Haleakala Ridge Trail

Haleakala Ridge Trail & More: Trek a 15.7-mile Shuttle Hike Up to the Haleakala Crest From the West Side
Local Expert's Rating:
4 / 5
The Bottom Line:

This long shuttle hike takes you through some of the Upcountry Maui backlands via the Kula Forest Reserve, the Polipoli Springs State Recreation Area, and other public lands to the high crest of Haleakala, Maui’s volcanic crown. From non-native but lovely forests to the windswept barrens of Skyline Road, you’ll enjoy sweeping views and wonderful wilderness ambiance.

- The HawaiianIslands.com Local Expert Team

The route starts part way up the Waipoli Road, also called the Polipoli Access Road, which switchbacks up the western slopes of Haleakala from the Kula Highway. The road enters the public lands of the Kula Forest Reserve as a four-wheel-drive track, but hikers (and mountain bikers) may choose to muscle it up the switchbacks. You may see cattle on this ascent (and you’ll definitely see cattle guards on the road!).

The Upcountry Maui highlands of the nearly 5,000,-acre Kula Forest Reserve offers far-reaching sightlines and some fascinating timberlands. Deforested and widely used as pasture back in the day, the region was subject to intensive reforestation efforts during Civilian Conservation Corps years, and the rain-soaked heights still nourish diverse stands of redwoods, Monterey pines, Monterey cypresses, Japanese sugi, tropical ash, and other various trees. Parts of this Upcountry forest feel and smell a lot more like a coastal Northern California wildland than the Hawaiian Islands. This is definitely some of the more unique country to hoof it through on the Valley Isle.

Broad vistas extend out over the central valley of Maui. Head along the Waipoli Road track, then follow the Polipoli Trail to reach the Haleapala Ridge Trail. This 1.6-mile route will transport you upslope to the Skyline Road or Skyline Trail. (Here you’re skirting the borderland between the Papaanui Track of the Kakikinui Forest Reserve and Haleakala National Park.)

This closed dirt road, well used by hikers and mountain bikers, ascends into a high open country with spectacular views en route toward the Haleakala summit zone. Those spectacular vistas extend beyond Maui to include the shield-volcano heights of the Big Island of Hawaii. 

The Skyline Road leads you to the end of Highway 378 up on the rooftop of Maui, with the 10,023-foot summit of Haleakala—Puu Ulaula or Red Hill—and the Haleakala Visitor Center close at hand. It’s a spectacular finish to this climb up to the apex of the East Maui volcano, and you’ve done it on foot, unlike most of the Haleakala National Park visitors who’ve driven their way to the summit via blacktop road.

This isn’t a hike for your average Maui visitor, but for a fit outdoors person who has arranged a shuttle, it’s likely to be a memorable adventure in the high-country hinterlands.

Insider Tips:
-The earlier you can get a start on this long hike, the better, given you’ll have a better shot of seeing the Haleakala heights without the cloudbanks that commonly roll in come afternoon. Plus you’ll minimize your time out trekking in the heaviest-duty heat of the day.
-Bring plenty of water on this trek and dress for fitful, wide-ranging elements. From scorching heat to cold winds and blowing mist high up, you may encounter just about any sort of weather on this kind of Upcountry and Haleakala walkabout.