Waihou Spring Trail

Waihou Spring Trail: Roughly 2-Mile Forest Walk in Upcountry Maui
Local Expert's Rating:
4 / 5
The Bottom Line:

The Waihou Spring Trail is a pleasant Upcountry Maui amble amid the deep shade of a forest reserve on Haleakala’s far northwestern slopes. The short, easy main loop is doable for just about anybody, while the steep spur trail down to enigmatic Waihou Spring is a bit of a workout—but worth trying, except for in wet weather. 

- The HawaiianIslands.com Local Expert Team

The trailhead is easily reached from the Upcountry town of Makawao via Olinda Road. If you’re devoting a day to tooling around Upcountry Maui—including the fine shops and eateries in Makawao—consider setting aside an hour or two for the Waihou Spring Trail. The peaceful sylvan atmosphere and the verdant site of the spring itself are well worth experiencing.

The main Waihou Spring Trail, which heads south from the trailhead to reach a short loop, is easy. But the spur trail down to the spring itself, which breaks off the loop about 0.8 miles from the trailhead, is a bit tougher undertaking. If you want minimal elevation gain, or if it’s been raining a lot recently, stick to just the loop. 

You’ll see a lot of non-native trees on this hike, a legacy of reforestation efforts, and a long-standing experimental tree plantation managed by the Division of Forestry. (The first part of the trail follows an old road serving the tree plantation.) Besides the pines, cypresses, eucalyptus, and other exotics, you’ll be able to spot native Hawaiian trees and shrubs such as koa and halapepe.

The same goes for the wildlife department. Keep your ears pricked for native birdsong and your eyes peeled for relative Hawaiian newcomers such as feral jungle fowl and axis deer.

A trail sign noting the spur trail to an overlook (which isn’t much of an overlook these days) and the spring steers you toward the trail’s namesake. That spur heads downhill and then begins switchbacking into Kailua Gulch, where Waihou Spring lies. The rocky descent can be unstable and slippery, particularly after wet weather, so watch your footing carefully. 

Depending on the season and recent conditions, Waihou Spring may or may not be visibly flowing. But the setting itself is pretty sweet: mossy, cobbly, and tucked-away-feeling. An overhanging lava-rock wall comes pocked with alluring caves: actually carved-out irrigation/water-diversion tunnels. 

The climb back up from Waihou Spring to the loop will likely see you huffing and puffing a bit. But in dry conditions, the several hundred feet of elevation gain involved isn’t excessively strenuous. Moderately fit hikers should have no trouble for the most part.

Really, though, the main trail and loop are lovely enough given the vaulting canopy and cool shade, even if you skip the drop-down into Kailua Gulch. Consider the Waihou Spring Trail a chance to stretch your legs in forest quiet while doing an Upcountry jaunt away from the coast, or as part of a more extensive Haleakala tour.

Insider Tips:
-Besides sturdy footwear (especially if you’re going to Waihou Spring itself), pack raingear and warm layers for this trail. The mid-elevation Upcountry setting tends to be notably cooler than the North Shore lowlands.
-You can take Fido along on the Waihou Spring Trail—just so long as you keep the leash on and clean up after him or her!