Haleakalā Volcano, on the Hawaiian island of Maui, is a massive shield volcano that rises more than 10,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean, and makes up more than 75% of the island’s land mass. Its name, Haleakalā, is Hawaiian for “House of the Sun,” and is steeped in Hawaiian legend. More modern references attribute it to the spectacular sunrises observed from the rim of the summit crater. In an effort to preserve and protect the volcano’s spectacular summit crater, as well as the Kipahulu Valley rainforest on the volcano’s eastern slope, Haleakalā National Park was established in 1961. The majority of visitors to the park drive the long, winding road to the summit viewpoints and visitor center. The small number of adventurers who descend into the crater can explore an otherworldly landscape of colorful cinder cones, lava flows and other volcanic features.
For those interested in a little primitive camping on the flank of this sleeping giant, the Hosmer Grove Campground provides close access to the summit’s viewing areas and hiking trails. The campground is located partway up the mountain, just 0.5 mile past the park’s entrance station. From Kahului, it’s only about 28 miles, but the winding road makes the drive pretty slow. Hosmer Grove offers 10 campsites in a large, grassy area surrounded by foreign and native woods. Campsites have picnic tables and cooking grills, and vault toilets are available. Campfires are not permitted, but contained camp stoves are allowed. The campground is situated at 7,000 feet above sea level, right in Haleakalā’s “cloud belt,” so it’s often cool and foggy, and overnight temps can plummet below freezing. Free camping is first-come, first-served, with a three-night limit..
Taking in Haleakalā’s summit sunrise show requires making a long, slow, winding drive up the mountain in the blackness of night to reach the viewing areas before sunrise. In efforts to alleviate road and parking congestion at the summit, the national park has implemented a permit requirement to access the viewing areas. These can be obtained up to 60 days in advance from the recreation.gov website. Permits are only required for driving up the mountain between 3am and 7am. Dress warmly, as it is cold on the summit rim. Hikers will find more than 30 miles of trails that journey down into the crater for exploring its many features. There is no shade or water on the crater floor, and temperatures can vary significantly, so pack along plenty of water and sunscreen. Also, due to the soft, sandy nature of the trails, plan on spending twice as much time to hike out as to hike in.
Ok, you twisted my arm…
Hosmer Grove Campground is a small set of primitive sites located in the Kīpahulu region of Haleakalā National Park, at the cloud line. This means it will get cold, especially at night, and even in the summer. Come prepared for this nice break from the Maui beach heat. The spaces are first come first serve, summer will likely be busier so come early. No permit needed. Fairly easy to pack in as well.
There are grills and nice picnic tables available at each site, but no campfires are allowed, so you must use the grills for your cooking. All the better to see the stars at night, right? Portable water is available and there are also put toilets only. Please be respectful of other campers since the area is so small.
Be prepared to be woken early to the sound of an array of birds, and even a clearly lost rooster up before dawn. The best thing about Maui, is that it’s an island formed out of nothing from a volcano, meaning it did not break off from a land mass carrying with it all the variety of animals and insects campers often find troubling. In fact, typical tropical concerns like venomous snakes and large cats are nonexistent here. A very safe place, animal wise, to camp, but do be warned of flash floods when hiking the area and come aware of the conditions and also prepared with a first aid kit, as outside help is far and difficult to reach. Towers were recently put in to assist with calls out, but in the valleys and at high elevations you will often find it hard to get reception. And help us an hour or more away. So hike with caution.
Sites are fairly level, close to each other, and on soft grass. The route to this area via the Hāna Hwy is almost worth the trip in and of itself, it’s truly a gorgeous area at all elevations.
Be sure to take advantage of the many guided hikes (also for safety reasons) offered by the national park and local private companies. We took a GREAT waterfall rappelling trip with Rappel Maui and enjoyed all their info about the area and expertise in rappelling. Be prepared for mosquitos, however we really didn’t encounter too many in June.
Check out the Pools at ‘Ohe’o and the many many waterfalls around the Nat Park as well as the state park while there. And the rocky, rough-waved cost on that side of the island (not great for swimming but so so beautiful).
We camped here the night before going up to the top of Haleakala. For some context, we did a campervan trip round Maui for a week and a half, and this was our third stop after camping in Wanapanapa State Park and then Kipahulu. We spent 2 nights in Kipahulu and then our third at Hosmer Grove, so we really took advantage of the $25 entrance fee that covers 3 nights in Haleakala State Park - I'd recommend definitely checking out both camp sites/sides of Haleakala, as they're both beautiful in their own way!
Hosmer Grove is just inside the state park lines, and has a large parking lot with approx the same size grassy area. The area is small, but it doesn't seem like it ever gets overcrowded - we shared the campground with about four other groups the night we stayed, and there were only 2 vans camping out. There's pit toilets with sinks, running water and soap to wash up afterwards, as well as a water fountain, picnic tables and grills.
