Haleakala – Into the Crater (The Halemauu Trail)

Near the trail head

Dust in our eyes from the Sliding Sands Trail blew us off the top of Haleakala. We decided to try our luck with the Halemauu Trail.

The parking lot at the trail head is clearly marked just below the 8,000 foot level. We were greeted by a couple of overly friendly Nene. The composting toilet at the parking lot was spotless the day we were there – hand sanitizer and everything.

Approaching the crater

The first part of the hike is gently downhill through native scrub. While still a little windy, it was much more pleasant than at the top of the mountain – no dust and occasionally a little shade.

The steep part

The first approach to the crater’s edge is spectacular if somewhat daunting. The switchbacks in the photo below descend almost 1,000 feet to the valley floor. Click on the photo to enlarge and zoom in on it.

While not as common as on the Sliding Sands Trail, people ride horses up and down those switchbacks.

The round trip from the parking lot to the Holua Cabin on the valley floor is an arduous 8 miles. It can easily take 4 to 5 hours. Bring food and plenty of water. As with anywhere at higher elevations on Haleakala, bring layers of clothing. It can get very cold.

You’ll also want to bring your camera. The views of the Ko’ olua Gap and crater interior are spectacular.

For an easier hike with all sorts of amazing views, take the one mile hike to the end of the ridge jutting out into Ko’ olua Gap. We stopped there for a picnic lunch.

On top of the world

Click here to see our blog on the Sliding Sands Trail.

Haleakala – Into the Crater (The Sliding Sands Trail)

Horse back riders on the Sliding Sands Trail

There are several great trails into the Haleakala erosion crater. If you click on the picture to the right you can see a line of horses and riders ascending the Sliding Sands Trail. It’s only when you see something like this that you get an idea of the scale of the place.

While this is all explained in the Maui trail book in our condo, the trail head is a short walk around the cinder cone on the south side of the parking lot. From the start of the trail it’s 2,500 vertical feet to the crater floor – so the hike down is pretty easy. The hike up is another matter. Depending on your physical condition and how you react to the thinner mountain air, it will take 1.5 to 2.0 times as long to hike out as it takes to hike in. Keep this in mind if you’re hiking later in the day. It gets dark (and cold) fast when the sun goes down. Even in summer it can be chilly in the shadow of the west rim of the crater in the late afternoon.

Haleakala Crater – Photo by Dick Morgan

As you can see from the photos, you are entirely exposed on this trail. Use sunscreen and carry water. We generally hike with a daypack with water, snacks, extra clothing and anything else we might need.

Consider adding a hike to your Haleakala experience. If you come early for the sunrise, you can hike in and out before lunch and then enjoy a meal in the Up Country. Alternatively, if you’re not into starting your day at 2 or 3 AM so you can see the sunrise, you can hike in the afternoon and time your return to see the sunset from the top of the mountain. It’s a whole lot like the sunrise, but without the busloads of tourists and people standing five deep at the best vantage points.

Speaking of sunrise and sunset, did you know that Haleakala means “house of the sun” in Hawaiian? To find out more, click here.

For another great (but harder) hike into the crater, click here to see our blog on the Halemauu Trail.

Haleakala National Park – Come Prepared

There’s lots to do on Mount Haleakala: hiking, biking, horseback riding, star gazing, watching the sunrise (or sunset), camping, birding, or just escaping the heat of the beach for a day.

Haleakala Crater – Photo by Dick Morgan

While you’re there or on the way, you have a good chance of seeing rare plants and rare birds and, at the top, a landscape not unlike the pictures from Mars. There is also a chance you’ll see nothing. If the mountain is shrouded in clouds, wait for another day. If you can see the top from outside our front door at Maui Vista, it’s worth a try. Even so, the weather on Haleakala can change rapidly and the erosion crater can fill with clouds in minutes. On the other hand, it can change for the better just as fast.

