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Haleakala National Park

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Haleakala National Park Overview

Haleakala National Park slices up volcanic Mt. Haleakala, a dramatic scurry to the clouds from sea level to 10,023 feet over a distance of 35 miles. The environment changes rapidly and dramatically with the altitude, from subtropical rainforest at sea level to subalpine desert in the crater. Every inch of the park makes for extraordinary exploration: A full 19,270 of Haleakala National Park's 28,655 acres are wilderness.

The two-mile-high summit of Maui's Haleakala Crater is a vast volcanic valley that resembles the planet Vulcan. From here, lush rain forest oozes down the southeast slope like lava for 35 miles until it reaches the sea. Wilderness trails wind their way through this Garden of Eden alongside 400-foot waterfalls, tropical streams, and turquoise pools. Aqua lovers can dive into freshwater swimming holes and snorkel on the surface of the transparent sea.

Hike a Lava Flow
Miles of hiking trails wind through the rainforest. A prime destination is the park's nearly 20,000 acres of wilderness, where you'll find vegetation that grows nowhere else in the world. Wander past native trees such as 'ohi'a, 'olapa, and kolea, as well as the native raspberry 'akala that grows in wet flatlands along the trails. The 8.4-mile Kuapo Gap Trail descends 6,100 feet from the lush eastern corner of the Haleakala Crater to the dry, rocky coastline of southeast Maui. The Kuapo Gap is a giant crack in the wall of the crater that once spilled huge lava flows all the way to the sea. Short switchbacks through this volcanic moonscape alternate with steep stretches of trail during the first 3.7 miles. Waterfalls are often visible on the east wall. After that, the trail drops relentlessly down through mostly open, grassy country.

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Camp in the Rain Forest
You could camp in one of the park's developed campgrounds, but won't you sleep a lot better after a grueling ten-mile hike through Hawaiian rainforest? That's what you'll need to do to get to Paliku—a primitive wilderness campground located at the base of a rainforest cliff. Groves of eucalyptus, koa, and Kuapo trees provide shelter for all sorts of rare wildlife, including the Pueo—a Hawaiian short-eared owl—and a Hawaiian goose known as the Nene. A four-mile hike down from the summit of the volcano will get you to another wilderness campground at Holua.

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Drive to the Clouds
Nowhere else in the world can you drive on a paved road from sea level to an elevation of 10,000 feet in less than 38 miles. As you head toward the summit, you'll pass through the town of Pukalani, which literally means "hole to heaven"—an apt description as you penetrate an omnipresent ring of clouds hovering between 4,000 and 8,000 feet. At 9,745 feet, the Sun Visitor Center sits on the edge of the crater rim. At 10,023 feet, the Puu Ulaula overlook offers a 360-degree panorama that sweeps in the islands of Hawaii, Lanai, Molokai, Oahu, and Kahoolawe.

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Watch Hawaiian Wildlife—Big and Small
After dark, watch the treetops on moonlit nights for one of only two native mammals in Hawaii, the peapea, or Hawaiian hoary bat. On summer nights stop at Leleiwi overlook and listen for the rare Uau, or dark-rumped petrel, calling for its mate along the cliffs below. During the winter months, watch for humpback whales from the porch of the Kipahulu Ranger Station.

Haleakala National Park Reviews:

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Raelynn  rates Haleakala National Park  
One of the most unique and beautiful places I have ever visited. No matter when you go; sunrise, mid-afternoon or sunset; it is truly spectacular. You can sense how special The House of the Rising Sun is and feel like you are on top of the world. Sunrises are magical and meteor showers and star gazing is breathtaking when viewed from the summit. But beware if you go anytime besides the middle of the day, it is FREEZING COLD! Some days are warmer and nicer than others, but be prepared to be at least chilly, if not downright cold; on most occasions. Then there are the views. While you may be cold on the summit, the sunny and warm Maui vistas spread down below your feet will delight the eye with the myriad of colors; from ocean blues to neighbor islands, as a backdrop to the breathtaking beauty that is Haleakala, House of the Rising Sun.
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