Visiting Maui’s Haleakala Volcano Is Like Visiting the Moon

by Dan on November 27, 2009

Summit of Haleakala is also Favorite Island Destination For Sunrise Viewing

On the dry side of Maui – the leeward side – is a massive volcano rising to more than 10,000 feet. This is Haleakala Volcano, and the summit is a lunar landscape that will make you gasp when you first see it.

Haleakala is a very important volcano to Hawaiians because this is where their revered demigod Maui is said to have snared the sun and made it move more slowly across the sky so his mother had more time to dry her tapa barkcloth.

The 10,023-foot summit of Haleakala is known as the best place to see the sunrise. Each day many people make this traditional pilgramage to the top of the mountain in the predawn hours so they are there waiting when dawn arrives.

Haleakala’s gigantic summit crater is also a sight to behold. Streaked wtih red, yellow, gray and black from ash and cinder flows, the 7-mile-long, 3,000-feet deep crater is a moonscape of cinder cones that will make you feel like you are on the moon. In fact the area has been used in the past for astronaut training for missions to the moon.

Atop Haleakala’s summit are many scientific and astronomical installations including the Mees Solar Observatory, the Maui Space Surveillance Site, a Lunar Ranging Facility, and the Advanced Electro-Optical System 3.7-meter telescope.

Haleakala’s Summit Visitor Center (808-572-4400) is located 11 miles from the Park entrance. You can also tour the summit caldera with Pony Express Tours (808-667-2200).

Some of the sights to see in this area include Hosmer Grove where the cedar and pine trees are home to many native birds, and the Leleiwi Overlook that peers down into the summit crater.

The highest point on all of Maui is Haleakala’s Puu Ulaula Summit – from here you can see Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa Volcanoes on the Big Island, and if the weather is clear you can see every Hawaiian Island except Kauai.

The 18-mile Kaupo Trail leads from Haleakala’s summit down through the crater and then through a variety of ecosystems including cinder desert, alpine shrublands, rainforests and stands of huge koa trees, before finally reaching the ocean at Kaupo.

Haleakala’s summit crater measures 21 miles around and more than 3,000 feet deep, and once you stand atop this massive Hawaiian volcano you will never forget the experience.

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