Hiking the Haleakala Crater has to be one of the more special things you can do in Maui. This massive, dormant volcanic crater offers spectacular vistas and a variety of hiking and camping options for all levels of explorers. Athletic folks looking for a day long excursion should opt for the 11.2 mile hike between the Keonehe’ehe’e (Sliding Sands) Trailhead and the Halemau’u Trailhead. Every mile of this journey ushered me into an environment unique from the one we’d passed through prior and unlike anything we get on the Mainland. The distinct portions of the crater hike were so rich and remarkable that I’ve organized a photo diary accordingly: Descent, Traverse, and Ascent. This Part I: Descent post covers our morning adventures, Parts II and III coming soon…

If you can get a permit and brave a very early morning wake up call, bundle up with a blanket at the Haleakala Visitor Center for sunrise over the crater walls. After finishing whatever coffee and breakfast you brought for yourself, and have completed the car shuttle, load up on water (I hiked with 3 liters), pack up your bag (including snacks and lunch) and set off along the Keonehe’ehe’e (Sliding Sands) Trailhead. At 9,740 ft high, this section of the trail into the crater valley is a dry one with little vegetation, but surely not without beauty. Be sure to have layers (it’s chilly) and ample sun protection for this highly exposed portion of the day. 



After about 2 miles of descending the trail, you’ll start to see vegetation. Keep an eye out for the famed Silversword (ʻāhinahina) plants, which are exclusively found in this crater and assume a variety of shapes over their 80 year lifespan.

Images by HonestlyFIT