I love the drive up Haleakala. It’s deceptive to look up at the dormant volcano from Kihei – it really doesn’t look that high, but the summit is 10,023 ft high. Haleakala is in fact taller than Mount Everest if measured from its base at the ocean floor, coming in at 29,703 ft total elevation. Of course, you can’t hike those lower 19,680 ft below sea level.
Driving up Haleakala? Slow down please – it’s nene nesting season
Once you reach the national park gates, it is a slow windy drive to the summit. There are no trees, just low lying brush, grasses and silver sword (found only on Haleakala).
The nene (pronounced ‘nay-nay’) bird is Hawaii’s state bird and on the endangered species list. Small numbers live in Haleakala State Park. The Park currently has a warning posted on their website, urging motorists to drive cautiously and watch for nenes on the road and in the parking lot. It is nesting season and rangers want to make sure these nearly extinct birds have a chance at a come-back.
Did you know, according to National Geographic the nene bird is a relative to the Canada Goose?
Do you need to hike to look into the crater valley? No! Park at the main parking lot at the summit and it’s a short walk to the visitor center where you can gaze down into the amazing crater valley. Can you hike into the valley? Sure thing! A couple things to be aware of: 1. please stay on the marked trails. Haleakala’s silver sword plants grow only on Haleakala and can die if you step on the ground around them (they have delicate root systems). 2. the dirt inside the crater valley is actually part ash. Bring something to protect your eyes and face (a bandana perhaps) for when the wind picks up. 3. you are at 10,000 ft elevation. It will be significantly cooler than at sea level. In fact, on January 5th the summit area was closed due to snow and ice. Yes, snow and ice on Maui, rare, but it can happen. 4. bring a camera – the scenery is absolutely amazing!!