If you go, be prepared. According to the National Park Service, the average temperature at the summit is 17 degrees (Fahrenheit) cooler than at sea level. And that’s an average. It can be very cold especially at night and in the shadows. If the wind is blowing and you don’t have layers of clothing, you will not stay long.

In addition to the drop of temperature, several other things happen at 10,000 feet. First, many people feel light-headed due to the thinner atmosphere. Take it easy until you know how the altitude affects you. The thinner atmoshpere also means the UV rays are even stronger than at sea level. Fortunately you’ll probably be wearing more clothes than your normal beach wear, but remember to bring sunscreen. Finally, if you’re active, you may need more water than usual. There’s precious little water and no food at the summit. If you plan to stay a while, bring your own.

It’s about a two hour drive from Maui Vista to the top of Haleakala over good, but windy roads. It’s a National Park so, if you don’t already have a pass, there is a $10 entrance fee per vehicle. The pass is good for three days and includes the driver and all passengers. There are also things to do and places to eat in the Up Country below the park. (See our posts Kula – a Drive in the (Up) Country and Grandma’s Coffee House in Kula.) Make a day of it!

See our other posts on Mount Haleakala by clicking here and here.

Surfer Memorial at La Perouse

Surfer Memorial at La Perouse

When the surf is running from the south, some of the serious surfers on Maui head to La Perouse. Unless you have a key to the gate for the private road, the closest you can get by car is the end of the road well past Big Beach. Some locals have a key. Others carry their boards along the trail described below.

To get to La Perouse, head south past Big Beach and into the Ahihi Kenau Reserve. A few hundred yards past Kanahena Cove (near the west end of the Reserve), the road narrows and the potholes proliferate. You’ll drive about a mile through a large lava field dating from 1790. Shortly after the lava stops you’ll see horse stables to your left and a monument just beyond. You can park here or drive the last hundred yards over an incredibly rough road and park by the ocean. It’s a beautiful spot and if you go no farther the trip is still worthwhile. If you’re very lucky, you may see dolphins resting in the shallows near the shore. Be sure to check out the cove around the bend to the right where you can see many beautiful fish from the shore. It’s private property so please respect the signs – but someone at La Perouse has a sweet spot on earth.

To see the Surfer Memorial you have to take a hike. Much of the trail is exposed and windy, so put on sunscreen, wear a hat with a chin strap and take some water. It’s about 3/4 mile to the memorial over uneven but more or less level terrain. It’s not a difficult hike.

The trail head is obvious – you’ll see it to the left as you face the water. The first part leads through the lava field where you’ll see a few cultural and historic sites (mainly the remains of enclosures made of lava). About two-thirds the way through the lava field is a fun blow hole – at least when the tide is high and the surf is up. (NOTE: blowholes can be dangerous. Keep a safe distance. A tourist was sucked into a bigger one on the north shore of Maui in 2011. His body was never found. A youngster could easily be sucked into this one – and maybe you.)

Not long after you leave the blowhole, the lava field is replaced by a small sandy beach. Beyond the beach the trail enters a welcome shady grove. Look for wild goats in this area. You can’t miss them – there are lots. The one in this picture seems to be chewing on a stick.

The Surfer Memorial is near the end of the grove – just off the trail toward the ocean. If the surf’s up, you may see surfers in the background. Quite a striking sight.  In fact, if you click on the picture at the top of this post and enlarge it, you’ll see a surfer paddling out to catch a wave.

In our picture of the memorial we show only one cross and broken board. When you get there, you’ll see two. It’s a great sport, but some of the surfers don’t come home.

Interested in other hikes on Maui? Check out our posts on Mount Haleakala hikes:  The Sliding Sands Trail and The Halemauu Trail. To read more about hiking La Perouse Bay, click here.

UPDATE June 5, 2012: on a recent hike of La Perouse trail we discovered that both broken surfboards were gone. There were pieces of one laying beside the memorial but the other was nowhere in sight.