Haleakala National Park, Maui Hawaii
Celebrate The Park’s 100th Year By Visiting This Unique Biosphere
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 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;
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 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!
By sunset (which are also spectacular from up here) the summit is cooling quickly into the mid 50’s to low 60’s depending on the elevation. Two or so hours after sunset you’ll be scrambling for a jacket as the 50’s turn to 40’s rather quickly. However full moons are amazing from the summit (with guided ranger hikes too!) and if you time it right you can watch the sunset and the full moonrise at the same time!
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.
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.
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.
In 1841 Charles Wilkes of the United States Exploring Expedition traversed and mapped Haleakala crater and summit.
In 1890 sunrise viewing at the summit of Haleakala had become a prime attraction. Horseback rides from Makawao to the summit began at 2:00am.
Organized tours to the summit increased with horseback expeditions originating from the Olinda area of upcountry Maui.
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.
Support for a road to the summit is granted by the U.S. Congress.
The Haleakala Headquarters and Visitor Center at the park entrance is completed.
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.
In 1951 the upper slopes of Kipahulu Valley are added to Hawai’i National Park lands.
The Park headquarters is completed.
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.
Lower Kipahulu Valley and its coastal area are added to Haleakala National Park which includes the Pools of Oheo.
The park is designated as an International Biosphere Reserve.
Ka’apahu lands are added and the upper Kipahulu areas are enlarged.
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.
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)
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.
The Crater Rest House was built at the crater’s rim near today’s Kalahaku Overlook
Considered essential for the growth of tourism on Maui, local officials begin considering routes for a road to the summit as early as 1915.
Sleeping quarters, a concrete water tank and a lookout room were added to the Crater Rest House.
Finally a road to Haleakala’s summit is built and completed in two years.
Backcountry cabins are built and the trails to them are completed.
The upper Red Hill road is open to the public for viewing the eruption of Mauna Loa in 1950.
Construction for a road and facilities begins for what would become Haleakala Observatories (also known as Science City).
Hawai’i National Parks is divided into two separate parks; Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park and Haleakala National Park.
Pu’u ‘Ua’ula (Red Hill) observatory and summit parking lot is built.
An expedition into the upper Kipahulu Valley in 1967 discovers many new native Hawaiian species and rare birds thought to be extinct.
Haleakala Crater is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
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.
Former Nu’u Ranchlands in the Kaupo area are added to the parklands.
Over 300 silverswords planted to strengthen at-risk populations in the summit area of the park.
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…