A hike on the Sliding Sands Trail
is a great way to experience all the highlights of a trip to Haleakala. You'll navigate through the martian landscape, see the rare silversword plants, and explore the vibrantly colored hillsides. Word to the wise: although this is a very worthwhile outing, save some energy for the uphill trek back to the visitor center.
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.
The views from the Sliding Sands Trail
are sweeping and majestic, and you won't want to miss the opportunity to hike on this trail which is one of the most popular in the park. Start from the second Haleakala Visitor Center (the one that is near the summit). Follow signs marking the beginning of the Sliding Sands Trail
(also called Keonehe'ehe'e). After an initial section close to the road, the path switchbacks downhill through loose sand from the crater rim. The stark landscape with little vegetation continues as you head eastward through multi-colored hillsides. Keep an eye open for the Ka Lu'u o ka 'O'o Cinder Cone in the distance to the north.
Contour along the hillside, with views of the hillsides stretching out before you. Also, keep an eye open for the rare and beautiful Silverswords along the way. Silverswords live between 3 and 90 years or more. They flower once, sending up a spectacular flowering stalk, and then die soon afterward, scattering drying seeds to the wind. At about 2 miles, you'll pass between tall shattered-looking rock formations, the only shade you'll experience on this excursion.
For this out-and-back option, turn around at the rock formation and head back the way you came. Hikers have the option to make this as long (or as short) of an out-and-back hike as they would like as the Sliding Sands Trail
continues on for another 6 miles from this turnaround point. Be sure to take frequent breaks on the climb back up, the loose soil and elevation will make the ascent more taxing.
Silverswords dot the trail.