We started the first day of our backpacking trip at the top of Haleakala on Maui. Kauai trail map pdf is the trailhead for the Sliding Sands Trail. Over 9 miles of hiking later, we arrived at Palikū Cabin. There are three cabins inside Haleakala Crater: Hōlua Cabin, Kapalaoa Cabin and Palikū Cabin.
You can read about the Haleakala wilderness cabins here. Since Haleakala is a national park, the cabins are maintained by the National Parks Service. That means, they are in very good shape. The cabins are in high demand though. If you want to make a reservation you’ll have to book the cabins a few months in advance.
For this trip, my friend Josh booked two cabins on consecutive days. He specifically booked it for a time when silverswords would be in bloom. We took the first flight out from Honolulu and arrived in Maui super early. Zippy’s and picking up some food and water from Walmart, we made our way up the mountain. It takes a little over an hour to get to the top. The summit of Haleakala is over 10,000 feet above sea level so as you drive up the mountain you’ll find yourself above the clouds.
When you enter the park you’ll need to request a parking permit that let’s you park overnight for a few days. The lady behind the table is a park ranger and this is where campers check-in, show their permits and watch a short video about Haleakala. You’ll watch the video off the laptop. For those that don’t have two cars, it’s common practice for backpackers to hitchhike from the Halemau’u Trailhead to the visitors center. Start of the Sliding Sands trail.
Christina, Josh, Carli, Thomas and Sean. Switchbacks on Haleakala’s Sliding Sands Trail. The trail is super will maintained. The first section of the trail is a very popular day hike and one that I’ve always wanted to do. It was a treat to be able to hike it all the way to a cabin. It’s also cold at the top. You’ll want to dress in layers because the temperature will warm up quickly as you descend into the crater.
Also, the trailhead is something like 9,700ft above sea level so the air is thin. Try to spend at least 15 minutes hanging out around the visitors center before you start your hike to acclimate to the elevation. Here’s why this trail has been nicknamed the Sliding Sands Trail. Your path is made up of loose sand. Descending this trail, as we were doing, is easy. The loose footing wasn’t bothersome and no one ever slipped and fell. In fact, it felt nice under our feet.
But, if you made yourself a route that required hiking up this trail, I think the loose sand would make the hike more strenuous. A view of backpackers inside Haleakala crater. When you hike this trail you’ll feel like you’re on another planet. They call this an aeolian cinder desert.
Meaning it was made my aeolians. Which actually means the shape of the surface here was created by wind. Backpackers hiking inside Haleakala crater on the Sliding Sands Trail. As you descend through the crater the views get better and better. I should note that there are no trees for the first few miles and the shrubbery is limited. This is pertinent information because high elevation tends to make you more thirsty which makes you have to, you know.
We all made at least two pit stops at the Visitor Center restrooms before setting off on the hike. Inside the cinder desert of Haleakala crater. Another look at the aeolian cinder desert. Hiking into Haleakala Crater gives you a better view of the cinder cones.
The amount of color in here was surprising. We continued on down a series of switchbacks. You can see the grade of the switchbacks here. My knees where getting a little shaky from all this downhill hiking but I had one trekking pole. For most backpacking trips, I would recommended bringing at least one pole. Haleakala silverswords at Haleakala National Park. As we were approaching the bottom of the crater, we passed through a cluster of silverswords.
It was like being in a Dr. Josh takes a photo of a Haleakala silversword while backpacking in Haleakala crater. They are only found here on Haleakala at an elevation between 7,000ft and 10,000ft. The plant remains a compact rosette until the final few months of its life. Then the plants send up a flowering stalk with one to five hundered purple flower heads, sets seed, and dies. The silver hairs on the leaves protect the plant from the harsh ultra-violet rays of the sun and aid in water conservation.