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Preparing for the Backcountry of Haleakalā National Park

To thoroughly enjoy your backcountry experience at Haleakalā, whether it’s for an hour, a day, or multiple days, you need to be fully prepared. Here are helpful tips for hiking in the backcountry at Haleakalā National Park.

Tip #1: Plan ahead

 Select a route and destination, keeping in mind the distance and ability of other hikers in
your group, including kids.
 Hiking uphill takes about twice the time it takes to hike downhill.
 Check the visitor center for updates on weather or trail conditions.
 Always carry a map. Maps are available at www.nps.gov/hale or the visitor center.

Tip #2: Have the right gear and supplies

 Wear sturdy hiking shoes or boots with ankle support.
 Carry adequate amounts of water and food.
 Water is only available at remote cabins, and must be treated.
 Dress in layers for a variety of weather conditions.
 Use a comfortable backpack.
 Pack essential items in a plastic bag inside of your backpack to keep items dry.

Tip #3: Be prepared for emergencies

 There is no cell phone coverage through most of the backcountry. You must be self reliant during emergencies. Help may not be available for hours or days.
 Carry a first aid kit, flashlight, signal mirror, and survival gear. Your life might depend on it!

Suggested Hiking Gear: Backpack, Hiking shoes, Water, Food, Raingear, Warm jacket, Synthetic clothing for layering, Sunscreen, Sunglasses, Hat, Flashlight, Map, First aid kit, Medications,
Survival kit (signal mirror, matches, knife, compass), Warm sleeping bag, Water filter

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To thoroughly enjoy your backcountry experience at Haleakalā, whether it’s for an hour, a day, or multiple days, you need to be fully prepared. Here are helpful tips for hiking in the backcountry at Haleakalā National Park.


There is no better way to experience Haleakalā National Park than on your own two feet. Enjoy the great outdoors on a variety of trails. Due to the fragile nature of Hawaiian ecosystems, it is required by law that hikers stay on marked trails. Hiking groups are limited to 12 people. If your group is larger than 12 you will need to split into two or more groups and separate each group by 30 minutes on the trail. Pets are prohibited on all trails. No food, supplies, or gas are available in the park.

For those planning to hike the Kaupō Trail, please be aware that:

a. Kaupō Trail is not within park boundaries and is not maintained by NPS

b. It is a rugged, unimproved trail and injuries have occurred

c. Visitors go at their own risk

d. NPS recommends that visitors use Crater trails only.

Summit Area

The summit area of Haleakalā National Park has over 30 miles (48 km) of hiking trails. Trails range from just 10 minutes to multi-day overnight trips. You can hike in the native shrubland, looking for native forest birds and endemic plants, or in the aeolian cinder desert, exploring the geologic history of the volcano.

When beginning your hike on a downward slope, allow for twice the time hiking to get out, e.g. 15 minutes hiking down + 30 minutes up = 45 minute hike. Soft cinder trails create hiking conditions similiar to walking on a beach in some areas.

Trails are strenuous in the Summit Area because the high-elevation causes a lower concentration of oxygen in each breath. Altitude sickness is a concern. Be on guard for symptoms: nausea, headache, dizziness, and shortness of breath. Pregnant women and people with heart or respiratory conditions should consult their doctor before visiting and hiking in the Summit Area.

Temperatures commonly range between 30 to 65 degrees F (-1 to +18 degrees C), and can reach below freezing at any time with the wind-chill factor. Hypothermia is a danger. Hikers must be properly prepared for high altitudes and cold, rainy conditions. Weather in the Summit Area is unpredictable and ever-changing. Prepare for harsh UV rays, wind, rain, and cold temperatures year-round.

What to bring:
- Sun protection (hat, sunglasses, sunblock)
- Cold/wet weather clothing (raingear, pants, jacket, poncho)
- Food (no food for sale in the park)
- Water bottles (drinking water available at all visitor centers)
- Sturdy shoes (hiking boots or athletic shoes)


Alpine Desert Hikes

View the endemic ‘āhinahina (silversword), other small plants, ancient lava flows and pu‘u (hills denoting old eruption sites).
View of the Summit from Pā Ka‘oao Trail at night.
View of the Summit from Pā Ka‘oao Trail at night.

Rick LaRocca

Pele's Paint Pot
The area unofficially referred to as "Pele's Paint Pot," known for its vibrantly colored cinder.

Jonathan Irish, National Geographic

Trail name Description Distance/elevation change
Pā Ka‘oao
Hike up the pu‘u next to Haleakalā Visitor Center to view ancient rock wall shelters and the crater. 0.4 mile (0.64 km) round trip.100 ft (30 m) elevation change.
Keonehe‘ehe‘e (Sliding Sands)
CLOSED - Monday-Thursday

*FIrst 2.5 miles OPEN Friday-Sunday, starting 9/4/20*
Hike downhill into the crater. The trailhead is in the Haleakalā Visitor Center parking lot near the road. Distance to the first overlook is 0.50 mile (0.8 km) round trip, with a 50 ft (15 m) elevation change. Beyond that, refer to distances and elevations on the map.
Keonehe‘ehe‘e (Sliding Sands)
Hike across the crater to Halemau'u Trail. The trailhead is in the Haleakalā Visitor Center parking lot near the road. A popular 11-mile (17.8 km) full-day hike begins at Keonehe‘ehe‘e Trailhead, crosses the valley floor, and ends at Halemau'u (7,990 ft/2,436 m elevation). The park cannot offer hiker shuttles, so consider using the “hiker pick-up” near here.

