Haleakalā National Park

Location: Hawaii

Park Tally: 58/59

Orientation: Haleakalā National Park is located on Maui, in the Islands of Hawai’i. The park is best known for its dramatic views, unique ecosystems and volcanic history. Haleakalā has three main sections – the Summit, Kīpahulu and Wilderness areas. The Summit District is where visitors can experience the summit of Haleakalā volcano, impressive landscapes and rare plant and wildlife. The Kīpahulu area is home to lush rainforest, waterfalls, and ocean vistas. The Wilderness area of Haleakalā is unexpected, unforgiving, and rich with hiking opportunities.

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Most iconic view:  By far the most popular thing to do in Haleakalā National Park is viewing sunrise or sunset from the summit of Haleakalā (10,023-feet). In fact, the number of people visiting at sunrise has become so high that the Park has created a book-ahead car reservation system. The reservation only costs $1 and helps maintain appropriate crowds for the parking spaces available – these can be booked via www.recreation.gov.

We opted to visit at sunset instead, due to a crazy storm on the days we had reserved sunrise entrance. Unlucky?! Nope – we were treated to the most gorgeous sunset and much fewer people. In fact, many locals recommend visiting at sunset in order to avoid the crowds, and it’s just as beautiful! Consider staying around after sunset for some epic star-gazing!

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Accessible activity:  Haleakalā National Park is best explored by car. There are two scenic drives that are particularly beautiful – Haleakalā Highway, and Road to Hāna. The road to Haleakalā summit (Haleakalā Highway or also known as ‘Crater Road’) is 37-miles long, winding in parts and covers an altitude gain of over 3,000-feet. Some worthy viewpoints prior to the summit are Leleiwi Overlook, Kalahaku Lookout, and the Haleakalā Visitor Center – all providing spectacular “moonlike” scenery.

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The Road to Hāna is a wonderful way to experience the Kīpahulu District of Haleakalā National Park. The park entrance is 12 miles past the town of Hāna along the famous Hāna Highway that circumscribes the northeast coast of Maui. On the way to Haleakalā National Park visitors can consider stopping at beautiful Wailua Falls (not to be confused the famed Wailua Falls on the island of Kauai. Once inside the park, some popular easy trails include the Kuloa Point Trail (1/2-mile roundtrip) and the Kahakai Trail (1/2-mile roundtrip).

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For the adventurous:  The Pīpīwai Trail is a fantastic moderate hike for those wanting a little more adventure. The 4-mile (roundtrip) trail has an 800-foot elevation gain that winds through a freshwater stream, bamboo forests and numerous waterfalls. At the end of the trail hikers are treated to views of 400-foot tall Waimoku Falls – it’s quite the experience! Be sure to also stop by the enormous banyan tree about halfway along the hike.

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Best photo opportunities: Our favorite photography moments in (and nearby) Haleakalā National Park were sunset at the summit of Haleakalā, the bamboo forest along the Pīpīwai Trail, and Wailua Falls along the Road to Hāna.

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Quick facts

  • Haleakalā was originally grouped as part of Hawai’i National Park and in 1961 it was split into Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park and Haleakalā National Park.
  • Haleakalā National Park was granted status as an International Biosphere by UNESCO in 1980.
  • Of the 33,265 acres that make up Haleakalā National Park, 19,270 acres are designated as wilderness. This designation prohibits using the land for development and helps to preserve the unique biodiversity found in the area.
  • The last time that Haleakalā volcano (East Maui Mountain) erupted is believed to have been in 1790.
  • Haleakalā means ‘house of the sun’ when translated from Hawaiian to English.
  • Haleakalā has more endangered species than any other national park in the United States. Some of these species include the nene (a native Hawaiian goose), the Hawaiian petrel, and the Hawaiian silversword (a plant found nowhere else in the world).
  • In 2016, Haleakalā received 1,263,558 visitors according to the National Park Service.

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