Sliding Sands Trail

HARD 135 reviews
#2 of 14 trails in

Sliding Sands Trail is a 11 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.

DISTANCE
11.0 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
2795 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

birding

camping

hiking

nature trips

trail running

walking

views

wild flowers

no dogs

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.

7 days ago

Othwerwordly. Pack water and sunscreen. And your camera.

16 days ago

Breathtaking

hiking
2 months ago

I hate “awesome” as it is so inflationary used when things are truly terrific. But Sliding Sands Trail truly is awesome. Due to turning weather we had to do the entire hike in 3hrs 20 minutes but as the trail is easy terrain walking a good flat and evenly inclining, one could have breaks to take photos and enjoy the views and always have the head up to enjoy the scenery. We started in clouds, had sun, grumbling thunder outside the crater and hail in the last 50 Meters. So unless you can catche the perfect day, be prepared for changing conditions.
My favorites where the few plants that managed to hold out in beauty.

2 months ago

Great views. The hike back up to the crater rim is def more strenuous. Bring water and make sure to use sunscreen!!

hiking
2 months ago

Weather changed numerous times when we were on this trail. The views are nonstop amazing but be prepared with at least two liters of water and the right attire. The elevation change was pretty rough on us being from the Midwest. Overall it was fun and challenging!

backpacking
3 months ago

Stayed at cabins. Very tiring due to elevation and type of terrain. Don’t recommend going in and out in one day unless you start at 7am and move quick.

hiking
3 months ago

Great hike, spectacular views. Used this hike as a warm up to upcoming Philmont trek with our Boy Scout troop. Elevation and change were great training.

hiking
4 months ago

Definitely one of the most difficult hikes I’ve done. I live in a place that’s pretty close to sea level so the 8-10 thousand foot altitude kicked my butt. Bring plenty of water and sunscreen if the sun is out because there’s literally no shade. The weather is a bit unpredictable - I went from cold to warm to cold to cold and wet so bring some layers. The trek back up is pretty steep and it’s quite long. I was BEAT. I would recommend this hike for intermediate to advanced hikers who have 4-5 hours to spend (I took 5 hours including frequent stops for pictures). The geography is pretty incredible and unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. It’s worth the effort!

4 months ago

2015. Incredible hike

4 months ago

It was the best hike we ever did (in general and on Hawaii). We've never seen soemthing like that before. Definitely worth it! But bring a lot of water and snacks with you. It took us 6 hours and we were totally exhausted after it. Don't forget sunscreen and something to cover your body. There is just a single tree on the whole way, so you will walk in the sun the whole time.

camping
5 months ago

The views are amazing, but it is a hard descent due to the looseness of the earth. Bring lots of layers and H2O. If you start feeling exhausted, bring to mind the couple of gentlemen I encountered doing this hike WITHOUT SHOES.

trail running
6 months ago

Start early and dress for the cold. The trail head starts at 9,000 ft. If you're training for a Spartan Race this is a good training ground - all down hill for the first 3.8 miles flattens out for as long as you want it to. Then it's ALL up hill. Best guess is 3,000 feet in elevation change between the peak and the base of the crater. Magnificent views. It's a technical run so it requires control on the downhill, so you can't just fly until you get to the bottom. But wait, there's more, most of the flat is sand. Great trek recommend to anyone.

hiking
6 months ago

Hiked a couples of miles down and then back
up. Well worth it, amazing views and photo opt.
Took us about the same time going down as up unless what most people say. Got to be carefull on the way down because of the sliding sand, you have much better grip on the way back up. Bring lots of water, at that elevation it will be needed, and make sure to wear plenty of sunscreen and bring layers, it can get cold.

6 months ago

this hike was surreal, but I was not prepared the the high elevation. I would not attempt this as a amateur or intermediate skilled hiker. ensure you bring sunscreen and lots of water.

hiking
6 months ago

Great hike and the weather was fantastic. We started early, 7:30am and definitely experienced a temp change throughout the hike so bring layers! Another good note worth mentioning is that the park itself doesn't open to hikers until 7am unless you've made a reservation to see the sunrise. If you plan to start out early, be sure you have a reservation or you will have to wait outside the park. There is also a $25 entry fee to get into the park.

