“This long distance voyage over mars-like lava and cinder feels distinctly otherworldly.”
— Megan W
Views · Wildflowers
While you won't want to take the kiddos on the full length of this trail, a short out and back from the west end near the Visitor Center is a great option to give them a sense of hiking in the park.
The views from the Haleakala Crater are sweeping and majestic. However far you travel along the red dirt of the Sliding Sands Trail will be a treat as you navigate past huge cinder cones and cliffs. Start from the second Haleakala Visitor Center (the one that is near the summit). Signs mark the beginning of the Sliding Sands Trail (also called Keonehe'ehe'e). After an initial section close to the road, the path switchbacks downhill from the crater rim. The stark landscape with little vegetation continues as you head eastwards through multicolored hillsides. At about 2 miles, a rockier area marks the turnoff for the Ka Lu'u o ka 'O'o Cinder Cone Trail to the north.
Stay straight to continue along the dry and shade-less Sliding Sands Trail. The crowds of people disappear the further down the trail you go. After a steeper downhill section of trail around mile 4, the grade decreases considerably and becomes almost level but rockier along the crater floor. The intersection for Connector A
appears just after mile 4. Follow along due eastwards under a long ridgeline encountering ever more vegetation. Soon after the junctions with Connector B
and Connector C
, spy the welcome sight of the rustic Kapalaoa Cabin where Connector F
meets the Sliding Sands Trail. Permits are required to stay overnight at the cabin but there are pit toilets and usually filterable water. Colorful cones and cliffs are the main views from here. Begin a tough descent through loose rock and lava fields towards the northeast to eventually join the Halemau'u Trail
near its terminus.
Heed the warnings and be prepared for cold and unpredictable weather. Also, be aware that the high altitude will cause dehydration and fatigue much faster than at sea-level. As of this writing, no food is available for purchase inside the park, so bring your own.
Note: commercial horse tours also use this trail so watch out for droppings.
Flora & Fauna
Silverswords - The ‘ahinahina is a perennial plant which can develop from seedling to flower in as little as three years, but typically requires more than a decade. The plant remains a compact rosette until the final few months of its life. Then the plants send up a flowering stalk with one to five hundered purple flower heads, sets seed, and dies. The silver hairs on the leaves protect the plant from the harsh ultra-violet rays of the sun and aid in water conservation.