Sliding Sands Trail is a 11.2 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Kula, Hawaii that features beautiful wild flowers and is only recommended for very experienced adventurers. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round.
Directions from Highway 378: Follow Haleakala Crater Road to the Haleakala Visitor Center. Park in the visitor center parking lot. The trail leaves from the eastern side of the parking area.
This was a phenomenal hike. The terrain and landscape is unlike anything I've seen, definitely otherworldly. I highly recommend trekking down the crater at least somewhat so you can truly appreciate the expanse of it. The 11.2 miles on AllTrails is if you do an out and back from the Visitors Center to the Kapalaoa cabin. It's about 3.5 miles to base and then a nice 2 mile stroll on flat ground to the cabin in what feels like a desert. It's really quite peaceful. There's many options and trails for exploring this place, just pick the one that works for you and do it. You won't regret it.
A side note, the hike gets pretty hot as the day goes on. It didn't get too bad until the late morning, but on my trek back up the crater I was drinking a ton of water. I probably burned through 3.5L on my 5.5 hour hike (although I am a big water drinker). If you can force yourself, get up early watch the sunrise at the summit (or near the summit it's beautiful regardless) and then go hike. That way you can get the full Haleakala experience and beat the heat.
Haleakala Crater is an amazing place that has a quiet, ethereal magnificence to it. One must be prepared for rapidly changing weather, raw, rugged terrain, and deceptively challenging hiking if you decide to make the journey down.
At the summit, the weather was awful when we first arrived; 40 mph winds, cold rain, and poor visibility. We had driven a long way, so we waited for almost an hour for it to clear. Once the sun started peaking out, we decided to risk it. Up top, naturally, it is cold, and you will certainly need a (waterproof) jacket. The first mile or so is quite an easy decline before the trail becomes a little steeper and on looser cinder. Gradually the landscape starts to transform from the greyish surface of the moon to the reddish/brown ruggedness of Mars.
The deeper down you go, the warmer it becomes, but DO NOT forget that you are still at almost 8,000' elevation; the UV can be intense without you even knowing you are being burned. Throughout the way down, there are many great views as the trail cuts back and forth. You genuinely will feel like you are on another planet.
As you go down, though, remember that you will have to go ALL THE WAY back up, so allot yourself ample time to do so. The trail is almost like loose sand through most of its length, so keep in mind that it can be very slow going. Pack at least a liter or even 2 for each person in your group.
Despite the challenges that hiking in this unique landscape poses, you will not regret it. Even an outsider can come to understand why this mountain is sacred to native Hawaiians.
Unbelievable--it's like hiking on another planet.
Went from the visitor center (altitude 9745 ft) to around the 3 mile mark (~7800ft) on Labor Day. Weather was clear and despite the clouds to the south we had great views of Mauna Lei on the big island. We started around 10.30am which was a little late but it was warmer than we expected and I wore a single layer for the entire hike.
The trail is a gentle decent on mainly cinder so footing was good and the views were spectacular. We were going to descend down to the Kapalaoa Cabin which is 5.6 miles down, so 11.2 mile round trip. Normally i.e. At sea level this wouldn't be a problem for my wife and I but because of the dry heat we drank more than half of our 5 liters of water by the 3 mile marker so decided to ascend back to the top. The difficulty of this hike is in the altitude, weather and time of day. Take more fluids than you think you'll need and put a couple for extra bottles in the car for when you get back to the top.
Beautiful hike down the valley. The colors changed with the sun and clouds.
This trail was literally breathtaking. Enjoy this trail after watching the sunrise, you get a wide variety of view on trail this way!
Great hike! When the clouds roll in visibility can drop to only a couple of feet in front of you, but if you wait it out the clouds will move on. Dress in layers and you might want gloves and a hat. **Warning** If you are altitude sensitive it can hit you suddenly, especially on the climb out so be sure to give yourself enough time to take breathers.
Best hike of my life. 11.2 miles. I followed a map I found here. Good stuff. Just put it in airplane mode, low battery mode and the gps kept going :-)
great trail if the clouds are not around
It was a cloudy day when I started and on the way back I got rained on quite a bit. It has some great views if the weather cooperates. The temperature can change at a moments notice so be prepared. I did from the visitors center to the cabin and back. It was about 11.3 miles. The way back was pretty tough. The first 1.5 on the way back is the worst.
Beautiful hike, weather changes rapidly and is perfect for the photographer. Silversword plants and volcano cones. Steep hike to get back up, easy enough for those in shape, but double your expected time to get back up if you haven't been hiking in a while.
The full trail and camping is a to-do for next time... Sliding Sands starts at the visitor center near the summit and is well marked and well traveled to the first lookout. Lack of time kept this hike just to the Sliding Sands portion, which was worth every step. It takes hiking down into the crater to really see the colors and textures, and the scale! Beautiful - remarkable - unique.
the absolute essential maui trail. if you think you can hike 11 miles, don't be too afraid of either the altitude or the need to start this hike out by hitchhiking a few miles between parking lots.
park at halemauu parking lot, and cross the road and follow the sign which leads you to the hiker pick-up spot, and stick out your thumb. hitch a ride to the sliding sands trailhead. if you're from somewhere that hitching is frowned upon then don't worry here: this is not only an officially signed park feature (and recommended way to do the trail), but i happened to get picked up by a park ranger.
hike down into the crater via sliding sands, at 3.9mi take the cut-off toward halemauu trail. take the detour through silver sword loop, even if you think you've seen enough silver swords by then (and you will see a lot on sliding sands trail). rest at the picnic table at holua cabin before the final 4mi ascent back to where you left your car.
while you're hiking be sure to look around you and absorb the wonders of what erosion and a lot of time can do to create a wonderful scene.
bring layers, snacks, lots of water, and sunscreen (zero shade until you're on the ascent and criss-cross a few times from shade to not shade depending on time of day).
start early (like sunrise early) so you can really take your time.
Started at 6:30 AM and took Sliding Sands down into the crater before stopping to eat/ rest for a bit by the hitching post at Pu'u o Pele. We then hooked back into the left and followed that trail around Halāli'i then through the Silversword Loop.
I highly advise doing this if you just want to make it a short day/ half-day hike. The views in that area, and particularly in an area called "Rainbow Rock" are breathtaking.
Take a minute to stop and look at the Silversword plants that grow along the trails. This is the only place on earth where they can be found. It's hard to believe that they used to grow all down the sides of the crater. There were so many at one point that it looked as if the crater was always covered in snow!
We picked up the hike again heading through the Rainbow Rock area before heading towards the Hōlua cabin/ campsite. This is a great spot to stop and eat lunch or rest for a bit before attempting to traverse the switchbacks.
While we were there we saw a pair of NēNē Geese, the Hawaiian State Bird. They literally walked right up to us and would have eaten out of our hands. We thought better than to feed them though!
The switchbacks back up through the mountains are a not harder to conquer, but they are easily worth the effort. Don't let this discourage you though! I herniated two discs in my lower back a few years ago and handled the hike just fine!
This hike is well worth doing while you're on Maui. You'll regret not doing this one!
Absolutely beautiful landscape. Seeing the clouds roll in and actually being in them is amazing. Nice hike. Definitely on my list to revisit!
Be sure to have plenty of food & water!
Oh and the only bathroom is about 7 miles in and it is the nastiest outhouse you've seen LOL
Okay, first I admit I did not hike 11.2 miles down and again back out. :) It was beautiful and I wish I could have gone the whole way but was not prepared! Make sure you have plenty of food, water (nothing is commercially last 30 miles, we should have stopped out by Kahului airport), a map, and proper clothes. It can be very cold or very hot. We didn't have warm enough clothes for top, once down in crater it was warm enough. The weather can change fast do be prepared. But it was beautiful and like walking on a different planet with all the different soil colors. If I could do it again I would hike down and camp and hike back out. But worth it!! :)
Great trail. The landscape is like nothing else and is a must see. Weather is a major factor in the experience. We hit it on a great day: sunny, clear and in the mid-60's on the crater floor. Weather at sea level does not approximate weather at the top of Haleakala or in the crater. Best source is the University of Hawaii's astronomy institute. It has updated weather and webcams. Hard to get good forecasts, though. Note that the spur trail to Kalua o ka Oo cinder cone is closed so don't count on getting right up to a cinder cone. This trail closure is not reflected on NPS's map on its website, the USGS topo map or the most recent Nat Geo trails illustrated map. While this was a big disappointment the landscape itself really is awesome. Trail is not technical or difficult and sees a lot of use. However, the hike out of the crater can be taxing due to the elevation gain and elevation itself. Also note that commercial horse tours go into the crater so watch where you step.