HALEAKALA NATIONAL PARK
OPEN TO VISITATION FOR OVER 100 YEARS
HALEAKALA NATIONAL PARK WAS NAMED AN INTERNATIONAL BIOSPHERE RESERVE IN 1980.
Haleakala National Park contains one of two volcanoes that make up the island of Maui. The West Maui Mountains were the first volcano to rise above sea level some 2 million years ago. Haleakala is estimated to be around 1 million years old. The summit tops out at 10,023 ft and if measured from its base on the ocean floor the summit Haleakala volcano is approximately 30,000 ft tall! Along with Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea volcanoes on the Big Island, these volcanoes comprise the three tallest mountains on earth!
THE HISTORICAL BEGINNINGS &
USES OF MOUNT HALEAKALA
The history of the Haleakala volcano starts with its rise from the ocean approximately 1 million years ago. Successive lava flows continuously built up the land. As the height increased the mountain began to create its own weather from the moisture laden sea breezes and trade winds. Gulches and valleys were formed by erosion from the rains captured by the mountain slopes. By the time the first wave of polynesian settlers arrived between 400 and 600 A.D. the landscape of the mountain was sparse with shrublands and cinder plains above the upland forests. The first polynesian settlers surely declared it sacred, as was common with large mountains in ancient times. In the Hawaiian language Haleakala means “House of the Sun” and legend tells of the demi-god Maui (a powerful and super-natural god known throughout polynesia) who lassoed the sun to slow its progress across the sky. This enabled his mother (and consequently the Hawaiian people) to live more comfortably on the land.
Found within Haleakala National Park boundaries;
- Numerous archaeological sites including heiau, platforms, pictographs.
- Sling stones and tools have been found which quarried here; used to hunt birds for their feathers.
- Sacred places used for religious ceremonies and training of priests and celestial navigators
- Ancient Hawaiians buried there royal dead in remote, isolated places. This made the crater a favorite burial spot for royalty.
- Ancient paved paths through the crater provided emergency access to east Maui.
HALEAKALA NATIONAL PARK’S WEATHER & ENVIRONMENTS
The weather along the slopes of the mountain and within the crater valley vary widely, as most alpine regions of the planet do. Of the 20 recognized climate zones on earth Maui has 17 of them. Many of these “microclimates” are scattered throughout the Park in both the Crater and Kipahulu districts of the park. Visitors can experience many of them on the well-maintained hiking trails within the park.
Visitors are often surprised at how cold it can be at 10,000 ft…even though the tropical climate at the beach on the same day averages around 75 to 85 degrees year round. At the summit the weather can be highly unpredictable and can change fast. Freezing wind chill temperatures can happen at any time but for the most part summers are dry and warm. Winter months can be wet, windy and cold and there is usually at least a few days per year that the summit gets a dusting of snow!
The summit area rises 10,023 feet above the ocean and looks down into a massive crater some 7 miles across, 2 miles wide and close to 3000 ft deep. At the summit the expansive views take in four islands on a clear day making it one of the most impressive experiences in all of Hawaii. Well over half of all Maui visitors visit Haleakala Crater. They make the arduous journey up the switchback road rising from sea level to 10,000 ft in only 38 miles…one of the shortest ascending roads to this elevation in the world.
The inside of Haleakala crater is actually not a crater at all. What you’re looking at from the summit is two separate parts of the volcano that collapsed into each other creating a valley. Subsequent eruptions formed the cinder cones you see on the crater floor. Erosion over thousands of years formed the flowing colors that seem to have been poured over and down the crater rim. For the fit and adventurous types there is camping and rustic cabins within the crater as well as ranger guided day hikes from the summit.
The earliest radiocarbon dating of human activity can be found on the Hana side of Haleakala National Park (Kipahulu and the Pools of Oheo area). Early polynesians arrived here around 1100 to 1300 A.D. It is estimated that the mountain may have been active during this time (erupting 10 times in the last 1000 years) which may be why hundreds of years passed before evidence of Hawaiians venturing into the summit regions appeared. Mostly Hawaiians entered the park’s wilderness and crater for ceremonial purposes and for religious instruction and training. Today the Pools of Oheo in the Kipahulu district of the park near Hana is one of the most popular scenic areas of the island.
WHAT TO EXPECT AT THE SUMMIT OF HALEAKALA
Hawaii is full of stunning natural wonders but one of the most impressive is Haleakala National Park. Split into two distinct areas, Haleakala National Park covers more than 27 square miles at the summit and 19 square miles at Kipahulu Valley which runs from the top of the volcano’s eastern slope down to the ocean at the Pools of Oheo. Of Kipahulu’s 46 square miles approximately 38 square miles are remote wilderness areas.
The weather at the summit is constantly changing and pretty tough to accurately forecast. This is because the mountain creates it’s own weather every day. Light rains and winds at sea level create scenes of rainbows and softly waving palm trees, but at 10,000 ft these become driving rain and winds that can reach 70 to 80 miles an hour!
At sunrise the temperature averages in the high 30’s to low 40’s but it rises quickly after sun up. By noon on a clear day the crater can be a balmy 65 to 75 degrees. The sun’s radiation is intense at this elevation so be sure to use sunscreen. Average temperatures during the day can range wildly at the summit and are mostly influenced by the clouds. The radiation from the sun at the top of the mountain can make a cool 70 degrees in bright sun feel like 80. If it’s cloudy it can be cold and damp and that 60 or 70 degrees can feel like 40.
