Sliding Sands (Keonehe'ehe'e Trail) in Haleakala National Park

Sliding Sands (Keonehe'ehe'e Trail) in Haleakala National Park

Description

The lunar landscape of Haleakala Crater is the opposite of everything we associate with a lush tropical island like Maui. The high altitude makes the air crisp and the harsh extremes of weather and wind keep the plants and animals to a minimum. The hike below the crater rim via the Sliding Sands Trail exposes a world of colors and contrasts brought about by volcanic eruptions and erosion through geologic time. The breathtaking landscape is an amazing sight to behold as you hike down the Keonehe'ehe'e Trail just remember that the hike in is also your hike out so pace yourself wisely.

At a Glance:
Highlights: Get surrounded by the grandeur of Haleakala Crater as you walk the Sliding Sands into a lunar landscape of volcanic cinders and boulders made from Maui's last summit eruptions.
Location: Above Kula, Maui
Activity Level: Moderate to extreme depending on length of hike.
Equipment: Sturdy shoes, rain gear, water and food.
Warnings!:  Sliding Sands Trail will work your knees with its steep incline and crumbling stones underfoot. The oxygen level is thinner due to elevation so beware of over exertion or altitude sickness.
Reservations: None needed, open to the public.
Cost: $10 entry fee per car

Where to start:
Once you have entered the National Park drive to the summit Visitors Center parking area. Follow the signs for Sliding Sands Trail. The trail winds across a slope of cinders for 3.9 miles. The total change of elevation is nearly 2500 feet, and the amount you descend is the amount you will hike out in the end. Eventually this trail  stretches to the crater floor, and can be linked with other trails circumnavigating the crater for 30 miles. The day hike option up and down sliding sands requires less gear then going across the crater. The Haleakala Crater weather can go through extreme changes quickly, with up and down drafts circulating clouds, rains and wind in combinations that can chill the temperature to near freezing.

Be Prepared:

The Sliding Sands Trail is an extremely special hike and with a few points of preparation you can make this an awesome day trip, making longtime memories. Think of packing clothing in layers, just as if you were climbing any mountain in the world, with elevation gain the temperature drops. A windproof and rainproof outer layer is a major bonus, as well as closed toed shoes that do not allow pebbles to enter the foot bed. Next you will need major hydration, so water or electrolyte drinks in light packaging plus some snack energy for your hike fuels. Make sure to bring your camera as you will want to take many pictures along the way.

Local's Tip:
The best time of day for this hike is mid-morning into mid-afternoon as the temperature increases and the more stable weather of the day will be established. The beauty of sliding sands is that you watch the weather climb the slopes below you, allowing you to gauge your day and comfort level.

National Park Hike Map Link:
http://www.nps.gov/hale/upload/Map-and-Descriptions.pdf

Directions:

  • All journeys to Haleakala Summit begin by finding the Haleakala Highway and Hana Highway intersections (HI-routes 36 and 37) it is approximately 2 miles from the airport in Kahului.
  • Travel up route 37, aka Haleakala Highway, for approximately 7.8 miles.
  • You will pass two towns Makawao and Pukalani, note these are your last supply and shopping stops before you go further up the mountain.
  • After passing Makawao on route 37, look for a traffic light intersection for Kekaulike Road, get in the left hand turn lane.
  • Turning left on to 377 or Kekaulike, you will pass a high school then the road winds up through miles of pastureland.
  • Once the road passes "Kula Lodge" proceed approximately 0.7 miles ahead looking for "Haleakala Crater Road" on the left.
  • Once you turn left onto Haleakala Crater Road, you will be ascending "Switchback" style through a neighborhood then pastureland.
  • Beware of cattle on this road and watch your speed as many curves are of the "hairpin" variety.
  • 20 miles up Haleakala Crater Road you will come to the National Park. A $10 admission fee is charged.
  • Turn Left at first road after gate house and drive to the parking lot and follow signs for trail.

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