Reservations will be required to view sunrise from Haleakala

Reservations will be required to view sunrise from Haleakala
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

HALEAKALA, Maui (HawaiiNewsNow) - Planning to check out the sunrise from Haleakala's summit in the new year?

Starting Feb. 1, you'll need a reservation.

An estimated 1.2 million people traveled to the national park last year, many to view the sunrise. And the growing popularity of the attraction has prompted gridlock and parking woes.

"We'll have people, they'll drive two hours from Wailea or sometimes three hours from Lahaina, and they'll get up to the entrance station and they're turned away because we've just run out of space," said Polly Angelakis, chief of interpretation and education at Haleakala National Park.

The four summit parking lots, used during the sunrise hours from 3 a.m. to 7 a.m., can fit approximately 150 vehicles.

"Our lots get filled and our staff get overwhelmed, which leads to uncontrolled parking on the one road to the summit and on the road shoulders. This blocks access to emergency vehicles and it damages the environment which is home to numerous endangered species," Angelakis said.

The online reservation system, set to go live on Dec. 1, will accept non-transferable bookings, up to 60 days in advance. The cost per car will be $1.50. The park entrance fee is a separate charge.

Pukalani resident Asa Ellison, who leads tours at the summit, supports the new reservation system.

"There's too many people going up there for the amount of parking and road space up there. It's understandable that people are going to feel upset that yeah, you have to make a reservation. I can understand that, but it's just the logistics of the place," Ellison said.

Anyone without a reservation will have to wait until after 7 a.m. to enter the park. National Park Service officials are planning an outreach campaign with hotels, airlines, and other tourism groups to make sure that visitors are aware of the new restriction.

"It may be a little bit of an inconvenience in the beginning, but overall, I think it will have a positive impact on how people get to view the sunrise at Haleakala," said Carol Clark, director of public relations for the Maui Visitors Bureau.

There will be no change to the current policy for Native Hawaiians who conduct traditional practices in the park.

Copyright 2016 HawaiiNewsNow. All rights reserved.