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Haleakala National Park, Hawaii (Maui)

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Haleakala Current Weather Conditions & Forecast
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Haleakala Current Weather Conditions
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Haleakala Creater Cam
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Haleakala Cams
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Haleakala Temperature Forecast
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The Following Information
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ParkVision - Haleakala National Park


Haleakala is one of two national parks in the Hawaiian Islands. Located on the southern section of the island of Maui, the park's 28,655 acres contain one of the most spectacular volcanic craters in the world as well as a beautiful section of the Maui coastline. Land in the park lies at altitudes from sea level along the coast to over 10,000 feet at the summit of the mountain, supporting a range of habitats from subalpine to subtropical rain forests.

The park contains 32 miles of trails which allow the visitor to see the crater at close range, provide some spectacular overlooks with views of Maui and surrounding islands such as Hawaii, Molokai, and Lanai, and allow access to the beautiful Ohe'o Gulch and rain forests of the Kipahulu area of the southern coast. The park also contains a number of cultural, religious, and archaeological sites.



The Hawaiian Islands were first colonized by Polynesian seafarers in the 10th century. From this period on humans lived on Maui, but the heights of Haleakala itself were not inhabited. People visited the mountain, but the crater and its environs were considered sacred. The people did make use of the resources there, for example quarrying lava rock for use in creating tools and other objects.

The first non-native Hawaiians to reach the summit of Haleakala were a group of missionaries in 1828. In 1841 Lt. Charles Mills explored and mapped the crater, fortunately recording many Hawaiian names for the features there which have persisted.

Increased visitation to and use of the mountain threatened many of its native life forms. Animal grazing and tourist visits destroyed many of the remarkable silversword plants, which were once so numerous sections of the crater appeared to be covered by snow.

The area which comprises Haleakala National Park was originally part of Hawaii National Park, which was later split to form Haleakala and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Haleakala became a separate park in 1961, and the Kipahulu (south coast) section of the park was added in 1969.


The Mountain

The centerpiece of the national park is great volcanic mountain Haleakala. Its name meaning "house of the sun", the summit of the dormant volcano reaches an altitude of 10,023 feet. Because the volcano is classified as dormant, it is more than possible it will erupt again, possibly within the next 100 years. Although there have been approximately 20 eruptions in the last 2500 years, it is estimated that the mountain last erupted in 1790.

As with the other great Hawaiian mountains Haleakala is a shield volcano, formed by successive eruptions of lava which overflow down the sides of the mountain and are deposited, creating the distinctive "shield" profile. These volcanoes look gentle, but they are massive. Haleakala, at sea level, is 33 miles long and 24 miles wide. Measured from its actual base at the bottom of the ocean the mountain is an astounding 25,000 feet plus in height. It probably emerged from the sea about 1 million years ago.


The Crater

The most famous part of the park is the famous crater at the summit of the mountain. This crater, with its great volcanic vents, peaks, rim, multiple colors, and a remarkably "otherworldly appearance", is one of the most memorable places in any of America's national parks.

The view of the crater from the rim is often likened to the surface of the moon. Indeed, the scene is punctuated by small depressions and rocky peaks, and particularly from the west side, there is little vegetation.

The Haleakala crater is really quite large. It's 7.5 miles long and 2.5 miles wide with a circumference of about 21 miles.

The summit crater was not, however, formed by the collapse of a volcanic peak, as with Crater Lake. Rather, it was formed by erosion. Almost 3000 feet from the summit of the mountain was worn away. Two gaps, or valleys on the side of the mountain created by erosive action, eventually connected with each other to form the great crater.

The creation of the great crater was complete when additional later eruptions covered much of the floor of the crater with lava.

Additional volcanic activity has also created a number of vents and craters within the main crater itself, adding to the exotic nature of the crater's appearance.

The view of the crater is not only astounding and memorable, but the experience of viewing it changes substantially depending on various conditions of light. One of the most interesting phenomena which changes its appearance is the presence of transitory clouds and mists which frequently move across the landscape, hiding and revealing the crater's features.

The clouds are formed from the moisture contained in the trade winds which blow across Maui. They enter through the Ko'olau Gap (in the upper left section of the picture below) and may cover large portions of the crater. The size of this gap is testament to the incredible power of the erosion which formed the Haleakala crater.

The clouds move quickly, and features disappear and reappear in rapid succession.


As with many mountains, Haleakala creates a "rain shadow" as the moisture laden trade winds blow across it in a westerly direction. The northeastern part of the crater receives about 150 inches of rain per year while the opposite side may receive only 20.


The scale of the crater is difficult to appreciate, even when standing on the rim. It's actually about 2720 feet to the floor of the valley.

There are a number of wonderful vantage points from which to enjoy the views of the crater. Perhaps the most popular is the area adjacent to the House of the Sun Visitor Center on the west end of the crater at about 9600 feet. The highest peak visible on the east side of the crater is Hanakauhi at 8907 feet.

Clouds obscure the southern and eastern walls of the crater's rim.


A very different perspective is obtained by a trip on one of the trails down into the crater. Below is a view looking up toward the northern rim.

One unexpected aspect of a trip into the crater is the many colors of the lava, ash, and rock which present themselves from almost every perspective.

The west walls of the crater are rocky and this portion of the crater is dry and desolate.

On the Mountain

One noteworthy feature of Haleakala National Park is the ease with which any visitor can ascend to the summit of this great mountain. The main road in the park allows the visitor to travel from sea level on Maui to over 10,000 feet in only 38 miles, one of the steepest climbs available to conventional traffic. Some of this rise occurs outside the park itself, as the entrance is situated at an altitude of 6740 feet.

Shown below is the last section of the road near the summit.

Most of the park's main visitor facilities are accessible from the summit road. In the picture below the rim visitor center can be seen perched along the edge of the crater at an altitude of 9745 feet. White Hill sits above the building to the right.

A close-up view of the House of the Sun visitor center along the crater's rim is shown below.

An unusual feature near the top of the mountain, but just outside the border of the national park, is Science City (below), looking like an outpost on another planet. This collection of scientific facilities contains astronomical equipment which takes advantage of the clear atmosphere to monitor transmissions from space-based satellites. It also contains telecommunications facilities.

The highest point on Haleakala is Red Hill or Pu'u 'Ula'ula. It is marked with a viewing shelter which provides an overview of the crater as well as spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean and neighboring Hawaiian islands. At the right is Magnetic Peak (10,008 ft.), just south of the summit.


Despite Maui's sub-tropical location, the mountain is high enough that the summit receives occasional snow in the winter months. In fact, up to 4 feet of snow has been observed at the summit. Even in the summer the temperature may be cool in the evening and morning; in general, compared with the rest of Maui, the temperature is about 3 degrees cooler for every 1000 feet in altitude gain.

There are a number of peaks located along the rim and within the crater of Haleakala.

The main visitor center is located along main road not far inside the park entrance at about the 7000 foot level.


View From the Mountain

In addition to spectacular views of the crater itself the upper elevations in the park offer memorable panoramas of the island of Maui, the Pacific Ocean, and neighboring Hawaiian Islands. On a clear day the visitor can see for 130 miles at the summit. Below is a view looking toward the north across the island of Maui.

While the suns shines on the summit, there is often a layer of clouds around found between about 4000 and 8000 feet. These are formed by an inversion layer at this altitude which traps the moisture carried by the trade winds blowing west across the island.

The layer of white, fluffy clouds often makes the mountain feel like an island in a sea of white.

Some of the most spectacular views from the rim of Haleakala are toward the south in the direction of the island of Hawaii. As seen in the picture below, the great peaks of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa (in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park) can be spied peeking above the clouds.


