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5 invigorating springtime hikes

By: Matt Hickman on March 29, 2011, 10:14 a.m.
two hikers walking down at base of a volcanic summit in hawaii

Photo: .curt./Flickr

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Haleakala National Park

Although many visitors to the Hawaiian island of Maui many have trouble loosening their grip on the day's third Mai Tai and detaching themselves from their beachside thrones lounge chairs, those who do and opt to hoof it around the Haleakalā National Park are in for an unforgettable experience. Haleakalā National Park offers hikers of all stripes two extreme landscapes begging to be explored. First, there are the 30 miles of high-altitude trails around the dramatic, otherworldly volcanic summit of Haleakalā, the massive dormant volcano that forms 75 percent of Maui. Below the summit, in Kipahulu, 10 miles of trails wind through a lush coastal rain forest area replete with wildlife, waterfalls and perhaps most famously, the freshwater pools of Oheo Gulch that provide for a postcard-perfect pit stop along a hiking excursion.

Popular hiking trails within Haleakalā include Sliding Sands (a steep and strenuous path within the summit area), Skyline, Pa Kaoao, Pipiwai and Kuloa Point. First-time visitors to Haleakalā should take note that the park is extremely ecologically-sensitive. According to Friends of Haleakalā National Park, the park is home to more endangered species of plants and animals than any other National Park and is the most threatened park (from invasive species) in the National Park System. So please, leave your feral cats and miconia seeds at home.

Trail-mates: Honeycreepers, the Hawaiian Goose.

Welcome signs of civilization: Hana, Makawao.

Requisite gear: Camelbak Groove water bottle.

Historic hike-toid: From 1941 to 1943, Haleakalā was occupied by the U.S. Army and closed to the public. In 1961, Haleakalā National Park and Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island were split and designated as two unique National Park units.

Optimum hike time: Year-round