I recently had the chance to visit Maui to attend the destination wedding of two dear and incredible people. The wedding was absolutely perfect and I couldn’t be happier for the newly weds. (And a bit jealous of their two week plus Hawaiian adventure!) Amid the hustle and bustle of the wedding activities, I was able to steal a morning for myself and check out one of the trails I was hoping to visit while on the island. Armed with two other lovely ladies, we ditched the boys and headed for the trail! (They had a tux fitting to attend anyway.)
Heading north from Wailuku, we quickly started driving up into the West Maui Mountains. The higher we drove, the more the road turned into frequent switchbacks. Upon seeing a sign for the trail, we turned down a narrow road that brought us to the trail head parking lot. (Note: when you first turn onto the road you will see a parking lot. This is overflow parking. Don’t park here unless you have to. Your legs will thank you later as from this parking lot you have to walk uphill to the trail head, where you will get to walk uphill some more.)
This is the main parking lot, and the one you want to park in if you can. We arrived around 8:45 a.m. and the lot was already filling up. You can see the clouds were starting to move in over the higher elevation, as they seem to everyday on Maui.
This is a nice visual of the trail. The trail is about 2.5 miles one way, so 5 miles in total with an elevation change of about 1,563 feet each way.
The trail begins by passing through a narrow gate before starting uphill on a paved section of trail. This is the only paved section, except for a few steps near the top.
A break at the top looking down toward the ocean. (This little section is tougher than this photo gives credit. While most of the rest of the trail is also uphill, this is the longest continually climbing stretch and a harsh wake up for your legs.)
Once off the paved section, the trail turns into dirt for the remainder of the hike. Depending on the weather around the time of your hike, some of the trail, maybe a lot of the trail, will be mud. From reading the experiences of other people during different times of the year, it seems like mud is a guarantee for at least some of the hike. By the end of the hike, all of our shoes needed a good bath and one pair even had to be retired.
After heading southwest, the trail takes a turn north and comes to a point with nice views of Makamaka’ole Falls.
The trail turns back south before continuing on it’s western elevation climb along the Waihee Valley side. This leads you to an overlook point with some truly stunning views of the valley, the ocean, or both at once.
These views made the entire hike worth it.
I’m glad we stopped to enjoy this view on the way up. On our way back down, this area had become enveloped in clouds and these stunning views were hidden behind a gray misty wall.
(Obligatory fern picture – Hawaiian edition)
From the overlook, we continued working our way up towards the summit. Mile markers every half mile will alert you to your progress. The higher we got, the foggier it became. While we were lucky enough to never have it actually rain on us, the cloud was so dense water began pooling on us anyway.
I imagine this view is a little different without the fog.
At the summit, you will find a level strip of land with a wooden platform on it. This platform even has a picnic table if you feel up to the challenge of climbing with your picnic for 1,500 feet. (I joke, but there actually was a family with smaller children having a picnic at the top, which is why the table isn’t shown in the picture.)
As you can see, there was no view for us to enjoy at the top. Other reviews of the trail say that getting on the trail by 8 a.m. will give you the best chance of seeing something from the summit. We started at 8:45 a.m. and the clouds were already thick by the time we made it up. After talking with some locals about the trail, it sounds like the majority of days are like the one we experienced and having a view from the summit is actually quite rare. Having a view or not, the journey to the top is still worth the effort.
Now to head back down!
(My hiking companions for the day!)
Depending on how muddy the trail is, going down can be as big of a challenge as climbing up was. In steeper sections the trail becomes a mudslide with nothing to hold on to for support. While there were a lot of slips and slides, I’m happy to say that no one actually fell!
Making it down in a fraction of the time it took to climb, we emerged from the trail muddy, sweaty, and tired but with a sense of accomplishment and pride. Celebrating this minor victory with us was a handsome looking gentleman strutting his stuff around the parking lot.
(Well hello there!)
This trail, while challenging in some ways, was worth the effort. The most obvious challenge was the elevation change. You are hiking up a mountain side, after all. On top of that is the mud. Ignoring the concern you might have for your shoes and their ability to be cleaned post-hike, hiking in mud presents challenges not found on dry trails. Mud sticks to your shoes and builds up as you walk. This makes your shoes heavier and reduces the traction you normally have which can lead to slips and falls. Hiking in mud requires more thought and planning of each step you take. (Trekking poles can be helpful, and we did see numerous people with them.) On this trail, you are hiking in mud on both an ascent and a descent so make sure you have enough fuel left in your tank for the way down. Exhausted, depleted muscles become careless muscles, which can lead to injuries.
If you have the chance to do this trail, and if you are feeling up to it, I encourage you to give it a shot. The views at the first overlook are rewarding and hiking through a cloud is always a unique experience. You might even get lucky enough to have a clear view from the summit!