We can get down, but can we get back up?
June 18, 2007 4:28 PM   Subscribe

Haleakala for the novice hiker We're headed to Maui next week and are spending a couple of days upcountry, and would like to do some hiking in Haleakala. It's a fairly specific question so for those who are familiar with the park,

We're looking for a full day hike that will take us down into the crater, but the guides I can find seem to assume that if you even want to spend a full day hiking, you're completely buff.

So, for those who have gone, how doable is it for two novices to hike down Sliding Sands and back up Halemau'u? What about down Halemau'u to the Silversword Loop and back? Or does the fact that I can't look at this topo map and figure out how hard it would actually be mean it is beyond me?

I'm fine with a hard hike, but I don't want to make us miserable by trying something that's just beyond my capacity.
posted by bobot to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not an expert, but I do recall being faced with a similar predicament when I was there... my friend and I ended up just biting the bullet and doing a pretty strenuous hike. Add the fact that the air is pretty thin and your shoes get filled with rocks, and it's an adventure! But, we weren't in tremendous shape, and it's breathtakingly beautiful. Also, it's much cooler up there, making the hiking more pleasant.
posted by ORthey at 4:40 PM on June 18, 2007

I was just hiking in Haleakala a few weeks ago and...its hard. We also looked at the topo map and, figuring we might not have enough time we opted for a shorter hike down Sliding Sands (aptly named) to one of the first cinder cones. That "shorter hike" was enough to exhaust us novice hikers and used up all of our water.

The thing about it is its exactly like being in the desert. There is no shade, its hot and the sands don't provide much traction (sliding sands!) so you're working much harder than on a hard-dirt walk.

Also, hiking back out of the crater is a constant, steep incline. Its not something to take lightly.

All that said, you might be fine. The guides will err on the side of caution too since they have a lot of experience with novice hikers who simply cant make it. But their advice should be given extra worth for the reasons cited above.
posted by vacapinta at 4:42 PM on June 18, 2007

Best answer: The altitude is ~7000 feet at the caldera's floor and nearly 10,000 at the peak. If you know for sure you don't run into trouble with altitude sickness, you're fine - if you don't know that, expect to be surprised.

Sliding Sands trail is OK for a descent but you're smart to go back up via Halemau'u - on which you will find very different weather from Sliding Sands and the caldera floor. Prepare to get rained on.

You can make it to Kapalao'a cabin and back out of the caldera in a fairly ambitious day. Your route from the park HQ would be: down the common trail, branching right at Sliding Sands; Sliding Sands to Kapalao'a Cabin, or Bottomless Pit / Halemau'u; Halemau'u back to park HQ.

A'a lava will shred your shoes if they don't have good-quality solid rubber soles. This even goes for some kinds of sneakers. You also get a lot of sun up there and if you burn easily, beware.
posted by jet_silver at 4:59 PM on June 18, 2007

Have you been to Maui before and this is just something you want to try? My husband and I would love to go back and would love to go back to Haleakala but, as avid hikers, I don't think I'd want to hike around in there for all the reasons stated above. We did the sunrise thing up on the mountain (drove ourselves up) and it was amazing -- one of the most beautiful sights I've ever seen. I would do that again for sure.

And then I'd go hiking elsewhere on Maui -- I wish at the time we were there that we had been as fit and as interested in hiking as we are now. There's lots to see on Maui. Have fun!
posted by amanda at 6:44 PM on June 18, 2007

We went a ways down the sliding sands trail and back in the fall -- the hike out is surprisingly hard due to the altitude. We ski out west every year, and I felt far more affected hiking out of the crater than I ever have on a ski trip. I think that's the biggest obstacle. If you have experience at altitude and know you'll handle it well, go for it.
posted by rachelv at 10:40 AM on June 19, 2007

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