Haleakala National Park stretches across 28,655 of Maui, climbing from sea level to 20,023 feet and contains Haleakala Volcano. The environment changes rapidly and dramatically with the altitude, from subtropical rainforest at sea level to subalpine desert in the crater.
Credit: Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau
As you drive up toward the summit of Mount Haleakala, you'll pass through the town of Pukalani, which literally means hole to heavenan apt description as you penetrate an omnipresent ring of clouds hovering between 4,000 and 8,000 feet. At 9,745 feet, the Sun Visitor Center sits on the edge of the crater rim. At 10,023 feet, the Puu Ulaula overlook offers a 360-degree panorama that sweeps in the islands of Hawaii, Lanai, Molokai, Oahu, and Kahoolawe.
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The 8.4-mile Kuapo Gap Trail descends 6,100 feet from the lush eastern corner of the Haleakala Crater to the dry, rocky coastline of southeast Maui. The Kuapo Gap is a giant crack in the wall of the crater that once spilled huge lava flows to the sea. Short switchbacks through this volcanic moonscape alternate with steep stretches of trail during the first part of the hike.
Credit: National Park Service
A long, winding coastal road connects to the Kipahulu section of the parkdesignated the Kipahulu Valley Biological Reserve. Attractions in this area include hiking trails to waterfalls, natural swimming pools, and a campground.
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Visitors arrive at the summit of Haleakala in the early morning hours to watch the sunrise. The park is open 24 hours a day to cater to night owls as well; if you want to feel as though the stars are at your fingertips and get a great view of the Milky Way, this is probably one of the best locations to do so. Make sure to bring layers of clothing, as the summit can get quite cold.
The wilderness area of Haleakala covers 24,719 acres of the park and a variety of microclimates. Take a day hike in the area or plan a longer excursion into the backcountry, or stay in one of three historic cabins along the trail.
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But no matter where you go in the park, the ratio benefits nature-lovers; 19,270 of Haleakala National Park's 28,655 acres are wilderness.