We hiked down to the first cabin and hiked back up to the visitor center parking lot. We are both fit and it took us around 5 hours round trip. We stopped several times for pictures.

Be sure to wear sunscreen! We had SPF 50 on and reapplied once during the hike but still got burnt. Between two of us, we brought 3 liters and probably could have used a 4th. I'd recommend a minimum 2 liters per person.

Unfortunately this isn't too scenic but it's still very cool to hike into a dormant volcano!

hiking
6 months ago

Nice hike. Very little shade but cool and comfortable. It felt like I was on Mars, not at all like the rest of Maui.

hiking
7 months ago

Did the whole 11 mile in and out - it was an interesting hike, challenging on the way back when we faced 15mph gusts of freezing rain. Barely made it back out but well worth seeing the strangely desolate and beautiful landscape.

7 months ago

we also only hiked about a mile down and went back up. the elevation certainly got to me ... unfortunately... because the hike is amazing and unique. a definite must

hiking
7 months ago

This is an amazing hike and I'd say definitely a must-do if you're on Maui. My husband and I hiked about a mile down, which I believe descends about 1,000 feet per what the park ranger told us. The landscape is incredible and unlike anything else I've seen. The views are spectacular. The hike in and down was relatively easy but remember you'll be going up on the way back out, so keep that into consideration when deciding how far to go in. It was definitely more challenging on the way back up and out. Wear layers as there can be temperature changes depending on the cloud cover and how far down you go. Bring lots of water and snacks. I would love to go back and backpack in for a night or two some day.

hiking
8 months ago

One of the best memories of my life.

hiking
9 months ago

Easy walk down. Slower walk up. being above the clouds makes for good views and pix.

hiking
9 months ago

This gently sloped trail on a wide path into the crater provides incredible sweeping views of Haleakala Crater and the neighboring areas. We hiked along this trail on a bright sunny day and started with very few clouds in the area but as we emerged back at the top of the crater at the end of the hike the clouds were starting to pour into the crater for some exceptionally spectacular imagery! It was very hot and I got the most sun I've ever gotten so far while living in Hawaii this past year. Despite wearing 55 SPF (!!!) sunscreen, I still managed to get sunburn for the first time while residing here. Higher elevation means much more sun exposure! Ensure you bring plenty of water with you on this hike as there is none available along the way and it is desert dry. Also, as the hike begins downhill and seems relatively easy at first ensure that you plan enough time in your trek to make the return trip as it's uphill and takes almost twice as long to return, especially on tired legs on the return trip. Since you're almost at 10,000 feet elevation it's a much more rigorous hike than what one would experience closer to sea level. The incredible views, the variation in color, the awesome rolling clouds in the afternoon, and being able to see some thirty to fifty miles from up there make this trek one of my most memorable experiences of a lifetime! Enjoy your adventure! We had most of this trail to ourselves!

hiking
10 months ago

Amazing views!

10 months ago

Great hike! I can't believe how few people there were. I'd rate this trail as easy, however it wasn't too hot for us on the day we went since it was cloudy. Just carry water - no need for hiking poles that I saw a few others using.

10 months ago

This is essentially the same hike as a couple other routes listed on Alltrails that cut through the crater. There are a number of short, unnamed trails worth exploring once you get down into the crater. The whole crater is great to explore as a long day hike or starting from the Holea campsite.

10 months ago

Definitely a difficult hike. First one I've done where you actually go down the mountain first and then have to come up. The views are incredible highly recommend

trail running
Saturday, April 22, 2017

Tried trail running it. Even though it was sunny, i was feeling an unusual cold breeze for hawaii the whole time. Ran down to the bottom of the crater ~4mi (the first junction) i decided to turn around since the i felt like i was already pretty much inside the crater. I was not ready for a high elevation climb like this! My heart rate monitor said i was fine, but i was breathing twice as hard regardless. Please respect the altitude and make conservative estimates regarding your abilities.

hiking
Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Really incredible trail. Definitely difficult and can get hot, but being at the base of the crater is other-worldly. Check out my full adventure on my blog:

https://www.thehikinghi.com/single-post/2017/03/19/Morning-at-Haleakala-Crater

hiking
Monday, March 27, 2017

Hiked this with my adventurous family: girls aged 14, 12 and 9. It's a unique landscape that they all thought looked like what Mars must look like. It's dry and windy and layers were appreciated as we descended from the cold of 10,000 feet to below 8,000 feet where it was hot. You lose a lot of traction in the sand so factor this into the distance and difficulty rating. Brings lots of water and sunblock and snacks for energy.

