Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Back Door Into Maui's Haleakala Crater

About six miles before road's end at the top of Haleakala is the Halemau'u Trail, which traverses native shrub lands on the west side of the 10-foot, still-active volcano. An 8.5-mile roundtrip hike gets you to the Holua cabin set in a patch of greenery amid red sands and cinder cones of the crater—which is actually an eroded valley. Nene, the Hawaiian goose that is the state bird, like to congregate at the cabin with hikers.

On the way, the trail skirts the Ko'olau Gap, where one of Haleakala's more recent lava flows swept down the volcano to the sea and formed the Keanae Peninsula on what is today the Hana Highway. After the gap, the trail switchbacks down a cliff. The Halemau'u Trail is a popular car-shuttle route: Hikers start at the top on the Sliding Sands Trail and hike about 12 miles across, a trek that is more like the American Southwest than Hawaii. Complete directions are in the Maui Trailblazer guidebook.