Haleakalā National Park, Maui, Hawaii
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Haleakala National Park, on Hawaii’s island of Maui, was established in 1916 as part of what was then known as Hawaii National Park. In 1960 the portion of the park that was located on the Big Island of Hawaii was split off from Haleakala with each section having its own identity in the National Parks System. Haleakala National Park stretches across Maui’s south and east coastlines and is home to its namesake and Maui’s tallest peak, Haleakala volcano. Haleakala rises 10,023 feet above sea level and is seen from virtually every spot on the island of Maui. Also named a United Nations International Biosphere Reserve, the park comprises starkly contrasting worlds of mountain and coast. The road to the summit of Haleakala is possibly the steepest grade for autos in the world.
In the Hawaiian language, Haleakala means “House of the Sun” and is so named for an ancient legend that has the patron god of the island roping the sun from the summit of the volcano so as to slow the sunset and provide longer periods of daylight for the islanders. Visitors and residents on the island make early morning drives to the Haleakala Visitor Center high on the mountainside to watch unforgettable sunrises and sunsets. Hiking and horseback riding above the clouds on the many trails that offer incredible vistas and a sense of solitude is a favorite pursuit of those visiting Haleakala. Visitors to the park interested in hiking can day hike, choose to spend the night in a tent at one of the two wilderness campgrounds or reserve one of three historic cabins along the trail. Bicycling down the main road at sunrise is also a very popular adventure enjoyed by visitors to the park. Scenic drives within the park include a great number of lookout spots and incredibly clear night skies make Haleakala one of the best places in the USA for amateur astronomers. Local merchants provide binocular and telescope rentals for visitors that left theirs at home.
Haleakala National Park is believed to have more threatened and endangered species than any other park in the National Park System. The primary threat to Haleakala National Park is from alien species (non-native plants and animals that do not naturally occur in Hawaii). Among the flora and fauna found among the extensive lava flows, ash and cinder cones within the park are the protected Hawaiian geese, known as “Nene” and the very rare Silversword plant, the blooming Ahinahina, a flowering plant that seemingly grows where nothing should within the barren landscape. The park extends from the volcano’s peak to sea level and has a number of unique micro-climates within its boundary presenting a dramatic landscape seemingly at the top of the world with widely varying temperatures.
Away from the peak of the volcano but within the park’s boundary is the Kipahulu area of Haleakala National Park. Kipahulu can be accessed by driving 10 miles past the town of Hana, on the legendary Road to Hana that traces the northeast coast of the island of Maui. The Kipahulu area includes the easily accessed coastal section and the highly restricted, biologically precious and pristine upper slope reserve that is closed to all but scientists. Hiking in the Kipahulu area is self-guided and diverse. Many visitors choose to hike the two-mile trail leading uphill along the Pipiwai Trail, following a stream which courses through the Oheo Gulch followed by a swim in the cool lower pools adjacent to the ocean.
Haleakala National Park extends from the 10,023 foot (3,055 m) summit of Haleakala down the southeast flank of the mountain to the Kipahulu coast. The two sections of the park are not directly connected by road but both can be reached independently from the town of Kahului by car or other forms of ground transportation. While there is no public transportation in or out of the park, many tour operators will provide everything from motorcycle tours to buses to whisk visitors around the park. Driving time to the summit from Kahului is approximately 1.5 hours. Driving time to Kipahulu from Kahului is approximately 3 hours. The island of Maui, Hawaii can be reached directly from the mainland USA through the airport in Kahului or from other Hawaiian islands.
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