In a nutshell: A rugged and challenging 5-10 mile hike with stunning panoramas of the central valley, ocean and neighbor islands.
Minuses: If you want to do the whole trail you’ll need 2 cars or legs of steel.
Sound-bite: [whipping winds]
This is a rugged and strenuous 5-mile trail from Maalaea to Ukumehame. This is an out-and-back hike with trailheads on either end. Both trailheads are close to sea level and the trail gains ~1600 ft. in 2.5 miles, then descends back toward sea level for another 2.5 miles. The Lahaina Pali Trail is rocky, and the uphill portions can be strenuous and slow-going. It will take a person in good physical condition ~3 hours one-way, including several short stops; give yourself 4-5 Hours if you are in a lesser state of conditioning or plan on taking longer breaks. (Twice as long for a full out-and-back trip.)
– If you want to hike the whole trail, you’ve got three choices: 10 mile strenuous hike out-and-back, two cars (drop one at the ending trailhaed), or hitch-hike the return.
– If you’re not hiking the whole trail, you need to decide which side to hike.
– If doing half or less, I suggest the Maalaea side since the views of the central valley, Haleakala and the Maalaea coastline are absolutely breathtaking. As you ascend on the Maalaea side the view just gets better and better. The panorama eventually opens to both coasts of the central isthmus, and is more stunning every time you stop.
– During whale season you’re likely to see whales on the Ukumehame side.
– If you’re parking at the Maalaea side, you don’t have to park on the highway, you can go through the gates and drive up to a dedicated trail parking area. (see map below.)
Pali can mean cliff, precipice, steep slope or obstacle. All of these apply equally to this hike.
The trail from either direction winds up steep rocky hills to the Kealaloloa Ridge – a feature you can easily spot from much of Maui because this is where the gigantic wind turbines for Kaheawa wind farm are found. The trail crosses directly through the middle of the wind farm. (If you do the 10-mile out-and-back, the return sighting of those turbines is a glorious sight – downhill relief is coming!)
The trail was hand-built in the 1800’s for horseback and foot travel between Wailuku and Lahaina. You may see native birds such as Nene and Pueo. There are many historical features. 16 numbered markers along the trail leave most hikers scratching their heads – unless they picked up the “Tales From The Trail” guide from Na Ala Hele. (We made it easy, you can download it clicking on the thumbnail to the left.) I’ll skip restating these historical facts here, as the pamphlet is well researched and does a great job.
The entire trail is though an area of very low rainfall. Most years, significant storms periodically bring just enough rain so that the parched hillsides temporarily explode with tall, green grasses. But when storms decrease in frequency, the grasses become brown, and very, very dry.
This area is highly susceptible to huge uncontrollable brushfires which can be easily sparked by a single wind-blown ember. Unfortunately several gigantic fires consuming many thousands of acres have happened with some regularity in recent years. Fires on this side of the island can literally completely close off access to West Maui, sometimes for days. If you look, you will find charred tree remains from past fires. Never smoke or build a fire on this trail.
This is also an area with reliably steady and strong winds. The winds will often keep you cool, but don’t forget your sunscreen and plenty of water!
View Lahaina Pali Trail in a larger map