Exploring Haleakalā National Park

Roadtrips in Maui are always a good idea, as is camping. We combined the two and went off for a visit to Maui’s one and only National Park.

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Haleakalā National Park on Maui has more endangered species than any other site in the US National Park System! What kind of sorcery is this. Hawaiian magic.

The 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 a ton of activities for you to do.
The Summit District (mountains area) is particularly interesting and that’s the direction that we were headed in. Here’s a bit of what we did:

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A picnic & camping 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. The nights do get cold here, so bundle up. The nights were quiet and although the camping area isn’t very big, there is room to get your own little spot without feeling too crowded. We heard we could just show up early and grab a spot so that is what we did. Think we got there before lunch.

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Lots of Hiking
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 trail heads or overlooks and park your vehicle. Bring lots of water, sunscreen, 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 sweet 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 cool photos of this other worldly landscape here! We were able to do a couple of short trails each day which was nice, if it got too hot or we got really hungry, we’d just go back to the car where we had the cooler full of food and grab a bite to eat. Repeat.

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Sunrise/Sunsets
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 (10,022 feet), the views of the stars up here are unmatched in few places around the world. Bring a hot drink and enjoy the show. Seriously do not forget your cold weather gear! The wind was whipping up so hard, Mike got out with me so I could set up the tripod for the sunset shots, stayed for about 5 minutes, and retreated back to the car to watch from a distance. Wuss. I must have really wanted some sunset shots because I ended up with a super runny nose and wind tunnel hair from sitting out there for about half an hour. Worth it. It was colder than I could have imagined though. Check out the short video below of the wind:

 

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If you’d rather have ocean views and coastal 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. There is also drive up camping and other trails for exploration there, and I admit I was crushed that we didn’t get to the bamboo forest, but the drive was just too long for what we had planned this trip. We can always go back right?

As is the case with both parks, the weather can change dramatically so be prepared with sunscreen (see my emphasis on this), lots of extra water, and food. There is no food or gas sold in the park so if you plan on doing lots of drives, you’ll have to down for gas. Also, be careful for bikers! This park is super popular for people to bicycle ride. Drive slow. Water can be found at the Visitor’s center but no ice. You should also bring a rain jacket and layers because the park has cold temperatures year round but it does get quite hot and sunny during the day so tank tops and shorts for daytime, and jackets for after the sun goes down. It is also recommended to take it easy on some of the hikes as the altitude is pretty high and there is a chance of altitude sickness. Drinking water to combat this is crucial. There is nothing like an altitude sickness headache. Trust me.

Have you been to Maui? Visited Haleakalā? Did anyone go to the bamboo forest? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below!

To get info on Haleakalā National Park click here