Sliding Sands Trail (Keoneheehee Trail)

Sliding Sands Trail (Keoneheehee Trail)

Suitable for:
Active traveller, nature lover, couples
Insider tip or tourist spot?
Rather unknown and little going on
Insider Tip
Time needed: 1-2 hours
10 hours
Optimal arrival time:
05:30 o' clock
Suitable for:
Active traveller, nature lover, couples
Insider tip or tourist spot?
Rather unknown and little going on
Insider Tip
Time needed: 1-2 hours
10 hours
Optimal arrival time:
05:30 o' clock

Profile of the hike

Distance total
18,76 Kilometer
Distance uphill
4,79 Kilometer
Distance downhill
11,21 Kilometer
Altitude meters uphill
616 Meter
Altitude meters downhill
- 1164 Meter

Sliding Sands Trail (Keoneheehee Trail) - description

Also as "Keoneheehee Trail" known, this trail leads up to the valley floor of the Haleakala Craters on Mauiwhich last erupted in 1790. Haleakala is a dormant volcano and is therefore considered not yet extinct. It is the birthplace of fire goddess Pele. Banished from Haleakala Crater by her sister of water, Na-maka-o-Kahaʻi, because of a great dispute, she has since lived in Halemaumau Crater on Big Island.

The Sliding Sands Trail lives up to its name, it leads on volcanic ash through the largest volcanic crater in the world. Sliding Sands because you always slide back a little on the volcanic ash when going uphill.

This trail is probably the most impressive in all of the Hawaiian Islands because it is so different and unique.

With 19 km and 600 meters of elevation gain, this hike is no walk in the park and requires good fitness and preparation. The trail is very well known, but many do not run it to the Halemauu trailhead because of the long distance. So at most it gets a bit crowded at the beginning. Most then turn around, so that you have the most beautiful parts of the crater almost for yourself.

Scenically, the Haleakala Crater can best be seen with a Lunar landscape compare. Numerous crater cones, such as the Pu'u o Maui and the Pu'u o Pele, but also the collapsed colorful crater cauldron of the Ka Lu'u o ka O'o are of an almost indescribable beauty. One is not allowed to walk to the latter since spring 2013, as it was found out that the colorful crater is sacred for the Hawaiians. Even moon landings have been tested there. The most beautiful view is probably "Pele's Painting Pot." a path through the colorful paint box of the fire goddesswhich can only be seen if you venture the complete 19 km round trip to the Halemauu Trailhead.

Besides, in the crater there is "Nene" ,the state goose of Hawaii, which you should please not feed. And you will find another miracle: the "Silver Sword" - a cactus-like plant. It thrives only in the Haleakala crater at an altitude of 2000 to 3000 meters and under conditions that would be disastrous for any other plant: Desert-like aridity prevails within the crater. At night, the temperature often falls below freezing, while during the day the sun burns down mercilessly. The Silver sword takes up to 20 years, to produce a magnificent inflorescence. After this effort, the plant dies.

Depending on where you start from on Maui, it can take you up to two hours to drive up the Haleakala Highway (HI 37) and then the winding Haleakala Crater Road that leads to the summit of Haleakala. You have to get up early for this, but it's worth it!

Drive past the Park Visitors Center and reach the Haleakala Visitors Center at 3000 m altitude. Try to reach the Haleakala Visitors Center at least half an hour before sunrise. In summer the sun rises at 5:30 a.m., in winter not until 6:50. The color of the sky and clouds before daybreak are breathtaking as the clouds flow over the crater walls as if by magic. Not for nothing is the sunrise described as the most beautiful in the world.

One should dress warmly. The temperature drops 10 degrees for every 1000 meters of altitude, so at the Haleakala Visitor Center at an altitude of just under 3000 meters it is is about 30 degrees colder than at sea level. Unfortunately, there are no public buses to take us there.

If you have not rented a car, you still have the option to book a tour. You should not miss the sunrise or sunset! It's best to plan your trip so that you don't miss it. Even with accommodation in the nearest town of Kula, it still takes us an hour by car to get to the summit with short photo breaks.

However, Haleakala Crater also has some dangers that you need to be aware of before starting a hike, so proper equipment is necessary.

Inside the crater it is usually hotter than at the crater rim when the sun is shining, the strong UV radiation can quickly lead to sunburn. Sudden weather changes and sub-zero temperatures are not uncommon.
Hikers who want to do the entire Sliding Sands Trail, including part of the Halemauu Trail and the subsequent Kaupo Trail, need a permit for overnight stay(s) in the crater. For example, it is just under 13 km to Holua Cabin, a camping hut equipped with the bare necessities. However, there is no electricity or anything like that there. All information regarding obtaining permits in cabins and wilderness areas, as well as the costs, can be found on the Haleakala National Park website. (linked below)

The day tour ends at Halemauu Trailhead. From there, however, you have to go back up to the top because that's where the car is. If you are alone or in pairs, hitchhiking should work. From 16.00 o'clock enough tourists drive up to the sunrise, which can take you. If you are in a larger group, you can park one car at the summit and the other at the Halemauu trailhead.

What we say

I have run the trail 2x and would do it again at any time. Unfortunately, so far without an overnight stay. The best combination to explore Haleakala in all its facets is certainly the sunrise, then the Sliding Sands Trail and on the way back still the sunset (if you are already up there anyway). The colors and moods of the moon-shaped volcanic landscape and craters is an unforgettable and breathtaking experience. With a little luck a ranger sings Hawaiian songs at sunrise. One has the feeling that she is singing up the suns. Not only because of the temperatures a true goose bumps moment. This hike is one of the most impressive experiences of a Hawaii trip (provided you are in good shape). If you plan this combination of sunrise - hike - sunset, you will be on the road for at least 12 hours, including the drive, and you will be exhausted afterwards.
Our checklist & tips:
  • Enough liquid (at least 3 liters) and picnic
  • Sturdy footwear (preferably proper mountain boots with a solid sole)
  • Possibly hiking poles
  • Sunscreen and sun milk
  • Warm clothes

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Map and contact data

Haleakala Visitors Center, Maui, HI 96790
Longitude: -156.2509489717
Latitude: 20.714212120148

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