Points of interest:
The "crater floor" is 3.9 miles down one way. The elevation change is almost 2,500 ft/762 m.

"Pele's Paint Pot" (about 5.7 miles in) is roughly the halfway point of this hike, near
the north side of Halāli'i cinder cone.

Kawilinau (also about 5.7 miles in) was formerly called the "bottomless pit." The volcanic pit is 65 feet deep.

View both of these areas after reaching the crater floor and heading north towards Halemau'u.

Note: Plan ahead! Park visitation slows in inclement weather, decreasing the number of visitors who might offer you a ride up to Keonehe'ehe'e Trail parking lot. We recommend parking your vehicle at Halemau'u and hitchhiking up to Keonehe'ehe'e at the beginning of your hike. Upon concluding your hike, you will have immediate access to your vehicle at Halemau'u.


Subalpine Shrubland Hikes

View large trees and shrubs, including many critical to nēnē (the Hawaiian goose) and otherendemic, endangered species.
Rainbow Bridge at Halemau'u
Halemau'u Trail at "Rainbow Bridge" on a clear day. To the left of the trail is the Ko'olau Gap; to the right of the trail is the crater floor.

Forest and Kim Starr

Hosmer Sign
Pūkiawe, a native shrub, encroaches on a trail sign.

Asa Ellison

Trail Name Description Distance and elevation change
Leleiwi Overlook
Carefully cross the park road to the trailhead for a short walk to a crater viewpoint. 0.30 mile (0.48 km) roundtrip. 100 ft (30 m) elevation change.
Halemau‘u Trail
Hike 1.1 miles (1.8 km) on a rocky path to a crater viewpoint. A popular destination on this hike is a natural land bridge commonly referred to as "Rainbow Bridge." This area is about 0.25 miles from the first crater viewpoint. Hiking past this will take you down switchbacks carved into the crater walls.

It is a little over 2 miles one way to reach the crater floor from the trailhead.
2.2 miles (3.6 km) round trip. 400 ft (123 m) elevation change.
Supply Trail
Hike to the junction with the Halemau'u Trail. 4.6 miles (7.4 km) roundtrip. 975 ft (297 m) elevation change.
Hosmer Grove
Compare non-native trees (planted before the park’s establishment, to control erosion) and native shrubland. View honeycreepers found nowhere else on earth. 0.54 mile (0.87 km) loop trail. 50 ft (15 m) elevation change.

Kīpahulu District

This remote district is only accessible via the Hana Highway. Prepare for hot, humid, rainy weather. Enjoy hiking to two waterfalls, car camping (free; 3 night limit), cultural demonstrations, and exhibits. Due to flash floods and rock slides, swimming is not recommended in ‘Ohe‘o Gulch.

Pools at 'Ohe'o
The Pools at 'Ohe'o during sunset.

Chris Archer


Coastal District Hikes

Trail name Description Distance and elevation change
Pīpīwai Trail
Take a hike up a trail that winds through a freshwater stream and diverse forest areas with views of waterfalls and other natural features. This trail is moderately strenuous.

Points of interest:

Makahiku Overlook will give you your first glimpse of a waterfall, Makahiku Falls, at 0.5 miles in.

The bamboo forest can be found about one mile in. Visitors can expect to see boardwalks and footbridges.

Waimoku Falls viewing area brings visitors to the end of Pīpīwai Trail after two miles (one way). This hike to this area gains 800 feet in elevation.

Note: check and comply with posted trail closures before heading out. Off-trail travel is dangerous and illegal.
4 miles (roundtrip), 800 ft elevation change.
Kūloa Point Trail
This trail leaves the Kīpahulu Visitor Center and continues past a Hawaiian cultural demonstration area to Kuloa Point at the mouth of 'Ohe'o Gulch. Here, you will find beautiful ocean views and archaeological sites. This trail is popular for viewing the Pools of 'Ohe'o, also sometimes called the "Seven Sacred Pools." The pools are sometimes closed to swimming because of hazardous conditions. The "alerts" section of the page will inform you of pool/stream closures. 0.5 mi (total), 80 ft elevation change

Help Stop The Spread of Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death

We need your kōkua (help) to deter a plant disease from reaching native forests on Maui. Click here to learn how you can do your part.

‘Ōhi‘a lehua blossoms
‘Ōhi‘a lehua blossoms on a healthy tree.


Last updated: September 3, 2020

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

Haleakalā National Park
PO Box 369

Makawao, HI 96768


(808) 572-4400

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