One of Maui’s most famous treks rewards hikers with sweeping views of the interior of the West Maui Mountains, waterfall vistas, and an abundance of native plant and animal life.
This is Waiheʻe Ridge Trail.
Waiheʻe Ridge Trail is a five-mile round trip trail that climbs a windward slope of the West Maui Mountains. The route snakes along a narrow ridge before reaching the trail’s end at 2,563′, about a 1,500′ total elevation gain. Along the way, you’ll take in glorious views of the north shore, the plunging Waiheʻe Valley, the two tiers of Makamakaole Falls, and, if you’re lucky, the depths of the West Maui Mountains.
Located on the windward side of the West Maui Mountains, the lush Waiheʻe Ridge Trail is dotted with ferns, kukui, guava, and native ohia trees. Due to its windward location, the trail can often be muddy and slick. Therefore, good hiking shoes and rain gear are more than appropriate.
Waiheʻe Ridge Trail is known for its leg-burning incline. Arguably, the worst part of the trail is the first quarter-mile- just think of it as a warm-up. For about 200 ft, you’ll follow a concrete ramp that feels nearly vertical. Beyond the ramp, the trail enters a grove of planted trees. Watch your step; the path here is covered in roots. As the trail switches back, you will find a lookout overlooking Makamakaole Falls.
Beyond the thicket and forest, the trail opens up into native scrubland. From here to the top of the trail, the views are unparalleled. From this vantage point, the entire North Shore is laid out before you, as well as the verdant ridges that creep into the depths of the gaping Waiheʻe Valley. On a clear day, you will be rewarded with views of Haleakala’s towering purple arch, and if you are especially lucky, the heart of the West Maui Mountains. These mountains are usually shrouded in clouds, and viewing them unobstructed is a real treat.
The trail ends on a peak called Lanilili. Here there is a platform and some picnic tables- a great place to take a rest, have a snack, and enjoy the stunning vistas that surround you. Keep your eyes out for the elusive Mount Eke, a plateau deep in the West Maui’s often hidden under thick clouds. Mount Eke is home to one of the most unique and diverse ecosystems on the planet.
The Waiheʻe Ridge Trail is one of the only public trails that comes even remotely close to the interior of the West Maui Mountains. Due to its windward location, the weather changes often, and the trail takes on many moods. While the clouds can offer respite from the heat and give the trail a dreamy atmosphere, the views on a clear day are arguably some of the best on Maui. Get to the trailhead as soon as it opens at 7 am for the best chance at clear skies. The mountains usually start to gather clouds around 10 to 11 am.
The Waiheʻe Ridge Trailhead is located across the street from Mendes Ranch, off the snaking Kahekili Highway. Keep your eye out for Maluhia Road near mile marker 6.9 on the mauka side of the highway. There are two parking areas. The one further up the hill is the closest to the trailhead, but it fills up fast. The lower lot serves as an overflow parking lot and adds a bit more length to your hike. There are no facilities here other than a portable toilet at the trailhead. The trail is open from 7 am to 7 pm.
Photos courtesy of Natalie Brown Photography.