I’ve mentioned it before but I’ll mention it again: there are people alive today who remember a time when they could drive up to the summit of Haleakala National Park and watch the sunrise without anyone else being around. Albert Perez, the executive director of Maui Tomorrow, told me that years ago, he used to do this.
But today? Not so much. Look at the photo above–doesn’t standing in that crowd seem like a magical experience?
“The four summit parking lots serving sunrise viewing hold approximately 150 vehicles,” states a Nov. 28 news release from the park. “Vehicles regularly exceed 300 per sunrise. When vehicles outnumber parking spaces, visitors park on road shoulders or in the upbound lane of Crater Road. The cars block emergency vehicle access and damage park infrastructure, vegetation, and critical habitat for endangered species such as the Hawaiian petrel and Haleakala silversword. Crowds at sunrise viewpoints often number over 1,000, with accidents resulting from visitors moving off trail and climbing cliff sides in the dark.”
Earlier this week, Haleakala National Park officials announced radical changes to way people watch the sunrise at the summit–specifically, sunrise viewing reservations.
Beginning on February 1, 2017, visitors in personal or rental vehicles wishing to view sunrise at Haleakala National Park will need to make sunrise viewing reservations ahead of time at recreation.gov,” states the news release. “The online reservation system is being implemented to ensure visitor and employee safety, protect natural and cultural resources, and provide a quality visitor experience at the summit during sunrise hours (3am to 7am). The reservation system will go live on December 1, 2016. The cost is $1.50 per car. Before February 1, 2017, sunrise viewing parking spaces will continue to be available without advanced reservation, on a first-come, first-served basis.”
Keep in mind that this new online reservation system is the ONLY way to get a spot.
As an added bonus, park officials have created a new, multi-language flyer that explains why people can’t simply just drive up to the summit anymore in the late evening, early morning hours and expect to park and watch the sunrise. Here’s the new flyer for park visitors:
Photo of sunrise crowds at the crater overlook by Haleakala Visitor Center (9,741 feet of elevation) courtesy Haleakala National Park