“A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you can control it.” – John Steinbeck
Why This Peak?
Maui is one of my special places. I had an instant connection to the island when I first visited. I have been to Haleakalā before, about 13 years ago. I watched the sunrise and then rode a bicycle down the mountain. I knew when I began 52 Peaks that I would revisit Maui and this special peak.
Peak & Route Facts
Haleakalā (/ˌhɑːliːˌɑːkəˈlɑː/; Hawaiian: [ˈhɐlɛˈjɐkəˈlaː]), or the East Maui Volcano, is a massive shield volcano that forms more than 75% of the Hawaiian Island of Maui. The western 25% of the island is formed by another volcano, Mauna Kahalawai, also referred to as the West Maui Mountains.
The tallest peak of Haleakalā (“house of the sun”), at 10,023 feet (3,055 m), is Puʻu ʻUlaʻula (Red Hill). From the summit one looks down into a massive depression some 11.25 km (7 mi) across, 3.2 km (2 mi) wide, and nearly 800 m (2,600 ft) deep. The surrounding walls are steep and the interior mostly barren-looking with a scattering of volcanic cones.
From the summit, there are two main trails leading into Haleakalā: Sliding Sands Trail and Halemauʻu Trail. Haleakalā is a reverse peak. We will start at the summit and watch the sunrise (a very spiritual ritual). From there we will hike down into the crater and back up. The Halemauʻu Trail has views of crater walls, lava tubes and cinder cones. Starting right after sunrise, the hike is about 7.4 miles roundtrip with about 1600′ of descent and ascent. The Sliding Sands Trail is a 11.2 miles out and back trail with about 3,086′ of ascent and descent.
Weather at the summit of Haleakalā and the crater can be unpredictable. Temperatures commonly range between 30 to 65 degrees F (-1 to +18 degrees C), and can reach below freezing at any time with the wind-chill factor. Hypothermia is a danger.
Historical and Cultural Information
Early Hawaiians applied the name Haleakalā (“house of the sun”) to the general mountain. In Hawaiian folklore, the depression (crater) at the summit of Haleakalā was home to the grandmother of the demigod Māui. According to the legend, Māui’s grandmother helped him capture the sun and force it to slow its journey across the sky in order to lengthen the day.
Haleakala has erupted three times in approximately the last 900 years. By way of comparison, both Mauna Loa and Kilauea have erupted more than a dozen times each in the last 90 years. The last eruption was sometime between 1480 and 1600 AD.
Surrounding and including the crater is Haleakalā National Park, a 30,183-acre (122.15 km2) park, of which 24,719 acres (100.03 km2) are wilderness. The park includes the summit depression, Kipahulu Valley on the southeast, and ʻOheʻo Gulch (and pools), extending to the shoreline in the Kipahulu area. It was originally created as part of the Hawaii National Park along with the volcanoes of Mauna Loa and Kilauea on the island of Hawaiʻi in 1916. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park was made into a separate national park in 1961. The park averages 1,450,000 visitors per year.
The island of Maui is the second-largest of the Hawaiian Islands at 727.2 square miles (1,883 km2) and is the 17th largest island in the United States. Polynesians, from Tahiti and the Marquesas, were the original people to populate Maui. The Tahitians introduced the kapu system, a strict social order that affected all aspects of life and became the core of Hawaiian culture. Modern Hawaiian history began in the mid-18th century. King Kamehameha I, king of Hawaii’s “Big Island,” invaded Maui in 1790 and fought the inconclusive Battle of Kepaniwai, but returned to Hawaii to battle a rival, finally subduing Maui a few years later.
On November 26, 1778, explorer Captain James Cook became the first European to see Maui. Cook never set foot on the island because he was unable to find a suitable landing. The first European to visit Maui was the French admiral Jean-François de La Pérouse, who landed on the shores of what is now known as La Perouse Bay on May 29, 1786. More Europeans followed: traders, whalers, loggers (e.g., of sandalwood) and missionaries. The latter began to arrive from New England in 1823, settling in Lahaina, which at that time was the capital. They clothed the natives, banned them from dancing hula, and greatly altered the culture.
Kamehameha’s descendants reigned until 1872. They were followed by rulers from another ancient family of chiefs, including Queen Liliuokalani who ruled in 1893 when the monarchy was overthrown. One year later, the Republic of Hawaii was founded. The island was annexed by the United States in 1898 and made a territory in 1900. Hawaii became the 50th U.S. state in 1959.