The 7 Best Hikes in Haleakalā National Park

Pele's Paint Pot in Haleakala National Park
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Maui’s Haleakalā National Park offers so much more than breathtaking sunrises and sunsets. There are dense rainforests, mountainous valleys, arid volcanic landscapes, and at least five separate climate zones, helping it earn its title as one of the most unique national parks in the United States.

It may be 30,000 acres in size, but a vast majority is made up of protected native wilderness that may not be safe or responsible to hike in. Plus, it is required by law to stay on marked trails to conserve the area’s flora and fauna. That’s why it's important to do some research about the best trails and hikes to follow before you step foot inside the park (though if you didn’t come prepared, don’t worry, the two visitors centers are fully equipped with a wealth of information and maps to get you on your way).

Whether you’re sticking to the popular summit area or making the even longer journey to the lower Kīpahulu District, the rugged Haleakalā National Park has something for every level of hiker. So grab plenty of water and sun protection, lace up your hiking boots, and explore some of the best hikes in Haleakalā National Park.

01 of 07

Pipiwai Trail

Bamboo forest inside Pipiwai Trail on Maui
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Contrary to popular belief, Maui’s famous Road to Hana road trip doesn’t necessarily have to end in the town of Hana. In fact, following the road a bit further will take you to one of the island’s most stunning regions, the forested Kīpahulu District of Haleakalā National Park. Once there, park near the visitor center and cross the street to find the trailhead to the Pipiwai Trail. Just under 4 miles out-and-back, this moderate hike features a thick bamboo grove and two waterfalls, the tallest of which being 400-foot Waimoku Falls. The trail is relatively flat and is well-maintained, thanks to its prime location inside the national park. However, hikers should still give themselves plenty of time (anywhere from two to five hours) to take advantage of the variety of views and photos opportunities along the way.

02 of 07

Sliding Sands Trail

Sliding Sands Trail in Haleakala National Park on Maui
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Also known by its Hawaiian name, Keonehe‘ehe‘e, the Sliding Sands Trail is located near the summit of Haleakalā Crater. It's about 11 miles long in total and boasts a hefty elevation gain of about 2,700 feet, so this hike is best left to the experienced. Starting from the summit side visitor center, the trail takes hikers down into the deep Haleakalā basin, across the valley floor, and ends at the trailhead for Halemau'u. On the way there, you’ll pass abundant wildflowers, a 65-foot-deep volcanic pit, and a colorful sloping spot known fondly as Pele's Paint Pot. (Pele is the ancient Hawaiian goddess of fire and volcanoes.) The lack of shade and sheer distance of the out-and-back hike gives Keonehe‘ehe‘e a pretty tough reputation, so many hikers choose to park their car at Halemau'u first and hitchhike to the trailhead to cut the length in half.

03 of 07

Pā Ka‘oao

Pā Ka‘oao Trail near the main Haleakala Visitor Center
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For something simpler, Pā Ka‘oao Trail is a half-mile round trip hike with just a 100-foot elevation gain. Find the trailhead up a small hill right next to the summit visitor center, and take the short walk past ancient rock wall shelters and clear views of the Haleakalā Crater. Despite its less-strenuous location, the loop trail at Pā Ka‘oao has some of the highest vantages in the park, so it is definitely worth a visit.

04 of 07

Halemau’u Overlook Trail

Haleakala Crater on Maui
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There are many different ways to utilize the Halemau’u Overlook Trail, depending on your hiking level and time restrictions. On the one hand, hikers can choose to do a 2.2-mile round-trip hike on the rocky trail to the crater viewpoint at the edge of Haleakalā’s rim, passing a natural land bridge known as “Rainbow Bridge.” Or, choose to add this trail to the aforementioned Sliding Sands Trail to create a difficult all-day hike to the summit. For a truly unique experience, backcountry hikers can even apply for a permit to stay in one of the Hōlua, Kapalaoa, or Palikū wilderness cabins. The cabins were originally built in 1937 to provide accommodation for Haleakalā’s most adventurous visitors.

Continue to 5 of 7 below.
05 of 07

Leleiwi Overlook

Acceptable for practically all skill levels, the hike to Leleiwi Overlook starts at almost 9,000 feet elevation near mile marker 17.5 on the winding Haleakalā Highway inside the national park. It’s about 0.3 miles, and after a short distance, you’ll be rewarded with a stunning view of the crater, past the Koʻolau Gap, and on through the coastline of Maui’s north shore. There’s a sheltered lookout where hikers can also enjoy sweeping views of the clouded canyons, as well as two of the most recent eruptions (within the last thousand years), one from Puʻu o Māui and another from Ka Luʻu o ka ʻŌʻō. The family-friendly nature trail here is also known for its birdwatching.

06 of 07

Hosmer Grove

Located near mile marker 10.5, this trail provides a lusher contrast to the barren landscape characterized by the rest of Haleakalā’s summit—which is more akin to a moonscape than a forest. This half-mile loop trail is a favorite for nature enthusiasts, as it allows hikers to compare native shrubland to the non-native trees planted before the national park was established to control erosion. Even better, it is one of the few places on earth where you can see Hawaiian Honeycreepers, a small species of endangered bird endemic to Hawaii. Hosmer Grove also houses the only drive-in campground in the national park, located just below the 7,000-foot elevation mark in the summit area.

07 of 07

Kūloa Point Trail

'Ohe'o Gulch on Maui
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Starting from the Kīpahulu Visitor Center, the 0.6-mile Kūloa Point Trail leads to one of the most beautiful parts of the park, a group of natural pools known as 'Ohe'o Gulch. Also referred to as the "Seven Sacred Pools,” the pools were actually donated by private landowners to the national park system to keep the special site open to the public. The hike there will take you past ocean views and archeological sites before ending at the natural pools (that number in the dozens rather than just seven). Keep in mind that the pools are often closed for swimming due to hazardous weather conditions, so check with the visitors center before setting out to ensure it’s safe.

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