Hosmer Grove

One of the most unusual areas in the park, and one uncharacteristic of the native state of much of the park area, is Hosmer Grove. Located about 3500 feet below the summit and just inside the main entrance to the park, this forest features a number of non-native tree species such as Douglas fir, California redwood, and eucalyptus, some of which can be seen below.

The trees in the grove were planted in 1910 by forester Ralph Hosmer. Hosmer was experimenting to find trees which might be used to help in the preservation of the watershed and exploring the plausibility of forestry on the island. Hosmer selected faster growing species which might survive on the island. Below is a picture from the grove up towards the summit of the mountain.


A pleasant climate and spectacular scenery provide an ideal setting for exploring the park on foot. A variety of wonderful trails facilitate hiking in the crater and elsewhere in the park.

A short trail popular with many visitors is the rocky path to the top of White Hill (below), a basaltic knob above the crater's rim. The trailhead is adjacent to the rim visitor center, and trail ends at the top of the hill where it affords spectacular views of the crater. Along this trail there are also remains of sleeping shelters of native Hawaiians.

One of the major routes down into the crater is the Sliding Sands Trail, seen below as it snakes down along the southwest rim. There are about 32 miles of trails which cross the crater floor.

The trail leads down from the rim of the crater to its bottom, crossing volcanic sands and cinders along a moderately steep grade. It is considerably easier going down that coming up, especially at an altitude of nearly 10000 feet, a fact many visitors discover to their regret.

One popular hiking route enters the crater on the Sliding Sands Trail and exits on the Halemaumau Trail, seen below outside the rim.

The Hosmer Grove Trail, near the entrance to the park, leads through the forest of exotic trees planted by Hosmer. The quarter mile trail is adjacent to a campground and picnic area.



The park serves as a preserve for many exotic plants native to the Hawaiian Islands and contains a number of endangered species.

Perhaps the most famous of the plants found in Haleakala National Park is the fascinating silversword, known to native Hawaiians as ahinahina. The Haleakala crater is the only place in the world this plant can be found, but early in the century many of the unique plants had been destroyed. This destruction was caused not only by hikers and other visitors but also by the grazing of wild goats which had been introduced to the mountain. By 1927 only about 1000 of these plants remained, but conservation efforts in the park have increased the numbers now to about 50,000 plants.

The silversword, a relative of the sunflower, is well adapted for its life in the barren high altitude setting in which it is found. It is able to store and retain moisture in special tissue in the "leaves" which allows it to survive in the hostile environment. Layers of white hairs on these leaves help protect the plant from the strong ultraviolet radiation at high altitude and give it its distinctive frosty silver sheen.

The silversword is a large plant, with a rosette measuring up to about 2 feet across. It lives from about 15 to 50 years, blooms only once, sending a stalk 5 or 6 feet upwards, and then dies.

The rim of the mountain at high altitudes is fairly barren, as can be seen in the view below looking up from Hosmer Grove.

The Kipahulu area is well known for its vegetation. In the upper region a number of plants are found that are found nowhere else on earth.

Below is a view of some of the palms which can be found along the trail near Ohe'o Gulch.

These flowering trees are also found near the sea in the Kipahulu section of the park.

A closeup of the flowers on the tree are shown below.

A stand of bamboo trees can be found in the upper section of the Ohe'o Gulch along the trail which follows the river there. This quick growing tree is one of many which are not native but were introduced to the island by its human population.

The many plants in the park complement the colors of the sea, sky, and lava in the crater.


There are a variety of flowers also found in the park, particularly at lower elevations and in the Kipahulu area.



At sea level in the park the island is considered a subtropical climate, supporting lush vegetation and growth year round.

Like the other islands of Hawaii, when lava rose from the sea there were no resident plants or animals of any kind. All plant and animal life on the island is descended from pioneers which floated through the air or on currents across the ocean, a truly forbidding journey as the nearest continent is over 2000 miles away.


Information about Haleakala Park has been drawn from personal experience, maps, interpretive material, brochures, and other data available in the park itself, and a number of other sources, including:

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