I’m not especially well-versed in United States National Parks (although I’m trying to catch up), but Haleakala Crater has to be one of the coolest parks in the country. Haleakala is a volcano that actually, unbeknownst to me before this trip, forms about 75% of the island of Maui (a fact that has since been confirmed by the luminous scholars at Wikipedia). One of the absolute essential excursions during a trip to Maui would be to visit the highest part of the volcano, from which a massive crater can be seen.
The ascent can be made easily with a car. Roads are paved well and a 4×4 is not needed. There are a lot of switchback turns and the road doesn’t have a guard rail at all times, but I wouldn’t consider it dangerous or even slightly white-knuckle-inducing by any means. I thought it was a rather cushy drive (but then again, I like a good road trip). The altitude of the summit is 10,023 feet, so you have a ways to climb. Also, if you were in shorts and a t-shirt at sea level, you may want to plan ahead and wear a jacket and jeans. On the way up, you will notice the oxygen thinning, your breathing being slightly labored, and the temperature drop.
Haleakala National Park, which includes more than just the crater (see my post on the Pipiwai Trail and the Oheo Gulch), contains more endangered species of flora and fauna than any other National Park in the United States. One plant that is unique to Haleakala and cannot be found anywhere else in the world is the silversword plant. The silversword can only be found at the summit of Haleakala, where its unique features cannot be missed.
Once you get to the summit, it seems like you’re on the surface of Mars. There really is no other place I’ve ever been that compares. From the greenery of the landscape on the way up to the red lava rock in the crater, it is one of the most diverse landscapes I’ve ever seen in a National Park.
So that sums up our trip to Haleakala. Many people also enjoy the sunrise over Haleakala, but we were too lazy to get out of bed and skip our delicious breakfast at the B&B, so that will have to wait.
A hui hou,