Haleakalā Summit

March 12, 2020

Driving 0 to 10,000 feet for a mountaintop sunset and world-class stargazing in an open-topped Jeep.

There aren’t many places on earth to gain 10,000 feet in altitude without flying. I would guess there are even fewer where you can do it with a relatively easy drive over about 90 minutes. The road takes you from a lush, tropical paradise to a barren, volcanic peak that was about 25 degrees Fahrenheit during our visit. But it’s not without its challenges.

Our starting point: the Andaz Maui, and the Budget rental lot about 1/4 mile up the road
The epic but slightly imposing view of some of the switchbacks on the mountain from early in the climb
The views are incredible, even fairly low on the mountain, and this stargazer seems to agree
Rental agencies on Maui must rent more convertibles than just about anywhere — there are Mustangs everywhere — but it’s not hard to guess why
Looking toward Maalaea Bay at Route 378, which carries you to the peak
Looking down toward Kahului further east
Visibility was limited to about 100 feet during parts of the ascent as you round the eastern side of the mountain
There are some fun, surprise switchbacks that pop out of the fog like this one — but they’re even more enjoyable at night as we were about to learn
The clouds got so thick we had to put pull over for some quick maintenance — putting the roof back on and checking the wipers
Even in the clouds, the scenery is amazing
Kahului again, from a few thousand feet higher, as we’re just about breaking to the top. of the cloud layer
From the entrance to the upper Haleakalā Visitor’s Center parking lot — we’re finally above the clouds at about 9,700 feet
People starting to gather at the summit, from about 400 feet below at the visitor center
Maalaea Bay and western Maui from 10,000 feet…also visible are the power lines supplying the observatory
Looking south toward Island of Hawai’i — Mauna Kea and its observatories are toward the left
The parking lot and summit building, a pristine example of “just pave over top of it” preservation of natural and sacred places
Northeast toward the visitor center where I took the photo looking at the summit
Haleakalā Observatory, operated by the University of Hawaii and the US Air Force
The Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope