Haleakala National Park was one of 16 National Parks that we had visited prior to our 59 park journey. We went to the Park on a cruise ship excursion. The tour was great but it was little more than Haleakala highlights. This time was different. We had time to explore, hike and linger. Our April visit allowed us to conclude that Haleakala is one of the jewels of the National Park system.
The park road to the summit of Haleakala is filled with dramatic scenery, steep grades and sleepy bicyclists. A popular excursion is to meet at the top of the volcano at sunrise and cycle to the bottom. As the cyclists descend they make numerous stops to shed clothing. The summit is around 30 degrees cooler than the entrance to the park. We chose to sleep in and take a slow car ride to the top. About half way up the volcano the fog rolled in.
Near the top of the park road the Haleakala Observatory became visible. Tours are available but we opted not to take one this time. We were too enchanted with the natural landscape.
The native plant life in the park is fascinating. The Haleakala Silversword is a succulent plant found above 7,000 feet. It was nearly extinct in the 1920s. Determined conservation has allowed the Silversword to rebound. They grow a cactus-like bloom similar to the agave plant. The Silversword can live up to 50 years. Stop and take a look at them when you drive to the summit.
The summit of Haleakala reaches 10,023 feet. It’s one of a few places in Hawaii that receives snow. Visitors can prepare for the stiff winds and cold temperatures. Visitors may have a harder time preparing for the beautiful crater vistas they will see.
The Haleakala Crater is one of those places in the National Parks where the “First View” is important and memorable. Weather, light and clouds conspire to assure that no two views of the Crater are the same.
Every angle offers insight to the geologic forces at work that created Haleakala. Its easy to see why the Hawaiian people consider this to be a spiritual and sacred place.
We invite our readers to compare this shot to the first crater photo above. You can see its is virtually the same landscape, yet there is nothing the same about the view.
We did some hiking at Haleakala. Be advised that the Crater looks fairly benign from above. Plan well and exercise caution if you hike to the bottom. It is a challenging hike.
We did not see a lot of wildlife on this adventure. We had hoped to see the endangered Nene–the State Bird of Hawaii. Like the Yellowstone wolf, they were elusive. We did enjoy the flora such as this agave-like plant. Visitors that enjoy botany will feel at home on the trails.
Haleakala National Park was the last one we visited and number 57 of 59 on our journey. We are so glad that this time we were able to catch more than just the highlights.
Those who have been plugged into National Parks on social media have likely heard of Don and Shelly Hafner who embarked on the adventure of a lifetime: they were on a mission to visit 59 National Parks in 59 weeks. They kept a blog 59nationalparks.com and mystified us all on Twitter and Instagram @59nationalparks. The couple recently finished their quest – head to the website above to catch their list of top Parks and more!