It’s a strong claim to make, but few parks can rival what Hawaii’s Haleakalā National Park revealed to us a few weeks ago. Rising up into the clouds, this grand crown of Maui challenges and awes all who behold her summit. Haleakalā – meaning “House of the Sun” – is a dormant volcano rising over 10,000 feet with the feeling of another planet. Here life rises from stunning combinations of colors beyond the wildest imaginings of any painter.
We discovered this peak one early March morning while enjoying our sunrise reservation and capturing the sun in our fingers. I thought of the famous legend in which the god Maui lassoed the sun and made her promise to travel more slowly across the sky. Later during our hike into the “crater” (not really a crater), I realized this is a habitat where only gods and a few species like Silversword can survive. Indeed, it feels like a throne for forces mightier than ourselves.
In this stunning environment, you feel tiny.
The landscape of Haleakalā is a harsh beauty, yet the rocky slopes should not betray the delicate nature of this place. Over the 850 plant species in this national park, the few over 10,000 feet have a remarkable story of migration and survival. Their seeds likely traveled on the wind or through birds and took root in soils rarely touched by rainwater.
Enjoy the scenery, but come prepared
Traversing this land from the summit into the crater is like walking through a fairytale, complete with the dangers of old tales. It’s no joke to descend 2,000 feet into an area with thin air, no water, no cell service, and intense sun and winds. You can follow a travel for several miles along these slopes, but we were good with a 6 mile out and back (back meaning up and up).
All I can suggest is to prepare yourself for an ethereal experience, but come well prepared to enjoy it.