Supplemental: Route from Paliku to Summit
Haleakala National Park, Maui
If you came to this page looking for the general narrative of the 3rd-day of our sea-to-summit climb of Haleakala, then you have come to the wrong place. You should go here
This page serves as a repository for supplemental pictures of our climb from the Paliku campsite to the summit (or, more precisely, to the crater rim - it doesn't actually cover the little bit we did from the rim to the summit). Additionally, it is written in a more 'guidebook'-like fashion, rather than as a narrative of our particular trip.
Supplemental images that are not in the general narrative are shown with a special color around them.
These set of pages document a route that crosses the length of Haleakala's crater, from a low point down at the south-east corner (at a place called Paliku) all the way west to its highest point (and in fact on to the summit itself). The route as described combines a number of segments of different trails; it isn't the shortest way to get from Paliku to the summit, but it isn't much longer than the shortest possible route.
Paliku to Summit in 3D
There is no question that one the major scenic highlights of Haleakala National Park is its main crater. It is a huge and complex area, ranging from scrubland and forest to the windswept volcanic barrens of its upper reaches. When you are in the crater, it seems as if you are a far away from the rest of Maui - the walls create an entire world within the island, and you certainly don't feel like you are on an island in the Pacific.
Although most people descend into the crater from trailheads high on the rim, this description will be given starting from the low point of the trail, and climbing up to the summit.
The Paliku Campsite
The Paliku campsite - the starting point for this description - is the lowest of Haleakala's three main backcountry overnighting spots. There is a campsite and a reserveable cabin here. The area is wetter than most parts of Haleakala's crater, and as a result there are sections of native Hawaiian forest and an increased amount of wildlife. The Paliku area is reached either by hiking down from one of the high rim trailheads or by hiking up from below on the Kaupo Trail.
Junction w trail to Holua
The Paliku campsite is at the lower end of the Halemau'u trail. Starting off from the campsite, the grade is flat to very gentle, and passes through open subalpine scrub. Off to the left is the Kaupo Gap (in fact, you'll soon meet the junction with the top end of the Kaupo Trail).
Continuing on past the Kaupo Trail junction, the trail heads gradually upwards along the crater floor. It skirts the based of the slopes of a cinder cone, coming to a trail junction with the Sliding Sands Trail. In our particular ascent route, we chose to stay right on the Halemau'u trail - this results in a slightly longer journey to the top, but passes through more interesting scenery. If you select the Sliding Sands trail, the total distance to the top will be reduced somewhat.
A Dull twilight
Now heading more north, the trail continues a very gradual ascent through the wide open floor of the crater, with scrubby vegetation on either side of the trail. Off in the distance are the crater walls and some more colorful cinders cones situated on higher ground ahead.
Stark Volcanic Landscape
Another trail junction is eventually reached. Stay right here (i.e. stay on the Halemau'u trail). You soon enter a region much more devoid of vegetation. The trail crosses stark, craggy fields of old lava partially filled in with a coarse cinder sand.
The trail enters an area with a denser concentration of cinder cones. Presently, you come to a colorful volcanic vent known as kawilinau - the Bottomless Pit. There is another trail junction here. Turn left off of the Halemau'u trail and take a little side trail that climbs through the saddle between two of the large cinder cones to the left.
At the height of land between the two large cinder cones, you are presented with a sweeping view towards the south crater wall, and down onto the red cinder and crag desert below it. The trail contours around the side of one of the cinder cones, arriving at another X-shaped four-way intersection. Cross over the intersection (i.e. do not take the sharp turn back to the left and do not take the branch off to the right - take the branch ahead and to the left).
The trail climbs more steeply now, taking a rising traverse high up on the cinder cone of Ka Moa o Pele. From the trail's highpoint on the side of the cone, you get your first gimpse of the summit portion of the crater wall over 2,000 feet above.
Traverse to Sliding Sands
From the height-of-trail around Ka Moa o Pele, the trail descends in a long switchback back to the crater floor, then follows a wide sandy path across the flats towards the base of the south wall (of the crater), where it intersects with the Sliding Sands trail. Along the way, the trail passes through some interesting old eroded lava fields.
When you arrive at the junction with the Sliding Sands trail, you have come over halfway of the total distance from Paliku to the summit. However, the elevation gain to this point is only modest: about 1,000 feet. The remaining 2,500 feet to the summit, therefore, are achieved over a substantially steeper overall slope.
Brian climbs Sliding Sands
Up to this point - especially if you started early in the morning at Paliku - you will likely not have seen many people. However, now that you are getting closer to one of the major trailheads in the park, it is likely you will start to see an increasing number of hikers as you climb up.
Above the junction, the Sliding Sands trail begins switchbacking up a steeper slope.
Steeper section, Sliding Sands
Jenn and Brian on Sliding Sands
The Sliding Sands trail is very wide and well-graded. There are periods of flat walking, interspersed with steeper, switchbacked sections. The tread of the trail is indeed sandy, as the trail name suggests, but it is never too soft to be an impediment to hiking. As you ascend, there are excellent views of the wide chevron of the main crater, and the many cinder cones scattered across it.