Discovering Haleakalā National Park
Haleakalā National Park on the Hawaiian island of Maui is Maui's only National Park and has more endangered species than any other site in the US National Park System.
Haleakalā National Park is so large that it is recommended to spend a few days at either end of the park to explore the trails properly, depending on what you're looking for. Mountains or oceans, this park has heaps of activities for you to do.
The Summit District (mountains area) is particularly interesting and here are some activities that can be done in this part of the park:
Picnic at Hosmer Grove
Hosmer Grove is located in a beautiful spot amongst tall trees, surrounded by lots of lush green shrubs. This area is an example of non-native tree species that were imported in the early 1900's by Ralph Hosmer. There are lots of picnic tables as well as facilities including bathrooms and drinking water. Have a picnic at one of the available tables and head off to hike one of the many trails, keeping an eye out for the peculiar trees that were imported from places like Japan, Australia, & the Himalayas.
Haleakalā National Park has tried to make everything as accessible as possible, therefore it works brilliantly to be able to drive right up to some of the trailheads or overlooks and park your vehicle. Bring lots of water, sun cream, and snacks. One of the easiest walks is the Leleiwi Overlook, a short .8km return trip that ends at a wind shelter with an incredible view of the cinder cones, which look something like features you'd see on Mars!
Another fine trail is the Sliding Sands trail, which heads into these colorful cinder-desert landscapes all the way down deep into the most remote parts of the park. You can turn back at any time or you could head off on a 3 day backpacking trip. You'll get some impressive photos of this other worldly landscape here!
Make sure you take the right trail!
Haleakalā is known for its beautiful sunrises or sunsets, so head over to the visitor's center in advance and ask where the good spots for watching would be according to the time of year you'll visit. Sunset is best right at the Pu`u`ula`ula summit, right at the top of the mountain- above the clouds! Arrive early and get a good parking spot (the small lot fills quickly) and bundle up to wait for the sun to drop below the horizon. Temperatures hover near freezing at this time of the afternoon, and it can get quite windy so be prepared with heavy jackets and even gloves! High up at 3,055 meters, the views of the stars up here are unmatched in few places around the world. Bring a hot drink and enjoy the show.
Breathtaking sunset views at Pu'u'ula'ula summit
If your interests lie more with ocean views and costal drives, head over to the Kipahulu District of Haleakalā National Park, where you can hike the dreamy Pīpīwai Trail of bamboo forests. Kipahulu can be reached by driving 2 hours towards the coast.
As is the case with both parks, the weather can change dramatically so be prepared with sun cream, lots of water, and food. There is no food or gas sold in the park. Water can be found at the Visitor's center. You should also bring a rain jacket and layers because the park has cold temperatures year round.
Perhaps you'll even be inspired to stay past sunset and take in some star gazing. Whatever you chose to do in Haleakalā National Park, make sure to take photos to document your incredible trip and as you look back on your photos you'll find yourself wishing for a return flight to Maui!