Waihee Ridge Trail | Hike Maui

23 April 2017

Although we weren't certain if the trail would be covered in mud from the excessive rainfall the night before, we set out to hike Waihee Ridge anyway. We hadn't hiked anywhere in Maui yet and, being our last day on the island, we didn't want to head home without hitting a trail to see Maui at it's finest. So, we figured we'd give it a try and see how far we could make it before we reached trouble.

Finding a hike that fit our interests (more than three miles, moderate to challenging, and something with a view) was a challenge alone. In the months leading up to our trip, buckets of rain fell on Maui and wiped out some of the most notable hiking areas, including both Seven Sacred Pools and 'Iao Valley.  Officials closed both, and then some, to locals and visitors for fear of further eroding the land and risking landslides. Waihee Ridge would be our best bet. Located on the north side of the island in the West Maui mountains, we hoped the excessive rain in the recent days of our trip hadn't demolished the trail completely.

Hiking Maui and the Waihee Ridge Trail | The Brave Little Cheesehead at bravelittlecheesehead.com

From the Ka'anapali area, we took the highway toward the airport rather than the one-lane road beyond Olivine Pools. The Kahekili Highway wraps around the lower part of the mountain area, leading you to Mendes Ranch and the road to the trailhead. The trail starts at the end of a paved, inclined service road, likely used by farmers to get to the cattle at the end. We parked in the gravel lot and entered through a narrow, chicken-wire fence that led us up yet another inclined service road, although this one wasn't accessible to vehicles. Beyond the initial incline, we continued to climb until we entered a forest and soon another small gate to pass. After about a half-mile on trail we reached the first platform. It was a helluva view and it just whet our appetite for what was ahead.

On and on we hiked--through the mud (not as bad as we'd expected), along the narrow foot path, up the makeshift stairs, and through the fog. We climbed until we couldn't see farther than a foot in front of us. We were completely engulfed in fog. At this point, we weren't sure if continuing would be worth it. After all, we had a flight to catch in less than three hours and we could really use this extra time to freshen up before boarding our red-eye.

Hiking Maui and the Waihee Ridge Trail | The Brave Little Cheesehead at bravelittlecheesehead.com

But we kept hiking and eventually the sky cleared for us to see that we were truly walking along the ridge of a mountain, with deep, deep valleys just beneath our feet on both sides. The footpath continued to narrow as we climbed higher and higher, briefly widening again in the forest, and eventually leading us to our arrival at the final platform showcasing the most spectacular view: lush mountains, towering waterfalls, and ocean views for miles. Truly magnificent, Maui.

Hiking Maui and the Waihee Ridge Trail | The Brave Little Cheesehead at bravelittlecheesehead.com

Alone at the top, we breathed it all in, snapped a few photos for memory, and soon retreated back to the lot. Waihee Ridge Trail is open to the public from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and we didn't want to risk getting locked on the wrong side of the gate with a flight to catch. We finished the five-mile hike in two hours, stopping briefly a handful of times along the trail to catch our breath and take in the views. What helped us plan best was the few YouTube videos of hikers on the trail. Take a look if you have a minute, or check out a few of our recommendations below.

1 | Pack water and snacks
We brought 16 oz of water with us on the trail. We probably would've liked a little more. Maybe two of these? With all of the time spent in the sun, we didn't realize how dehydrated we were until we were on the trail. But really, pack a picnic! This is the perfect place for it. We were kicking ourselves for not leaving more time.

2 | Bring a change of shoes (or a shoe bag)
If you don't plan to do more than one or two short hikes in Maui, it's probably not worth it to pack your hiking shoes. You can certainly manage in your gym shoes (we did, even with the mud). That said, you'll want to pack an extra pair for the ride home post-hike. Or, better yet, consider bring a shoe bag so you can't avoid getting mud all over your other clothes.

3 | Plan accordingly 
Again, the trailhead is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and a giant gate prevents access outside that window. Be sure to plan accordingly so you're not stuck without an exit. Also, note that this trail might not be the best Maui hike to choose for beginners. We'd consider this a moderate trail (on Washington state hike standards), solely because of the steady incline. It's a nice distance for an out-and-back trail, but you'll be climbing most of it.

4 | Need a post-hike shower? Consider the Y.
For real. About 2.5 hours stood between the end of our Waihee Ridge hike and boarding our flight back home. With a 5-hour flight ahead of us, I couldn't imagine sitting on a plane in my sweaty hiking clothes for that long. But we were booked out of our VRBO and needed to find a shower. OGG doesn't offer public showers, so we called the YMCA and coughed up $10 a pop to hit the showers and freshen up before our flight. Bring your own towel! Or, consider asking your hotel if it offers a courtesy room for guests who've checked out but need a quick shower or down time.

5 | Not the right pick for you? Consider these alternatives.
Twin Falls: 2 miles, easy
Pipiwai Trail (aka Bamboo Forest): 3.5 miles, easy
Waihou Spring Trail Loop: 1-2.5 miles, easy
Kapalua Coastal Trail: 2 miles, easy
Kapalua Village Walking Trail: 1-4 miles, easy

'Iao Valley State Park trails were closed during our visit, but we would've loved to explore here!

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