It would be impossible for me to choose a favorite between a hiking trail that follows a ridge line, with epic views on all sides, or a thickly forested trail, with sturdy pines and oaks or mysterious jungle that makes you forget any other world exists.
They are both magical in their distinct uniqueness. They both make my gypsy soul dance and soar. They both provide a satisfying Wilds fix. They are both equally necessary in my life—with regularity.
So, the Waihee Ridge Trail in Central Maui is one of my favorites. I hiked the trail for the first time shortly after the New Year, in-between the chaos of packing to move to a new home and simultaneously preparing to leave the island to travel for a month. It was perfect.
Why is it such a favorite?
It has both. The ridges with the panoramic vistas and the forests with their captivating magnetism.
Although not in the jungle, it passes through forest areas alive with vibrant colors, towering pines, softly carpeted pine needle floors, and winding paths illuminated by the speckled sunlight filtering through the treetops.
The trailhead starts off of Kahekili Highway near Mendes Ranch, and climbs 2.5 miles and 1,500 feet through a forest of ferns, ohi’a, guava, and kukui, with sweeping views of Waihee Valley, Makamakaole Falls, the West Maui Mountains, and Haleakala. It’s a 5-mile round-trip trail that transitions back and forth between cool, shaded forests and hot, sunny ridge lines, with the steepest part right at the beginning. After parking, hikers have to climb a 200-ft cement path before reaching the start of the actual trail that may have you questioning whether it’s worth it, but… it is. Don’t stop. At the top of the path, a sign on the left leads hikers through a pasture and then through a fence and into the forest where the magic begins.
The trail ends at Lani’ili, at 2,563 foot elevation with a stunning view of the valley, mountains, and coastline.
This area of the island can see frequent rain, so plan to hike early to have the best chance of clear skies (for views) and dry conditions. Be prepared for a muddy trail, and bring plenty of water and sunscreen!
Directions to Waihee Ridge Trail:
- Take Highway 32 West from Kahului to Highway 330 (around 3 miles.)
- Turn right onto Highway 330 and follow it around as it becomes Highway 340.
- About a half mile beyond mile marker 6, you will see the Maluhia Boy Scout Camp on the left.
- Turn left onto this road, and follow the road 1 mile up the hill to the parking area, which is well marked.
- Be safe and have fun!