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Sliding Sands Trail

Haleakala National Park

June 29th, 2012

3.0 miles
980 vertical feet
Total Time: 2:31

Starting elevation
9806 feet
Max elevation
9851 feet

Rating: 7/10

Directions: From Kahului, take the Haleakala Highway. Turn left onto State Highway 377. Next, turn left onto State Highway 378 at the sign for Haleakala National Park and drive up the winding road to the park entrance. Pass the first visitor's center on the right, then continue on up the road to the second visitor's center near the summit, on the left. The trail starts near the entrance to the parking lot.   View Driving Map

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GPX File

We'd driven from an elevation of about 3000 feet to nearly the top of Haleakala, elevation over 10,000 feet. As you can imagine the lack of oxygen affected us a little. Thankfully, the start of the trail is mostly flat or downhill.

One interesting aspect of the hike was that it started above the clouds. After driving under cloud cover most of the way up the mountain, we drove above the clouds and were now looking down on them.

The visitor's center parking lot where the trail starts was nearly full when we arrived around 11am. After prepping, we started off on the trail, which starts near the entrance to the parking lot. We immediately had views of the observatories on the summit. The trail parallels the road very briefly, then turns left away from the road.

Start of the trail

Observatories near the summit

Looking across the road and down to the clouds

Almost everywhere you look, the land is mostly barren. There are bushes here and there, but there's mostly rock and sand. After a very short climb, the trail flattens out. Soon, we reached our first views. A sign told us that what we were looking down at was not a crater, but the result of erosion.

One of the first views of the valley

Descending to a nice viewpoint

Curving trail

The trail traverses the curves of the mountainsides, without the need for much in the way of switchbacks. There are no trees for the trail to maneuver around, no hard edges. Only a very gradual descent with views in all directions.

Hikers at the viewpoint

You'll probably see horse manure on the trail, although we didn't actually see any horses, which must have gone on the trail before us. You'll also see a lot of people. It's the type of trail that you can walk on for as long or short as you want. Someone could walk 10-15 minutes and still get decent views. I didn't have any particular goal in mind. I figured we'd just walk for 1-2 miles, have lunch, and return.

Clouds on the edge of the valley

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As we continued our descent, we could see clouds at the edges of the valley, far below. Although much of the land was barren, it wasn't uniform. The land had several different colors, including browns, reds, and oranges, and even some greens further away, at lower elevations.

Hikers on the sandy trail

After hiking for about 1.5 miles, we found a nice spot to sit down for lunch, just off the trail. A couple other groups were stopped nearby for lunch, as well. After lunch we headed back up the trail. Going uphill was taxing given the high altitude, but we made good progress. We climbed nearly 1000 feet, back to the flat area, then descended back toward the road and returned to the parking lot.

View from our lunch stop

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