Most of Maui at sea level is a steady 75 to 85 degrees year around. This is not the case at the summit or in the crater. In the winter months it can be cold enough to snow with winds reaching 50 to 80 miles per hour in which case the park can close. Keep an eye on the weather before heading up the mountain through the National Weather Services summit forecast page.
NATIVE HAWAIIAN CULTURAL & HISTORICAL PRACTICES IN THE PARK
HALEAKALA NATIONAL PARK FACTS, HISTORICAL TIMELINES & MILESTONES
1164 – 1384: The current earliest evidence using calibrated radiocarbon testing shows dates ranging between 1164 A.D. and 1384 A.D. for Hawaiian habitation of the Kīpahulu area near Hana.
1828: The first written record of an ascent to the summit of Haleakala was made by three missionaries in 1828. (Richard Green, Lorrin Andrews & William Richards)
1841: Charles Wilkes of the United States Exploring Expedition traversed and mapped Haleakala crater and summit.
1888: Haleakala Ranch is established. Grazing of cattle begins on the slopes of Haleakala with cattle being pastured inside and outside of Haleakala Crater until 1922. Ranching is established in Hana’s Kīpahulu district after sugar production ends in the mid-1920’s.
1890: Sunrise viewing at the summit of Haleakala had become a prime attraction. Horseback rides from Makawao to the summit began at 2:00am.
1894: The Crater Rest House was built at the crater’s rim near today’s Kalahaku Overlook.
1900: Organized tours to the summit increased with horseback expeditions originating from the Olinda area of upcountry Maui.
1915: Considered essential for the growth of tourism on Maui, local officials begin considering routes for a road to the summit as early as 1915.
1916: Hawai’i National Parks is established as a combination of three locations; Kilauea and Mauna Loa on the Big Island of Hawai’i and Haleakala on Maui.
1924-1925: Sleeping quarters, a concrete water tank and a lookout room were added to the Crater Rest House.
1925: Support for a road to the summit is granted by the U.S. Congress.
1933 – 1935: Finally a road to Haleakala’s summit is built and completed in two years.
1936: The Haleakala Headquarters and Visitor Center at the park entrance is completed.
1937: Backcountry cabins are built and the trails to them are completed.
1941-1943: After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Haleakala National Park and the crater were closed to the public. It was occupied by the U.S. Army for training between 1941 and 1943. During this time buildings and a road were built to Red Hill where today’s observatories reside.
1950: The upper Red Hill road is open to the public for viewing the eruption of Mauna Loa in 1950.
1951: The upper slopes of Kipahulu Valley are added to Hawai’i National Park lands.
1954: Construction for a road and facilities begins for what would become Haleakala Observatories (also known as Science City).
1958: The Park headquarters is completed.
1961: Hawai’i National Parks is divided into two separate parks; Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park and Haleakala National Park.
1962: Hawai’i State bird, the Nene Goose, is reintroduced to Haleakala in 1962. The geese have not been seen on the island since the 1890’s due to predation by introduced cats, rats, and mongoose, as well as habitat destruction from grazing cattle.
1963: Pu’u ‘Ua’ula (Red Hill) observatory and summit parking lot is built.
1969: Lower Kipahulu Valley and its coastal area are added to Haleakala National Park which includes the Pools of Oheo.
1974: Haleakala Crater is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
1976: Fencing of park boundary begins. The fencing is designed to exclude feral animals such as goats and deer in order to protect park resources. This work continues today.
1980: The park is designated as an International Biosphere Reserve.
1999: Ka’apahu lands are added and the upper Kipahulu areas are enlarged.
2008: Former Nu’u Ranchlands in the Kaupo area are added to the parklands.
2015: Commercial-free days (no tour vans or vendors allowed) are added for Native Hawaiians to conduct cultural practices. Today about 5 of these days occur each year.
2016: Over 300 silverswords planted to strengthen at-risk populations in the summit area of the park.
HALEAKALA NATIONAL PARK HAS THE LARGEST CONCENTRATION OF ENDANGERED SPECIES OF ANY NATIONAL PARK.
By the late 1880’s cattle ranching and sugarcane production were in full swing in Maui. Unfortunately this also accelerated the destruction of habitats. Cattle, goats and pigs roamed the upper slopes and within the crater destroying the fragile plant life. Cattle were taken off the land by 1922, 6 years after the area became a National Park in 1916.
Thanks to the hard work of the National Park Service and non profits such as the East Maui Watershed Partnership the last nine miles of a 65 mile boundary fencing were completed in 2006. The fence surrounds 12,000 acres of rainforest keeping feral pigs, goats and axis deer from munching the rare plants of this lush alpine rainforest. Haleakala National Park plants & animals protected by this fence are seeing a noticeable rebound.
Haleakala National Park is the only National Park completely surrounded by a boundary fence. The invasive animals have been eradicated within the park boundary but they do sometimes breach the fences. The Parks Service is consistently monitoring the miles of remote fenceline with drones and helicoptering into remote areas for repairs. Their hard work has payed off as many endangered ecosystems are making a comeback. Plants and animals have been reintroduced and the efforts continues today.
WRONG SPELLINGS OF HALEAKALĀ
All over the internet we see all sorts of ways that the name of this National Park is spelt. It’s interesting to read through…