Doing the Haleakala Crater

One of our last days in Maui consisted of hiking down in to the Haleakala Crater. It is basically the thing to see when visiting Maui because it dominates the entire eastern side of the island, being the top of the volcano that erupted to form 2/3 of Maui. No matter where you drive in eastern Maui, you are always driving around the base of it.
The drive up is just the slightest bit insane. Not because the road is treacherous, but more because you ascend so rapidly, going from zero feet sea level to 10,000 in a bit less than an hour, covering 38 miles of switchbacks. Once on the top, it is massively colder than down on the sea. We found it to be 30 degrees colder, seeing as how the beach was a nice 80 and the summit was about 50 with a wind chill. This may make it seem like you need to bundle up and cover yourself pretty well, but you only need to do that if you’re just watching the sun rise up there, which has gotten to be a major attraction for this park. Seeing as how it would have meant our getting up at about 5AM, it didn’t happen, but we did get up there in the early morning to get some good morning light for photos.
Hiking down in the crater is a bit formidable. The trail is good, but it is a steep decline and the “shifting sands trail” live up to its name. While I write this, my ankles are still hurting from all the minor twists that I had. Dressing warming once you walk down in to the crater really isn’t needed. This place holds the sun and is considerably warmer than on the summit, thus the reason the name of it means, in Hawaiian, “the house of the sun”.
We walked in too far. There are a number of trails that will test anyone due to how steep the walk it, as well as the sharp depletion of oxygen in the air due to the height. We followed in a trail about four miles, which may not seem like a lot, but it descends 2,500 feet and there is only one way back out of that, which is, a climb up of 2,500 feet. Slogging one mile vertically makes for a tough hike. I don’t regret it though. I just needed a day of sitting on my ass in a whale watching boat to make up for it.
In the end, I would tell people to go to Haleakala park, but go early. One reason to get up there early is that you’ll have the entire trail to yourself, which is quite amazing. The other reason is that the clouds start rolling in around noon, forcefully killing the view from all points, including inside the crater. Don’t bother with all that REI and Northface crap. Just wear something comfortable, put on some trusty running shoes, and bring maybe a liter of water apiece at most. Also, unless you’re a glutton for hiking punishment, only hike in about a half hour or maybe an hour at most. The hike back out is a killer and you don’t feel it until you’ve turned you’re third bend in the switchback going up and keep thinking, “Christ, we aren’t there yet?!!” while your head pounds with a massive headache for lack of succulent, life-giving oxygen.
Doing the Haleakala Crater

2 Replies to “Doing the Haleakala Crater”

  1. It s beautiful up there. When we went up there last month, It was over 80 at the sea, and 45 up on top. With the wind blowing, it was darn cold. Especially in shorts and short sleeves.

    1. Yeah, but once you get some walking in you, those short sleeves and shorts are nice. I actually started to get overheated coming back up out of the thing.

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