When people say it's cold up there, it's COLD. Our van was too old to make it up to Hosmer Grove, so we hitchhiked up and brought a 2 person tent for the night. the grassy area to camp on is not completely flat, and unfortunately we chose a spot that was on a bit of an incline and struggled to not slide the whole night - so bewarned to find the right spot to camp on. We were there in June, and by nightfall it got to about 30 degrees (probably dropped even more by midnight). Be prepared with a warm sleeping bag, long sleeves, long pants, socks and maybe a warm hat. The next morning, when we woke up and hitched a ride up to see the sunrise, it was still COLD, and everyone at the top was bundled up - some even wearing winter jackets.
Also a note: I did a lot of researching ahead of time about the sunrise reservation for Haleakala, since we missed the deadline to get one online. We were pretty worried that we wouldn't be able to see the sunrise since on their website it says that all those who don't have a reservation will be turned away at the top. We ended up getting a ride to the top with a couple who also didn't have a sunrise reservation, and when we got to the top *no one* checked if we had a reservation. We were able to park and watch the sun from the summit. It seems that reservations must be checked at the entrance gate, which is right before Hosmer Grove (some maps seem to make it look like the entrance is after Hosmer, but that's definitely not true. the campground is about a 5 minute drive after you get through the entrance). So a note to the pre-planners: if you don't have a reservation and really want to see that sunrise, camp at Hosmer Grove the night before - as long as you're not trying to enter the park from 3AM-7AM, you'll be fine. Last note on the sunrise - in one of the guidebooks it recommended skipping the summit and going to one of the other lookout points to watch the sunrise where it's way less crowded, and I wished we'd listened. It was overcrowded and noisy, and everyone had their phones out for the hour we were there waiting for the sun to rise. If you want to go a bit off the beaten track, I'd recommend checking out one of those other lookout points. if you don't have a reservation, you'll still need to camp at Hosmer Grove the night before for those, since they're still inside the park's boundaries. And if you're going to camp, might as well hike down into the crater after watching the sunrise!
Lived on Maui for 2 years and used to come up here to camp just to get the Northern California vibe and fresh cool air. It’s a great base camp for sunrise, sunset, or my personal favorite overnight stargazing at Haleakala summit. My boyfriend and I always bring small firewood and light a campfire in the raised grill… it’s SURPRISINGLY cold at Hosmer at night, so this usually brought the neighbors around to share bottles and talk story. Have met a ton of amazing people from around the world on this tiny patch of grass!
Hosmer Grove campground is located just within Haleakala National Park, the first left turn after the pay station. The campground sports several charcoal grills, a picnic space, bathrooms, water bottle filling station, parking lot with ample space, and a large open space that fits upwards of 10 sports for tents. The campground was easy to access and use as it was the first place we stayed before entering the crater on our 4-day backpacking trip.
One of the few completely legal free places to stay on Maui. Why is it free? This campground is in the cloud layer, so be prepared for a humid moist stay. You would be hard pressed to get a fire going here. This campground is past 7,000 ft so be prepared for high winds and cold temperatures. If you enjoy cold weather you will get a great night of sleep here.
Any true national park “bucket list” should include a trip to the Haleakala volcano, in Haleakala National Park on the beautiful island of Maui.
And in visiting this beautiful place, you can enhance your experience even greater by camping overnight in the park. Hosmer Grove, located around the 7,000 ft. elevation mark along the road up to Haleakala, is the perfect campground to serve as your base for exploring the area.
Benefits of this campground include the fact that it’s free and offers quick access to the summit of Haleakala (especially for watching the sunrise!), its scenery and birding trail, and the experience of camping so close to a giant volcano in a national park.
The only real downside is that since it requires no reservations or permits, all sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis. This means that early arrival is important for acquiring a site, especially during the peak season.
Haleakala was a great highlight of our trip visiting all 59 national parks. We especially enjoyed watching the sunrise from an empty overlook (instead of the crowded summit), backpacking into the crater for a night, and visiting the lush side of the park at Kipahulu.
You can read much more about our two days in the park on our blog: Switchback Kids (Haleakala)
great view of the mountains and the oceans.
Beautiful drive, views, and accommodation. Worth the trip.
Halfway to the top of Haleakala on Maui is where you'll find this sweet spot for a base camp while you explore the area. Early risers will appreciate the short drive to the top of Haleakala for amazing sunrises… Sun sets are spectacular as well.
Beautiful forested area that is located near the Haleakala visitor center. Perfect location to wake up early and drove up to the summit for sunrise or for stargazing. It is at about 7000ft elevation so it gets surprisingly chilly at night. You will need layers. It is a long drive into town, about an hour, so bring plenty of food as well. There are many trails the branch from the campground too. This is a must do camp site for the true adventurer!