Sliding Sands Trail (Keoneheehee Trail)

Sliding Sands Trail (Keoneheehee Trail)

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

Also known as "Keoneheehee Trail", this trail leads up to the valley floor of the Haleakala Craters on Maui,which last erupted in 1790. Haleakala is a dormant volcano and is therefore considered not extinct yet. 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 lived in Halemaumau Crater on Big Island ever since.

The Sliding Sands Trail lives up to its name.It leads you to walk on volcanic ash through the largest volcanic crater in the world. Sliding Sands because you always slide down 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, this hike is no walk in the park and requires good fitness and preparation. The trail is very well known but many do not hike it until the Halemauu Trailhead because of the long distance. So it only gets a bit crowded at the beginning. Most turn around, so that you have the most beautiful parts of the crater almost for yourself.

Scenically, the Haleakala Crater can best be compared with a moon landscape. Numerous crater cones, such as the Pu'u o Maui and the Pu'u o Pele but also the collapsed colourful crater cauldron of the Ka Lu'u o ka O'o are of indescribable beauty. It has not been allowed to walk to the latter since spring of 2013, as it was found out that the colourful crater is sacred to the Hawaiians. Even moon landings have been tested there. The most beautiful view is probably "Pele's Painting Pot." This path leads 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.

In addition to that, there is "Nene" in the crater, the state goose of Hawaii, which you should 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 heats up 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) the winding Haleakala Crater Road that leads to the summit of Haleakala thereafter. You have to get up early for this, but it's worth it!

Drive past the Park Visitors Center and you will 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. but 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. The sunrise described as the most beautiful one in the world for a reason.

You 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 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 Kula, it still takes us an hour by car to get to the summit with short photo stops.

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

The inside of the crater is usually hotter than 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 (link below).

The day tour ends at Halemauu Trailhead. Von dort muss man allerdings wieder hoch zum Gipfel, weil dort das Auto steht. Wenn man alleine oder zu zweit unterwegs ist, sollte es mit Trampen funktionieren. Ab 16.00 Uhr fahren genug Touristen zum Sonnenuntergang hoch, die einen mitnehmen können. Ist man in größeren Gruppen unterwegs, kann man ein Auto am Gipfel und das andere am Halemauu Trailhead parken.

What we say

I have hiked 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 during the sunrise, followed by the Sliding Sands Trail and on the way back, still enjoy the sunset (if you are already up there anyway). The colours and atmosphere of the moon-shaped volcanic landscape and craters are unforgettable and a breathtaking experience. With a little luck, a ranger sings Hawaiian songs at sunrise. You have the feeling that they are singing towards the sun. Not only because of the temperatures a true goosebump 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 sticks
  • Sunscreen and hats
  • 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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