Update: The Halemau'u trail has reopened and is available for hikers. Also, the road CCW around the park has officially reopened after earthquake damage and rockfalls about 7.3 miles west of Kaupo have been repaired.
Haleakala, or "House of the Sun" to the ancient Hawaiians, rises majestically, along with the other Hawaiian Islands out of the tropical central Pacific Ocean. Soaring to more than 15,000 feet in it's prime, geologists say that the peak that comprises the bulk of the island of Maui has been more or less quiet for about 400,000 years, slowly sinking back into the ocean basin from whence it arose some 900,000 years ago. An occasional outburst of volcanic activity has been noted over the eons with the most recent said to have occurred about 1790 but probably earlier.
A note on the name "Haleakala":
The Hawaiian name for the high point on the island is Pu'u 'Ula'ula, often written: Puuulaula. (Bet you never saw three of the same letters in a row in any language before!) To make a long story shorter, in the Hawaiian language, vowels are pronounced separately, so it comes out: Poo oo OOla oola. This translates as "Red Hill". There is a high point on the eastern edge of the south ridge that actually is called Haleakala, at the 8201 foot level. This point is also known as Haleakala Peak, Haleakala Volcano and even Mauna Haleakala (Haleakala Mountain, in Hawaiian). Problem is, nearly everyone calls the whole mountain Haleakala, whether they are speaking of the high point or the whole thing. In addition, even the map handed out at the visitor's center now omits the name for the point at 8,201'. (Though the name is on the USGS maps: Link) Common usage has undoubtedly won out with the park service's help and with tens of thousands of visitors a year - Haleakala it is.
This is one of those rare mountains that most climb from the top down since there is the most convenient road, Hwy 37 or the Haleakala Hwy. which allows one to drive to the very summit at 10,023 feet. There are numerous trails giving access down to the summit valley and even a trail from near sea level on the south side all the way to the summit.
For those of you with a masochistic bent and sufficient energy this is one of only two 10,000 foot mountains I'm aware of in the 50 states where one can climb over 10,000 vertical feet of trail and that also can be arguably scaled in a day. (For a description of the other, see my Cactus to Cloudstrip report on the Mount San Jacinto page.) Unfortunately, (or fortunately, as the case may be!) it's one tough mother with NO water at all, tropical heat and humidity to put up with and, well, how do I say it: What on earth are you doing in paradise, suffering, when you could be lounging on the beach sipping mai tais! See route description at left.
First, fly to Maui and pick up a rental car at the airport in Kahului. About a mile from the airport, there's a Costco on the left near the intersection of Hwy 380 (Keolani Pl.) and Hwy 37 (Haleakala Hwy) to gather a few provisions. There are many other alternatives, as well. Continue on the Haleakala Hwy toward the mountain, passing through the little town of Pukalani, about 10 miles into your drive. This is the last chance for provisions if you haven't already done so. Follow the signs and turn left onto hwy 377 and continue another 5 ¾ miles turning left onto Hwy 378. Eleven miles up this road is the 7,000' elevation park entrance, pay the fee ($10.00 as of 12/07 and good for 3 days) and continue the drive up the mountain. A little past the 20 mile mark is a large parking lot and visitor center at the 9,749' level. It's another half mile or so up to the actual summit at 10,023' but there's little parking up there so you may have to leave your ride at the visitor center. The map you get when you pay the entrance fee is most useful with decent trail maps and descriptions. Also, here is that link again to a good on-line map of the park that you may want to download and print ahead of time: Map Most hikes start from the visitors center and drop down into the valley - with a car shuttle, several loops are possible as well.
The current (as of May 12th, 2012) entry fee is $10, payable as you enter the park on the road. If you ascend the trail up Kaupo Gap, this can be avoided but you will sure have earned it through your efforts just getting up that trail!
The summit is also accessed via Polipoli Park and the Waiakoa and Mamane Trail giving access to the Skyline Drive route up the south ridge of the mountain. This trail is easily accessed two miles from the end of the pavement at the upper end of Waiploi Road and is a total of 8.3 miles to the summit, one way, and is an excellent trail/dirt road/mountain bike route with fantastic scenery. Start as early as possible to have the best chance of clear skies - clouds usually cover the mountain starting mid morning.
When To Climb
Any time of the year, but keep in mind that night is "winter" in the tropics and "day" is summer. Snow falls every few years on the summit and often a chilly wind will make it uncomfortable for the unprepared. The average February morning low temperature at the summit is 32F with a high of 50F. In August, the average low is 38F and the high is 58F. Here's that weather link again.