This otherworldly trail, which rides the precipitous spine of Haleakalā, begins just beyond the summit at a lofty elevation (9750ft) and leads down to the campground at Polipoli Spring State Recreation Area (6200ft). It covers a distance of 8.5 miles and takes about four hours to walk. Get an early start to enjoy the views before clouds take over.
To get to the trailhead, go past Puʻuʻulaʻula (Red Hill) Overlook and take the road to the left just before Science City. The road, which passes over a cattle grate, is signposted not for public use, but continue and you’ll soon find a Na Ala Hele sign marking the trailhead.
The Skyline Trail starts in barren open terrain of volcanic cinder, a moon walk that passes more than a dozen cinder cones and craters. The first mile is rough lava rock. After three crunchy miles, it reaches the tree line (8500ft) and enters native mamane forest. In winter mamane is heavy with flowers that look like yellow sweet-pea blossoms. There’s solitude on this walk. If the clouds treat you kindly, you’ll have broad views all the way between the barren summit and the dense cloud forest. Eventually the trail meets the Polipoli access road, where you can either walk to the paved road in about 4 miles, or continue via the Haleakalā Ridge Trail and Polipoli Trail to the campground. If you prefer treads to hiking boots, the Skyline Trail is also an exhilarating adventure on a mountain bike. Just look out for hikers!