back to the trailhead parking lot or hop in the car if you used the two vehicle approach (meaning park one vehicle at the summit and one vehicle at the trailhead). Personally, the last thing I want to do is hitchhike my way back to my car after I’ve been strenuously hiking all day.
A lot of people that are short on time or don’t want to hike Halemauu Trail in completion will park at the Halemau’u trailhead, hike down to the crater floor and back up the switchbacks with totals about 8 miles.
I always park a car at the Halemauu Trailhead and hitchhike to the summit because there’s a hitchhiker pickup area nearby (marked by a sign) and its much more enjoyable to hitchhike at the beginning of your hike opposed to the end. From the top, you’ll hike down Sliding Sands and eventually up the switchbacks.
Hiking these trails in this direction is also much easier. It’s called Sliding Sands for a reason and its very difficult hiking up a sandy trail for 2.5 miles especially when its at the end of a strenuous day versus down a slidey trail in the beginning. Hiking up the switchbacks compared to down is also much better for your knees.
From the parking lot head towards the trail, you can’t miss it. The hike begins in a brushy, forest and you won’t see sites of the crater until about 0.75 miles in.
Next up is an area called Rainbow Bridge, this area of the trail is narrow and great for pictures – if its not covered in clouds of course. The next couple mile take you along the cliffs offering dynamic and unparalleled views of the crater in all of her glory.
The Halemauu trail is narrow and at times steep as it twists and turns down the side of the crater to the crater floor. If you get a later start, prepare to be hiking through misty clouds as they tend to accumulate around the top of the crater as the day progresses.
After a knee crushing 1000 feet decline into the crater you’ll soon run into the Holua cabin, You can’t enter these cabins unless you acquire a permit and they are hard to come by. There is also a first come first serve campground here.
I’ve stayed at this Haleakala wilderness cabin several times and its one of my favorite adventures on Maui.
Continue on the trail past the cabin, you’ll start to climb again. You’ll be cruising for about a mile until you come up on the Silversword Loop. This is a short detour from the Halemau’u Trail that showcases a large cluster of ʻāhinahina if they are in bloom. The āhinahina or Silverswords are a rare and endangered plant that can only be found on Haleakala, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa on the Big Island of Hawaii.
The next three miles or so takes you along the crater floor where the back drop is red, orange, pink and green colored cinder cones mixed with volcanic rock and a black sand trail. The dramatic change of colors and scenery are nothing short of amazing.
You’ll eventually meet up with the Sliding Sands Trail. There’s a hitching post and some rocks to sit on, take a rest and enjoy a snack or sandwich. From here it’s about 3 miles up Sliding Sands to the Visitors Center parking lot.
Tips for Hiking the Halemauu Trail
- Plan on hitchhiking at the start or end of your hike unless you have 2 vehicles.
- Temperatures can get cold.
- Wear sunscreen. It’s easy to get burnt at this elevation.
- It cost $30 to enter or the use of a National Park Pass.
- Leave no trace.
- Bring ample water.
- Bring snacks.
- Wear proper hiking shoes.
- Don’t take rocks! Leave rocks where you found them. By leaving rocks in place we repeat Hawaiian beliefs and help nature thrive.
- Don’t touch the Nene Goose – Hawaii’s State Bird.
More Haleakala Hiking Trails
Maui has a slew of hiking trails and if you’d like to learn more, check out this post – Maui’s best hikes. Below I listed all the other trails you can enjoy inside the Summit District of Haleakala National Park.
- Pa Kaoao Trail – Easy half mile hike to get a glimpse of a crater of a volcano.
- Hosmer Groves Loop Trail – 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.
- Supply Trail – On a clear day you’ll be blow away by the views as you’ll be hiking just above the clouds that collect around the rim of Halakeala Crater.
- Leleiwi Overlook – Barely a hike but gives. you views of the crater at the summit. Perfect to enjoy with kids.
Silversword Loop – A short detour from the Halemau’u Trail where you can see a large number of the extraordinary silversword plants concentrated in one place.
Other Things to do Nearby the Halemauu Trail
- Watch sunrise above the clouds at the summit of Haleakala. You need to make reservations in advance and can do so here.
- Reserve a cabin and spend the night inside the crater.
- Book a tour and bike down 26 miles from the summit to Paia town.
- Stargazing! You can’t get much better than this.
- Explore the Visitor’s Center.
- Grab a bite at Grandmas one of the best spots for breakfast on Maui.
- Tour the Ocean Distillery a great way to explore Upcountry.
- Explore Poli Poli State Park.
- Cruise Makawo one of Maui’s most charming towns.
- Check out the Maui Honeybee Farm, a unique thing to do on Maui.
- Sip pineapple wine at Maui’s only winery.
Additional Maui Hiking Guides
Click on the blue links for a detailed post of each hike.
- Kapalua Coastal Trail – Family friendly coastal trail in West Maui.
- Waihe’e Ridge Trail – Intermediate hike up the Waihee ridge offering scenic coastal and valley views.
- Pipiwai Trail – One of Maui’s most iconic hikes that takes you through an enchanting bamboo forest and ends at a 400 foot waterfall.
- Lahaina Pali Trail – A strenuous trail up to the windmills on the West Maui mountains.
- Ohai Trail – Easy 1 mile loop for the whole family.
- Hoapili Trail – The Kings Highway is a rugged trail along an unspoiled stretch of Hawaiian coast.
- Mahana Ridge – Highlights include fresh fruit trees, a vivacious forest and occasional coastal views of Mokupe‘a and Honokahua Gulches.
- Nakalele Blowhole – A 1.25 mile round trip trail that takes you past steep, rugged coastal cliffs.
- Waianapanapa Coastal Trail – Rugged coastal trail composed of jagged lava rock that goes all the way to Hana town.
Maui Travel Tips
📍Plan your Trip:
- The Ultimate guide to Maui
- 10 Tips to Know Before you Travel to Maui
- 21 Mistakes to Avoid on your First Trip to Hawaii
🗺 How long to travel Maui? 1-2 Week Maui Itinerary
☔️ Best Time to Visit: Best Time to Visit Maui
💰 Average Daily Budget:
- How to Travel Maui on a Budget
- 28 Things to do on Maui on a Budget
- 10 Budget Friendly Maui Adventures
⛺️ Maui accommodation Guides
- Best Area to Stay on Maui
- West Maui vs. South Maui – Where to Stay
- Where to Stay in Maui on a Budget
- Best Airbnbs in Maui
- Where to Stay in Hana, HI
- Top Honeymoon Resorts in Maui
- 10 Best Honeymoon Resorts in Hawaii
- The Coolest & Most Unique Airbnbs to Stay in Hawaii
- Driving the Road to Hana
- Sunrise over Haleakala
- Exploring Exotic Beaches
- Waianapanapa State Park
- Haleakala National Park
- Whale Watch
- Hike the Pipiwai Trail
- Snorkel Molokini
- Drive the West Maui Loop
- Lahaina Town
- Learn to Surf
🧳 What to Pack: What to Pack for Maui
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