The drive up and back takes a long time and is challenging due to steep grades a switchbacks.

hiking
Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The scenery was unique and interesting, and we had a fun hike. Be sure to bring a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen. Including a stop for lunch at the cabin at the “end” of the trail (~5.7mi in) the out-and-back hike took us 4h 28m (including almost 20min for lunch and almost another 25min for pictures, water breaks, etc.). The outbound leg took about 1h 49m. After a 20m stop for lunch, we made it back to the trailhead in 2h 19m (~28% slower on the return … not too much of a slowdown vs the outbound leg which was primarily downhill). We probably saw fewer than 30 people during our time on the trail, and the vast majority we encountered just a mile or at most two from the trailhead. Most of our time on the trail was completely devoid of other human or animal life -- nothing in sight even though visibility was extremely good.

The trailhead is in the corner of the parking lot nearest to the road (uphill side) of the Haleakala Visitor Center near the summit (not at the Visitor Center near the park entrance). We picked up supplies (water, sandwiches, light trail snack) from the Kula Market Place on the way (look for the Kula Lodge sign).

We started our hike at 12:15pm, but it was still only in the high 50s up at the summit. We were very glad to have light jackets with us for the start, though they came off after a little less than a mile into the trail as we left the summit winds behind us. After a short jaunt from the trailhead to the start of the descent (less than a quarter mile), you can see the expanse of the desert-like valley/craters below. There’s almost 4 miles of switchbacks and downhill trails as you descend to the floor below; there’s only one meaningful reprieve from the descent (it flattens out for almost a third of a mile and the end of the third mile on the trail). It’s the steepest at the top, though never particularly steep. At points you’ll experience why it’s called the “Sliding Sands” trail, but it’s nothing too hard to navigate (at least on a dry day in sturdy hiking boots). The valley floor is like a desert, punctuated mostly by dried out old ferns, and punctuated by the occasional bright silver plant or the hopeful new green shoots of a new plant (mostly fern-like plants, though there are the occasional flowers too). It’s a nice stroll along the valley floor to the Kapalaoa cabin (and outhouse). The wind was infrequent throughout our journey, but refreshing (and strong) for the brief periods it did blow. This outbound leg took just under 1h 49m to complete from the trailhead.

We picnicked at the cabin (there’s a table outside) and listened to the mostly silent landscape. We didn’t see any wildlife during this entire hike, though we did hear a few birds while eating our lunch. It was a nice sunny spot to take in the scenery, eat, reapply sunscreen and put up our feet for a few (well, 20) minutes before starting the trek back up the trailhead.

The hike back up offered a chance to take in some more scenery … the desert below kind of looked like an infinity pool that dipped off into the clouds in the distance. The sliding sands were hardly noticeable, and it was a pleasant hike back up. We finished a little before 5pm (after a 2h 19m return hike), and the parking lot was still only sparsely populated (almost two hours until sunset, at which time the place will be jam packed and overfull). We popped into the restrooms at the visitor center, and then made our way down the mountain with plenty of good memories from the hike!

I drank about 3.1L of water, and my (smaller) partner drank a little over 2L. So we had over 3L of water leftover, though I could easily see us going through more of that if it had been hotter out. Despite the clear sunny mid-March day, the weather was pretty mild throughout (winter did just end though, so maybe it is far hotter in the summer). It’s well worth the time. If you have more time, you can detour to go towards the Halemau'u trail / the Halälii peak and then back to the Sliding Sands trail (you could do it out and back, but there’s two connections to Sliding Sands from it … forms a triangle with the route, so you can see some different areas); this probably adds about 5mi to the hike.

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