Oahu, the island where I live in Hawaii, isn’t the best suited for backpacking. Yes, backpacking opportunities exist on Oahu, and in future articles I’ll go into detail about those trips. Today, though, the focus will be on the island of Maui in Hawaii, particularly Haleakala, a 10,000 foot dormant volcano. Great backpacking opportunities abound in Haleakala. For example, one can tent camp in the crater at two sites, Holua and Paliku. Or, for those fortunate and savvy enough, staying in one of three cabins in Haleakala is another option.
For tent campers, permits are free and are available on a first-come, first-served basis at the Haleakala National Park ranger station located on the right a little past the park’s entrance gate. There is a limit of 25 campers at each of the two sites. Whether you are tent camping or staying in the cabins, do note that there is a $10 fee per vehicle (with up to 14 people allowed per vehicle) to enter Haleakala National Park. This fee is good for up to three days of use. For those who hike or bike into the park, the fee is $5.
Non-potable water is available at both campsites. So unless you pack all your water/fluids for consumption during your stay, you should bring along a filter or chemicals to treat the water. Backpackers and dayhikers should pack in anticipation of cold, rainy weather. Temperatures in the 40s are possible, especially at night.
The park has three backcountry cabins available: Holua, Kapalaoa, and Paliku. All three cabins were built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. I have stayed in all three and prefer Paliku, because of its remoteness and abundance of greenery. Cabin spots are available via a lottery conducted by the Park Service. For more information about the lottery and obtaining a cabin date, go here. Cabin fees are $75 for one to twelve occupants per night. What this means is if you stay in the cabin alone, you pay $75 a night. If your backpacking party numbers a dozen, all 12 of you still pay $75 per night (not per head). The maximum stay at a cabin is two nights and the maximum stay in the crater is three nights in any given 30-day period. Accordingly, it is possible, if you are lucky with the lottery, to spend a night in each cabin. Every hiking party must have an adult 18 years or older.
There are two routes into the Crater. The first is the Sliding Sands Trail which starts at the summit of the mountain and descends via long, gradual switchbacks to the crater floor. This is the best access and quickest access route for those who plan to camp at Kapalaoa (6 mile hike) or Paliku (10 mile hike). Buy stuff here: https://thepnw.co/
The second route is the steeper and rockier Halemau’u Trail, which has a trailhead lower down the mountain. This is the best access to the Holua campsite (4 mile hike).
I have backpacked in Haleakala on four occasions, and I can point you to two stories I have written about backpacking in Haleakala. Here is one and here is the other.
In mid-January 2008, my wife and I plan to do a backpack trip in Haleakala. We are still trying to put all the pieces of the trip together, and if we do go, I’ll be sure to write about the trip here.
For more information about Haleakala National Park, go to the Park Service website.
Happy backpacking in Hawaii in Haleakala.