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Haleakala National Park

Haleakala National Park is located on the island of Maui in the state of Hawai’i. It was originally made part of the Hawaii National Park along with the volcanoes of Mauna Loa and Kilauea on the Big Island in 1916, but was made into a separate national park in 1961. The park area was designated an International Biosphere Reserve in 1980. The name Haleakala is Hawai’ian for “house of the sun.” According to a local legend, the demigod Maui imprisoned the sun here in order to lengthen the day. The park features the dormant Haleakala (East Maui) Volcano, which last erupted at around 1790. The park is divided into two distinct sections: the summit area and the coastal Kipahulu area.

The summit area includes Haleakala Crater, the summit of the volcano, and the area surrounding the summit. The crater is 7 miles (11.25 km) across, 2 miles (3.2 km) wide, and some 2,600 ft (800 m) deep. The interior of the crater is dotted by numerous volcanic features, including large cinder cones. Each morning, visitors come to the summit of the volcano to watch the spectacular sunrise.

The second section of the park is the Kipahulu section. Visitors cannot drive directly to this section from the summit area. Instead they must take the winding coastal road to Hana in order to access the area. This part of the park lies within the lower part of Kipahulu Valley. It is separated from the summit area of the park by the upper portion of the valley.

Lying 2,400 miles (3862km) from the nearest continent, the island of Maui never had connection to any other land mass. Natural crossings across the Pacific Ocean by animals and plants were extremely rare. After such accidental arrivals, and isolated from mainland populations, these pioneers took strange courses of evolution and allowed a unique species to develop. The endangered silversword plant used to cover Haleakala to a degree that the mountain looked as if it were covered with snow, but is now limited to the summit area. Native honeycreepers like the ‘i’iwi and apapane inhabit the lower elevation forests. The endangered nene is starting to make a comeback after almost becoming extinct.

The best locations to photograph Haleakala National Park include the summit area (go at sunset, it is warmer and there are less crowds) and the Oheo Gulch after driving the Hana Coast.