Maui: Haleakalā National Park Trail Guide

My husband and I (dare I say) crushed the island of Maui when we visited.  We spent 7 days traipsing through the national park, camping on beaches and driving up and down the coast in search of great snorkeling (not hard to find!).  You can read how we did it on the cheap in THIS post on Grid Walking.

One way to keep our expenses low was to tent camp for more than half the nights, part of which we spent in Haleakalā National Park – Maui’s US National Park featuring the dormant Haleakalā Volcano.

Haleakalā National Park – Back Country (best if following along with trail map)

If planning on doing any wilderness camping, please remember to stop by the Parks Visitors Center and fill out a permit.  Haleakalā is not an ‘at-large’ camping park.  There are designated ‘rustic’ campsites that you must stay at while backcountry for which a permit is required.  The permit is free, takes about 20 minutes and alerts the rangers to your intended plans.  Safety first!

We entered the wilderness from the Haleakalā Visitors Center but parked our car at the Halemau’u Trailhead.  There are no multi-day loops in this section of the park and so hitchhiking within the park is a common and safe practice for backpackers.  A short walking distance across and below from the Halemau’u Trailhead parking there’s a ‘hitchhiking pullout’ where you can wait, thumbs out, for a passing vehicle to pick you up.


Thumbs out at the hitchhiking pullout.

Below is the route we took while backcountry.  There definitely are more trails we didn’t explore, and another backcountry camping site at Palikū, but I’m hopeful this will give you a little more direction with your adventure.

Day 1 Hiking ≈ 10.5 miles

  • Haleakalā Visitors Center to Sliding Sands Trail until a sign post for Halemau’u Trail (3.9 miles)
  • Northwest trail towards the Halemau’u Trail(1.6 miles)
  • Northeast around the Halāli’I Cone, headed east on the Halemau’u Trail to the Nā Mana o ke Akua Cone and then back to Halāli’I (about 3 miles round trip)
  • Passed Halāli’I Cone and continued northwest on the Halemau’uTrail
  • Ended at the Hōlua campsite where we would spend the night (2 miles from Halāli’I Cone).
  • Notes: After the descent from the visitor center, the base of the crater has minimal elevation change and aside from the sand, no real obstacles, making it an easy/moderate hike.

Hōlua campsite – some shameless MSR product placement…

Day 2 Hiking ≈ 4.6 miles

  • From the Hōlua campsite we hiked out of the crater via the Halemau’u Trail (4.6 miles).
  • Notes: There is an elevation increase of about 1,050 feet so it’s a pretty decent workout.

The terrain in the Summit District of Haleakalā is unique to anything I’ve ever seen.  Where the east side of the park in the Kīpahulu District is lush and coastal, the Summit District is barren and a bit foreign – like you’re on another planet.   You’re sifting through different hues of red gravel and small craters (cones) surround you.  As we approached the Hōlua campsite low clouds hung in the distance, making it look like the edge of the world was just a few steps in front of us.  It was breathtaking.  That being said, I wanted to spend more time frolicking in the Pacific so we took off for the coast!


Summit District landscape.


Hiking out of the crater on our 2nd day.

Let me know what you think!