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Hiking the Sliding Sands and Halemau’u trail on Haleakala is a difficult but rewarding adventure. It’s a 17.8 km (11 mile) one-way hike that takes you down into the crater of Haleakala and then out to the Halemau’u Trail Parking Area. Although you’re in Hawaii, the temperatures and landscape up on the volcano make it feel like you’re in another world!
Time Required: 6-8 Hours
Location: 60km (37 miles) from Kahului
Distance: 17.8km (11 miles) one way
Highest Elevation: 3055m (10023ft)
Elevation Gain: 600m
Difficulty: 7/10 – Long hike, rapid elevation gain
Season: Year Round
Additional Requirements: N/A
From Kahului: Take HI-37 and State Hwy 377 to State Hwy 378 in Kula. Hwy 378 is a 20 mile, very winding road that takes you to the top of Haleakala Mountain. This hike (the way we did it) is a one-way hike and we recommend starting at the top and hiking down. For this reason, you want to park at Halemau’u Trail Parking Area, the finish point. From there you may be able to hitch a ride to the summit with someone if you’re lucky.
WHAT TO BRING
- Comfortable Footwear: Hiking shoes. Make sure your shoes are broken in prior to tackling this hike to prevent unexpected blisters. You could get away with running shoes but having extra grip always comes in handy!
- Water: This hike is long with lots of elevation gain at the end. Be sure to bring enough water for 6-8 hours of physical exertion.
- Snacks: Bring some of your favorite snacks to enjoy along the hike. Some of our favorite snacks are trail mix, bananas, beef jerky and licorice.
- Weather appropriate clothing: You will be exposed to the elements throughout this hike. We got stuck in rain and snow so warm waterproof clothing should be packed just in case. Check the weather forecast and plan accordingly.
- Sunscreen: If it is sunny and you’re like Mattson, who easily burns, bring sunscreen!
- Camera: There are numerous photo opportunities you won’t want to miss.
- This Guide: Print a copy of this guide to reference throughout the hike
Leave No Trace: It is important that we enjoy the outdoors responsibly and sustainably. Some key principles to consider when hiking to “Leave No Trace” are:
- Plan ahead and prepare: Proper planning allows adventurers to hike safely while minimizing damage to the land.
- Travel on durable surfaces: Stick to the trail when possible. If there is no trail, or you must travel off trail, stay on durable surfaces to reduce your impact.
- Dispose of waste properly: Pack it in, pack it out.
- Leave what you find: Leave rocks, plants, archaeological artifacts and other objects of interest as you find them.
- Respect wildlife: Observe wildlife from a distance. Never feed wild animals.
- Be considerate of other visitors: Be courteous to others to allow everyone to enjoy their outdoor experience.
To learn more about “Leave No Trace” visit http://www.leavenotrace.ca
Summary: We did a variation of Sliding Sands hike. At about 6km, we branched off to the left and hiked the Halemau’u trail to where we parked our car at the Halemau’u Trail Parking Area. We hitch hiked up to the top to avoid doing an out and back hike and turned it into a loop. If you have 2 vehicles or can get a ride from Halemau’u Trail Parking Area to the summit, we highly recommend this route as there is no backtracking.
This hike starts at the visitor center at the top of Haleakala (Route marker #1 on the map) and travels down into the crater behind it. The trail is easy to follow and there are signs every few km’s. The trail descends 800m in the first 7km. If you want to continue to do Sliding Sands, continue straight. If you parked down at Halemau’u Trailhead, you must branch off left at roughly 6km’s. This will put you on Kaulupo trail.
Stay left at every fork you come to. Two km’s from when you left Sliding Sands you will be on Halemau’u Trail which will take you to the parking lot at the trailhead. After another couple km’s, keep your eyes open to the left and you will see a campground and a cabin called Holua cabin (Route marker #2 on the map).
Shortly after passing the cabin the tough hike up to Halemau’u Trail Parking Area begins. Switchbacks make their way up the side of the crater and then eventually the trail heads around to the backside of that mountain. If you follow the trail you will eventually arrive at the parking lot (Route marker #3 on the map).
We think the loop offers a better mix of scenery than the out and back of just Sliding Sands Trail. It is roughly the same distance, but you get a little more diversity. The big challenge is getting someone to pick you up and take you to the top. But it’s possible!! Have fun!
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Have fun out there!