Haleakala National Park

House of Sun

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Haleakala, the dormant volcano that last erupted about 1790, makes up the southern and eastern portion of Maui. The national park covers the crater and a good bit of the slopes. Another portion extends to the sea at Kipahulu.

They could be different planets. The 10,000-foot summit is an arid lava desert set within the crater. The rare silversword is the only thing that grows. Temperatures may be below freezing, especially at sunrise, or scorching at noon. The lower part is a fecund, lush jungle that’s warm and moist.

Driving to the summit for sunrise is a Maui tradition. (Remember to reserve in advance on the park website.) Haleakala means “House of the Sun.” Native Hawaiian visitors who are sometimes there may break into the chant welcoming the sun. It raises “chicken skin” as the haunting words ring over the crater and rocks that emerge from the darkness in blood red from the sunlight.

Driving down you will probably encounter groups of bikers, who now coast from the visitor center at 6,500 feet to Kula along the switchback road. Allow at least an hour from sea level.

The Kipahulu portion, or Ohe‘o Gulch, lies about 10 miles beyond Hana on the Hana Highway. It’s a popular day trip for island visitors. Streams tumbling off the summit create a series of pools rimmed by rocks. People love to loll about at the edges. Some people call this “seven sacred pools,” but there is nothing sacred about them, a ranger once tartly told me, and there are considerably more than seven. Swimming, which used to be a popular activity, is no longer allowed at the pools.

At the summit, hiking trails cross the crater and horseback riding is available. One of Maui’s best hikes is at the Ohe‘o Gulch section with the Pipiwai Stream to Waimoku Falls trail.  Visitor centers are in both portions of the park.

At A Glance

PO Box 369
Makawao, HI 96768

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