This five-mile trail on the windward slope is probably best described as moderate or intermediate, difficulty-wise. It does involve nearly 1,600 feet of elevation gain, but the steeper sections come interspersed with relative flats in between. The exertion thus is never really over the top, although in muddy conditions you’ll be working harder—especially on the potentially slippery descent.
The Waihee Ridge Trailhead lies along Maluhia Road off Highway 340 northwest of Waihee. It’s served by a gravel parking area that, especially on weekends, can sometimes fill up by afternoon. You’ll enjoy more solitude—and a better chance of clear vistas—if you get here early in the day.
Kicking off on a paved road beyond a gate, the Waihee Ridge Trail soon delivers its first really impressive views. From a switchback, take in the distant double plunge of Makamakaole Falls.
A bit more climbing, and you’ll soon reach the spine of Kanoa Ridge, part of the divide between the Makamakaole and Waihee drainages. The views southward over the majestic gorge of the Waihee River give you a taste for the turnaround point’s panoramas.
You’ll see that turnaround point toward the end of the Waihee Ridge Trailhead as you begin climbing up to the 2,563-foot knob of Lanilili. At the top, in clear weather, you’ll have superb viewshed of the West Maui Mountains to enjoy, plus vistas out to the Pacific. Among the green high country, you’ll be able to pick out the distinctive flat-topped height of Mount Eke, whose remote summit plateau is host to one of Maui’s unique high-elevation bogs.
Now, it’s certainly possible you won’t actually get those long-range sightlines from the Lanilili summit, especially later in the day. This hilltop, like the rest of the West Maui Mountains, is often socked in by clouds, if not all-out rain shafts. Frustrating as it may be to miss out on the vistas, it’s also kind of magical to be up on Lanilili and the Kanoa ridgetop in the mists.
Also, not all of the attraction of the Waihee Ridge Trail lies in big views over gorges and peaks: As you hike along, keep an eye peeled for the abundant native birds in the wet scrub forest of ohia, kukui, and other trees.
Wear sturdy hiking shoes or boots and bring plenty of water for your hike on the Waihee Ridge Trail. (There’s no water available at the trailhead and no reliable sources along the route.) There’s a picnic table up on the top of Lanilili for a well-deserved mid-hike lunch break, hopefully with that incredible panorama as a backdrop.
It’s a delight to look into the depths of the great tropical backcountry of the West Maui Mountains. The Waihee Ridge Trail gives you that opportunity without wrecking your body or demanding all of your days. (Although, in truth, a day spent leisurely rambling Kanoa Ridge and kicking back atop Lanilili would be a fabulous one!)
What To Do If The Parking Lot Is Full:
Once you are close to the trail via GPS, on the left side there will be a road to turn off of. You’ll see a ranch followed by a road to the Waihee Ridge Trailhead. To the left, you’ll see a parking area with some cars parked there (this is the overflow lot). Parking at the overflow lot will add a couple of miles to your hike so prepare for that extra bit.
Don’t stray off the trail: Hunters are often active in this area. It’s also not a bad idea to wear bright-colored clothing when you do the hike.