A Tale of Two Very Different Trips Up Haleakala (Maui)

Blog Post created by razorbackfan on Mar 9, 2018

According to Fodor's Travel Guide Maui, "Nowhere else on earth can you drive from sea level (Kahului) to 10, 023 feet (the summit) in only 38 miles".  They go on to say "in that short vertical ascent, you'll journey from lush, tropical-island landscape to the stark, moonlike basin of the volcano's enormous, otherworldly crater".


It has always surprised me that when we travel to Maui in February to see the whales that bikinchris didn't seem to want to go up Haleakala for the picture taking opportunities.  I guess seeing the whales was more appealing; however, since we were going to be on Maui for 11 days, I thought we should take advantage of the extra time to travel up Haleakala.  We were not interested in leaving in the middle of the night to view the sunrise, so we decided to leave mid-morning.  Published travel times from Wailea was approximately 3 hours.


On the way up, the views of west Maui were beautiful.

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But the higher we climbed, the cloudier it got.  When we reached the Park Headquarters/Visitor Center (7,000 ft.),  the rangers were telling visitors that the summit was very cloudy; however, that could change minute-by-minute.  We decided since we had come that far, we would continue our journey.

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We were lucky enough to see Nene (Hawaiian Goose) dining in the cloudy conditions.

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The Nene were about the last thing we saw because we were in the clouds for the remainder of the journey to the summit.  When we got to the top, we didn't even try to get out of the car because the rain was blowing horizontally because of the strong winds.  You really couldn't see 5-feet in front of you, so there wasn't much point in getting out of the car.  We saw some people put on some of those flimsy little raincoats and head to the top in shorts and flip-flops, but they came back soaking wet.


We stopped at the Leleiwi Overlook (8840 ft.) on the way back down.  I walked about 50 yards and returned to the car because I couldn't see a thing!  We decided we would have to return another day.


On the day we were leaving (actually 10:15 pm), we woke up to an absolutely gorgeous day.  We decided to return to Haleakala.  As we were nearing Kahului, bikinchris commented "there's snow up there!" 


"No way", I said.  Famous last words.

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Yes, there was snow!  We continued up the mountain along with lots of locals and other tourists headed to see the snow.  We had to stop in traffic about 2-3 miles from the entrance where each car had to stop and pay.  It took about 1 1/2 - 2 hours sitting in traffic before we made it into the park.  I have a senior park pass, so I only had to show the pass and ID.  We later learned that the road to the summit had been closed most of the morning because of ice and snow, so the back-up was also due to that.

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We made a quick stop at the Headquarters Visitor Center before heading to the summit.  A lot of the snow had already melted, but it was fun being at the top with the locals who were seeing snow for the first time.


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On the way back down, we stopped at the Haleakala Visitor Center (9740 ft.)


Bikinchris did a time-lapse photo of these clouds moving across the valley which was quite interesting.

time lapse clouds.jpg

We stopped at Hosmer Grove (6750 ft.) which is about one mile below the Headquarters Visitor Center and took a short hike through the sub-alpine shrubland; however, we did not see any of the honeycreepers we were looking for.  We could hear lots of birds; but we were unable to identify any of their chirps.


Seeing the unexpected snow and enjoying it with the locals who had never seen snow made the second journey so worthwhile.