Yesterday, we hiked inside the crater at Haleakala National Park, from the Sliding Sands trailhead down to the crater floor and back up to the Halemau’u trailhead.
We parked the rental car at an elevation of 2436m, hitchhiked up to the trailhead at 2969m and started down the Sliding Sands trail. From the top, the first part of the trail is all downhill through a variety of terrains (sand, small crumbly rocks, big non-crumbly rocks, etc). The view would change every 10 minutes after turning a corner around one of the many peaks inside the crater and the new vista would require a new set of photos. Either the small crumbly rock trail was set on a slope of hundreds of feet of small crumbly rock or the trail was level but through a rocky wasteland. Round another bend and the colors would change again completely. More photos needed.
After a few km of hiking, we got to the crater floor, we went North on a different trail to see the “bottomless pit” (which is a 22m deep vertical lava tube). From the maps and descriptions I’d read before we went, I expected the crater floor to all be at roughly the same elevation, but it was not so. Up and down hundreds of meters, just to get around the small peaks inside the crater.
After all that, it was just hiking back to the car. We passed one of several cabins in the crater that you can try to reserve many months in advance. This last part of the trail was the only one with anything besides sparse vegitation. On the way back up, it was foggy and cloudy, so half way up the steep switchback cliff, we couldn’t see the bottom, giving it a feeling that if you fell off the side, it would be an infinite drop.
All told, it was a 18.8km hike, not including the 10km hitchhiked. I took gobs of photos. It was very pretty.
2008-11-13 update: uploaded some of the images from this hike to panoramio.