When you think of Hawaii, you probably envision towering waterfalls, verdant rainforest and miles of sandy beaches. These are all there and worth visiting. But if you want to experience something else entirely, the Waihee Ridge Trail is an absolute must on any trip to Maui.
Even though the hike is 4.5 miles round trip, you don’t need to travel that far to have a memorable experience. You can still enjoy some of the breathtaking ridgeline views if you only want to travel 1 mile out and back!
On this hike, you’ll follow a paved path as it leads you up a mountain and back down again. You will traverse the top of a mountain with awesome views down to the Pacific Ocean on either side.
The entire hike often gets rated as moderately difficult, but once again you don’t have to do the entire thing to get an amazing payoff.
How to get to Waihee Ridge Trail
You can access the trailhead from either the north or the south of the island by traveling along the Kahekili Highway, a stunning but nerve-wrackingly winding road that runs alongside the cliffs of eastern Maui.
Turning onto Maluhia Road will bring you to the trailhead, but be very cautious and drive slowly as there are a few sections where it becomes a winding one-lane road. You will arrive at a dirt parking area with room for about 40 cars at the end of the road.
In case the parking is full, there is an overflow parking available down the hill. The overflow parking of the Waihee Ridge Trails is located here.
Getting to the trailhead early will help you avoid having to use the overflow lot. The main parking can get crowded on weekends during busy seasons (winter and summer).
Here is a very informative video of how to get to the trails and will give you a glimpse into what you can expect:
What should you know about Waihee Ridge Trial
Hawaiian culture has long regarded the West Maui Mountains, or Mauna Kahlwai, as having great historical and spiritual significance.
The mountains’ wide elevation range and unusual topography give them a variety of microclimates, each of which the Ancient Hawaiians recognized as serving a distinct spiritual and practical purpose. In fact, there are several plant species that are unique to the mountain ranges can only be found there. Despite this, alien plants, spread by either animals or people, have supplanted local flora and now cover a sizable portion of the mountains, especially in the lower elevations.
The Waihee Ridge Trail is on the windward side of the island. This means that this side gets more of a breeze than the other side, which ultimately makes it greener and lusher. The negative with this is that the wind could cause clouds to blow in more often, creating some dense fog along the way. If you run into fog a mile up from where you started, you could lose the exquisite views. I would still find this trail fun and challenging but I understand that it wouldn’t quite be the same without those views.
The Waihe’e Ridge Trail is usually considered to be moderately difficult, but the rain can make the trail very muddy, making the steep inclines and nearly vertical drop-offs along the trail quite dangerous.
In light of this, I’d strongly advise staying away from the trail during or right after heavy rain. Although this region experiences significant amounts of precipitation all year round, the rainiest months are typically November through March.
Moreover, clouds frequently begin to obscure the West Maui Mountains by mid-afternoon most days, including the trail. As a result, if you want to see the dramatic green ridges unobscured, I advise arriving early in the morning.
Tips for hiking the Waihee Ridge Trail.
Keep in mind that you won’t find any shade along more than half of the trail, leaving you completely exposed to the sun. So it might be good idea to bring some sunscreen with you.
The parking area, gate, and trail are accessible from 7 AM to 7 PM. Please take this into consideration as a portion of the trail crosses private property, and we are only able to enjoy this magnificent trail thanks to the generosity of the property owners.
It is especially important to stay on the path and obey posted instructions when traveling through easements and rights-of-ways on private property. As long as you stay on the trail, the landowner will abide by the terms of the agreements you made when you first started using the trail, and the public will continue to be able to use it.
Similar hikes that cross private property have been off-limits to the public because of infractions. Make sure Waihe’e Ridge remains accessible for years to come so that everyone can enjoy it.
Once you’ve arrived at the first viewpoint over the ridge (about a mile in), turning around isn’t a bad idea if you’re in a hurry or just don’t feel like pushing yourself too hard.
What to bring with you
The Waihee Ridge Trail isn’t very long, so you won’t need a lot of equipment. However, there are a few items I’d recommend including on your Hawaii packing list to make sure your hike is as epic as possible.
- Given how muddy and slick the trail can become, I’d strongly advise bringing along actual hiking or trail shoes.
- Because the weather in the West Maui Mountains can shift quite quickly, a good idea would be to bring a waterproof jacket. On average, there is 300 inches of rain every year on the island.
- This hike can be quite sweaty due to the elevation gain, the sun exposure, and the fact that you are actually in a tropical jungle. Therefore, make sure to pack plenty of water—I always have one of these large Nalgene bottles with me on our hikes. They’re kinder to your wallet and the environment because they can be refilled, unlike disposable plastic bottles.
Hiking the Waihee Ridge Trail.
From the trailhead parking, proceed through a cattle gate and up a very steep concrete ramp. After the ramp, adhere to the directions for the Waihe’e Ridge Trail, and after passing a second ranch gate, enter a dense rainforest. A milepost reading of 0.5 will soon be reached.
For simple navigation, the trail is marked every half mile. Start climbing and soon enough, you’ll come to a trail with a sharp switchback and a bench. Take a moment to pause and gaze across the wide valley at Makamaka’ole Falls.
As you ascend further, you’ll reach Kanoa Ridge, where you’ll have stunning views of Waihee Valley formed by mountains that date back almost 2 million years and dramatically carved over the millenia by stream erosion. Many thin waterfalls can be seen throughout the valley if you look closely.
From here, the hike’s final destination of Lanalili is reached by a steep ascent up and across ridges. Lanalili will surprise you with extraordinary panoramic views of the island. A picnic table is available as well. You can take a break, have a snack, and enjoy the magnificent Maui and the surrounding islands before you follow the pathway back to the trailhead.
With its stunning views, it’s no wonder why so many people consider Waihee Ridge Trail one of their favorite spots on Maui! Whether you’re looking for a leisurely hike or an adrenaline-pumping adventure, this is definitely a great place to visit during your stay in Maui. Just remember to take some basic safety precautions before heading out – then let yourself explore one of Hawaii’s most beautiful trails!