Drop into the Haleakala Crater on this 5.5-mile trip that circles the rim of a colorful cinder cone and features stunning views across the crater floor and Ko'olau Gap. From the visitor center parking area, pick up the Sliding Sands Trail, marked by a large sign. Contour around a large outcrop, then begin the long, steady descent into the crater on loose, sandy trail. As you descend, study the colors of the landscape, which change with the angle of the sun.
After a mile, stop at Na'ena'e Overlook for long views across the crater floor to the Kaupo Gap, then continue the descent, passing small patches of 'ahinahina (silversword). At mile 2, cool off behind two large rock outcrops, one of the crater’s few shady spots, and turn right onto the short, 0.6-mile spur to circumnavigate Ka Lu'u o ka 'O'o, a cinder cone with bands of red, orange, yellow, green and brown. (Caution: The trail is narrow and loose; do not descend into the crater.)
At the end of the spur trail, turn right and continue north to an overlook of the Ko'olau Gap, Kalahaku Pali, and the numerous other cinder cones within Haleakala. Pull up a rock, have a snack, and soak up the striking landscape. When you’re ready, follow the same route back to the trailhead.
Note: Pack lots of water and sunscreen.
INFO: Haleakala National Park, (808) 572-4400; nps.gov/hale/.
-Mapped by Eli Boschetto, Bosco Mountain Photo
- Distance: 8.8
Location: 20.714416, -156.250431
From the Visitor Center parking lot, walk south on the path that parallels the road to reach Sliding Sands trailhead.
Location: 20.712025, -156.24993
At the Sliding Sands trailhead, continue southeast. Look for the Big Island's Mauna Kea peak 80 miles to the southeast.
Location: 20.710389, -156.242087
Na'ena'e Overlook: Stop and take in the views over Haleakala Crater and Kaupo Gap.
Location: 20.713252, -156.238095
At this switchback, you'll find more views across Ka Lu'u o Ka 'O'o Crater and the Ko'olau Gap.
Location: 20.711056, -156.233279
At the large rock outcrop, bear left (north) on the spur trail to Ka Lu'u o Ka 'O'o Crater.
Location: 20.7165, -156.233547
Bear right at the 3-way junction for a quick loop around the rim of Ka Lu'u o Ka 'O'o Crater.
Location: 20.71935, -156.233053
Stop for lunch at this viewpoint overlooking the Haleakala Crater floor and XX Gap. Turn around and retrace steps back to the parking area.
Location: 20.709977, -156.253138
Catch the sunrise (or more views after your hike) on this 10,023-foot summit.
Views into the Haleakala Crater
Location: 20.711081, -156.249388
Take in huge views across Haleakala Crater from the rim viewpoint before descending the Sliding Sands.
Location: 20.714423, -156.250327
Start the trail to Ka Lu'u o ka 'O'o at the sign near the parking area entrance.
Location: 20.711578, -156.249785
Hiker descending the Sliding Sands Trail, with Kalahaku Pali and Ko'olau Gap beyond.
Location: 20.709556, -156.247194
Hikers descending the long Sliding Sands Trail into Haleakala Crater.
Location: 20.710369, -156.241926
Big view across Haleakala Crater and the Sliding Sands Trail from the Na'ena'e Overlook.
Ka Lu'u o ka 'O'o
Location: 20.713229, -156.237946
The Kalahaku Pali and Ko'olau Gap loom beyond the Ka Lu'u o ka 'O'o cinder cone.
Location: 20.712326, -156.236894
This species of 'ahinahina (silversword) is exclusively native to Haleakala.
Location: 20.711056, -156.23316
Two miles from the rim trailhead, a 0.6-mile spur leads to the colorful Ka Lu'u o ka 'O'o cinder cone.
Ka Lu'u o ka 'O'o Trail
Location: 20.713369, -156.23404
Hiker traversing a cinder-strewn slope en route to Ka Lu'u o ka 'O'o.
Location: 20.715537, -156.233783
From the cinder cone trail, view the entire Haleakala Crater; Kama' oli'i in the foreground.
Location: 20.7163, -156.233075
Standing at the rim of Ka Lu'u o ka 'O'o; the Ko'olau Gap and Hanakauhi Peak beyond.
Location: 20.717062, -156.231937
Circling the rim of Ka Lu'u o ka 'O'o.
Location: 20.717664, -156.232517
Trace minerals color the volcanic cinders in varieties of reds, oranges, yellows, browns and greens.
Location: 20.71937, -156.232774
From the end of the trail, soak up views of more of Haleakala's cinder cones, Kama' oli'i and Pu'u o Maui.
Location: 20.717062, -156.233568
View across Ka Lu'u o ka 'O'o of Haleakala Crater.