Few people go to Maui to spend it freezing in a tent in the rain. I know this because in three days of hiking through Haleakala National Park, I did not see another soul on the backcountry trails. And I wouldn’t have traded my experience for three extra days on the beach. No way.
Day 1: Circle of Waterfalls
Leapt, without looking
And tumbled into the Seine
The water was freezing
She spent a month sneezing
But said she would do it again…
from Audition, La La Land
With a time change of four hours, we were up bright and early and left the hotel in the dark to avoid the alleged difficult road and traffic on the Hana Highway. Our goal–circle the east side of Maui, seeking out awesome pools and waterfalls.
We had the highway to ourselves and were able to hike to our first hidden pool by the light of our headlamps. We drove off the highway for a detour to see the sunrise at Hanomanu Bay.
A dozen awesome waterfalls later, we landed on the southeast side of Maui at the base of Haleakala National Park to hike the 4-mile Pipiwai Trail through an incredible bamboo forest up to Waimoku Falls.
Day one complete. Our warm up for what Haleakala had to dish out the next 2 days.
Day 2: Summit to Paliku
She told me
“A bit of madness is key
To give us new colors to see
Who knows where it will lead us?
And that’s why they need us”
from Audition, La La Land
In the morning, we drove to the 10,000 ft. summit of Haleakala to find the crater below invisible–completely socked in with clouds. We dropped off our gear at the visitor’s center then staged a car at the Halemalu’u Trailhead. My husband hitched a ride back to the summit via the handy hiker’s hitching spot.
We took the Sliding Sands Trail all the way to Paliku (yellow line above), a wilderness backcountry campsite.
We stopped for lunch at the Kapalaoa trail junction for a snack after descending 2490 feet and traveling 5.6 miles.
We continued for the next two miles through a hot and rough trail of lava rock. The last mile offered relief from the rock and descended down into the Kaupo gap. We reached the Paliku campsite after a total of a 3360 ft elevation drop and 9.1 mile hike from our starting position. The total walk took us 5.5 hours.
We had a few hours to set up camp before the gap became completely socked in with clouds, wind, and rain. During that time, I took a stroll before sunset down part of the Kaupo trail to get a good view of the ocean and the 13,000 ft. Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea volcanos in the distance on The Big Island.
Day 3: Paliku to Halemalu’u
She captured a feeling
Sky with no ceiling
The sunset inside a framefrom Audition, La La Land
After epic winds and rain pelted our tent all night, a sudden calm woke me at 3:30 AM. We got out of the tent and were treated to a sky filled with so many stars there was hardly room for the inky blackness to spill between them. After 30 minutes of “wow” we slept until dawn and were met with rain again in the morning as we began our wet hike out via the Halemalu’u Trail.
We were treated with a new landscape on the way back, less sharp lava and more “grassland-like” terrain for the first 5K. Then our landscape turned into a walk on “Mars” for the next 5K until we reached the wilderness camp of Holua.
After lunch we had the grueling job of climbing out of the crater on a 3.7 mile switchback up 1000 ft. to Halemalu’u overlook where we staged the car. A total of 10.3 miles for Day 3.
Were we tired? Yes. Were we sore? Yes. Were we glad we did Hawaii differently? Yes.
And, yes, I’d do it again.