How Long Is The Hike To Haleakala Crater? (And What Is The Best Way To Get There)

Haleakala is one of the few places in the world that offer you the chance to hike from the top to the bottom of a volcano.

The chance to hike, and explore a volcano that may or may not be active, and that sits in more than fifty square miles of National Park, is something that only Maui offers. 

That’s probably why the trail at Haleakala draws so many people each year.

But what’s the best way to hike Haleakala Crater? 

Sunset at the top of Haleakala Crater on Maui, Hawaii.

It Isn’t Easy to Hike Haleakala  

 Hiking Haleakala isn’t easy. 

There are over 30 miles of different trails in Haleakala National Park begging to be explored. 

That’s where it can become slightly confusing, as all of the trails in Haleakala are divergent, but the only one that anyone really cares about—and the trail that’s famous the world over—is the Sliding Sands trail, which is possibly the hardest in the whole park. 

And none of the options it offers are easy and definitely shouldn’t be taken lightly. 

Sliding Sands: From The Top To The Bottom

Sliding Sands is the trail that snakes from the top of Haleakala to the bottom of the crater, approximately 11 miles. 

Due to the elevation change, it usually takes an inexperienced hiker somewhere in the region of 11 hours to complete, while veterans usually complete the trail in about eight hours or so. 

It isn’t going down that’s the problem, it’s going back up and returning to the center at the summit that poses the problem.

The trail is long enough to pose a multi-day challenge to the most hardened hiker.

If you do want to choose the longer option, you will need to book one of the cabins situated along the trail as you’ll need somewhere to rest overnight before hiking back to your vehicle. 

The Best Way To Get To The Crater… And The Summit 

The only way to get to the crater of Haleakala is by hiking there.  But the good news is, you can drive to the top of the summit of Haleakala by car, park next to the visitor center, walk around the summit, and then hike down to the crater floor.

Driving to the summit is the fastest way to get to the crater.

If you’re really determined you can make it to the bottom in about 3 or 4 hours.

The bad news is that after you’ve hiked to the bottom of the crater the only way to get out of the crater is to hike back to the summit, which can take anywhere from 6 to 8 hours. What goes down in Haleakala, must come back up. 

Things You Need To Know Before Hiking In Haleakala National Park 

There is a strict set of rules and guidelines that you need to follow while hiking in Haleakala, all of which exist and are in place to protect the fragile Hawaiian ecosystem.

  • You’re not permitted to take any pets with you. 
  • No more than twelve people are permitted to hike in a single group.
  • You must stick to the designated trails at all times.
  • There are no supplies available in the Park or on Haleakala, so everything you need for your hike, you’ll need to pack and take with you.

Also, you’ll need to pay a one-off entrance fee when you enter the park and this “ticket” entry allows you to spend up to three days in Haleakala.

Just be aware that if you intend to spend the full 72 hours hiking in the park that your entry fee permits you to, you’ll need to arrange accommodation in one or more of the cabins on the trail. 

Last, but by no means least, as the summit of Haleakala is 10 thousand feet above sea level, there’s a pretty good chance that you might suffer from altitude sickness at the summit. And it’s a lot colder at the summit than it is at the crater floor, so you’ll need to pack (or be wearing) cold and warm weather clothing and gear.

Scroll to Top