National Park Count: 27
I really enjoyed my brief visit to Maui! So much so that in just a mere 60ish hours I did enough to warrant two posts! I had already been to the summit of Haleakalā (a little shy of it, actually) on Friday night, and Saturday was my Road to Hana and Kipahulu part of the trip. Sunday morning I got up nice and early due to my feathered friends’ wake up calls. I was not able to secure sunrise tickets at the summit of Haleakalā so I was aiming for a 7 o’clock entrance. The entrance is pretty far up the mountain so I still left around 6. 7 AM is when they let the peasants in, and let me tell you, I got to that gate at 6:47 and not only would she not let me in, she also told me I had to go about 100 yards down the road to be off national park grounds….ahem. Rude. Nevermind that it’s a good 20 minutes, still, to the summit! But ok. Anyway, at 6:59 she let me in and I made it to the actual real summit at about 7.20.
When I came up the mountain after I landed on Friday, the temperature gauge went from about 82 to 50. This morning though, it went from about 70 to THIRTY FOUR. BRRR. Thankfully, I had two jackets, long sleeves, gloves, and a beanie. It was super windy, so all of that was needed. Although I missed sunrise, 45 minutes or so afterward was glorious! This time I did manage to snag parking at the true summit part. You pass the observatory up there (which is not open to the public) and there is a parking lot with stairs leading up to an observation building which was closed, I guess due to covid. No bother, you could walk around the whole building and get the whole view without glass separating you from the elements. There was a little loop trail up there that gives you views of the entire surrounding panorama. From here you can see the Big Island, all of Maui, Molokini, Lanai, and the uninhabited Kaho’olawe.
After checking out the upper park of the summit I drove down a bit to the summit visitor center and began the Sliding Sands Trail into the crater of the volcano! This trail is rated as hard, is 11 miles out and back and has a 2800 feet descent. I actually did not intend to do a ton of this hike, but once I started I was making such good time that I managed to make about 2.5 miles in and about 2000 feet of that drop before I turned back after rolling an ankle. I made great time to that point. But it was the way out that was the killer. The last mile to so, according to alltrails, sees grades up to 23 degrees! And it is no joke, especially on a busted up ankle! There is very little vegetation growing up there. Despite the barren and volcanic beauty of the rock and cinder cones, there are a couple plants that do thrive in the crater including a really pretty plant called the silversword. This is a species of plant only found on Hawaii, and this particular one on Haleakalā is an endemic subspecies. Pretty neat! They can live for decades and only bloom once, which does kill them. They are threatened because people used to dig them up to take home…… Anyway, this hike is totally exposed with no shade of any kind. With the sun beating down on you at high elevation, at the nastiness of the climb out of the crater, lots of water and snacks are an absolute necessity! It is a very strenuous hike! Did I mention this hike goes INTO THE CRATER OF A DAMN VOLCANO???? Anyway, I finally made it back to the visitor center, grabbed a shirt, my stamp in the passport, and started heading back down the mountain.
I said goodbye to the national park and headed back down to Wailuku and headed toward my next destination, the Iao Valley State park. This place was NEAT. The drive in is basically driving through a gulch of the old extinct volcano in west Maui. Tall cliffs, rather than the barren reds and browns of Haleakalā, totally covered in green fauna directed me in. The big draw here is the Iao Needle. This is a leftover lava remnant, and local natural landmark. The whole area is outstanding with a nice leisurely trail and some manicured pools and what not. There are some great views of the needle to be sure, but really the whole area is just as superb as the needle. This park has an entrance fee of 15 bucks if you park there. I spent maybe an hour as I found a little side trail into the wilderness that got me to a nicely flowing downhill stream to soak in the natural beauty.
At this point I really had nothing left on my agenda, but I was going to head in the direction of west Maui and Kihei, which is where Maui Brewing is located. I turned on the Gypsy App, though, and let him dictate where to go. Instead of going to Kihei I turned up to the north and drove the road along the coast toward a town called Lahaina. This drive gave views of the back side of the west Maui mountains (as with Haleakalā, this side was a totally different and dryer environment than inside where Iao Valley was). This drive also was the access to all of the beaches along the road. In Hawaii all beaches are public! Nice thing to know, and it seems everyone was there! I continued the drive and was amazed again, at how close the other islands were, especially when Molokai came into view, to the north, because it looked massive from where I was, and I was not even all that close to the northern Maui coast! Anyway, at this point, I stopped to soak up some rays on this particular beach which was no sand, but mainly big lava rocks, then I headed back south toward Kihei.
On this stretch I made the decision to take this road down as far as I could go, which would lead to a lava field. This drive also went through the really ritzy tourist area which was pretty, but not terribly natural. However, there were some nice beaches along this stretch as well. Upon getting down to the lava field though, it looked, again, like a different planet! They actually constructed a road through this field. It is very illegal to get out and do anything in the lava field, and I see no reason anyone would want to! This was the last lava flow from Haleakalā anywhere from 2-500 years ago depending on who you talk to. Getting to the end of the road however, there are some ocean access points among the volcanic rock where the lava met the ocean here, further building the island. Some of this rock was that black lava, and some was a much lighter color giving a nice contrast. Looking up the mountain you can see how big the flow was and even see the vents which provided the outlet. Super neat thing to see! To wrap my trip up, I sat down at the Maui brewery, caught the 4th quarter of the Super Bowl, then grabbed dinner in Kahului and called it a trip!
Overall impressions: Pros: Stunning scenery. A super nifty culture. Cons: It’s pretty expensive on the island for sure and it is not an easy trip from Florida!
The Adventurer Final Word:
5 Stars! Amazing. A definite must see, Maui, the volcano, the road, all of it!