Distance: 17.8km roundtrip
Elevation gain: 852m
Location: Haleakalā National Park, Hawaii
We visited Haleakalā National Park for two days back in 2019 while in Maui. The Sliding Sands trail is located in the summit district of the park where the temperature is often 20 degrees cooler than at sea level. The first day we drove up to the summit district we were so unprepared and showed up in shorts. Needless to say, we decided to hike the Sliding Sands the next day when we were dressed more appropriately (in pants).
There are various ways to hike the Sliding Sands ranging from a day-hike to a multi-day hike. For the multi-day hike, this trail leads to one of three cabins in the valley floor. For a shorter, more manageable hike, you can hike one-way into the crater floor, starting at the Haleakalā Visitors Center and hiking to Halemau’u. At the end there is a designated “hiker pick-up” area to hitch a ride back to your car. Alternatively, you can also hike this trail one-way and turn around and hike back the way you came. We opted for the latter as the park wasn’t busy since we were visiting in the off season and were worried that no one would give us a ride back to our car.
The trail starts at 10,000ft at the the Haleakalā Visitors Center. Despite the fact that the sun was shining and we were above the clouds, we were pretty cold at the start of our hike as there is no protection from the unrelenting wind.
The further we descended into the crater, the more sheltered we were from the wind. But there was zero protection from the sun.
We were lulled into a false sense of security. It was so easy (too easy) simply winding our way down to the crater floor. Especially since the views of the cinder cones and volcanic landscape just kept getting better along the way.
At 6.3km in, the path leads to the valley floor. We continued walking along this, pausing for a snack when we reached the junction for the path that leads to Halemau’u or Kapaloa.
We strolled along the path to Kapaloa, which was quite pleasant as there were these colourful ferns on either side of the path. We’re not sure whether we made it to the end of the Sliding Sands trail, but turned around once the path started to ascend. We’d have enough uphill on our return journey to the car and wanted to conserve our energy (and water).
This turned out to be a good call as, let me tell you, I was a huffin’ and a puffin’ with even the slightest bit of elevation gain. Every 300-500m or so I’d need to stop to just catch my breath. It’s the altitude! It took nearly three times as long to walk back up than it did coming down.
After taking many breaks to rest, reapply sunscreen, and drink lots of water, we eventually made our way back to the parking lot. It was a strenuous day of hiking, but the views along the way were well worth the effort.
To read more about my adventures in Haleakalā National Park, click here.