Waihee Ridge Trail: Most Underrated Maui Hike

Waihee Ridge Trail – Maui’s most underrated hike

There are a lot of great Maui hikes. While visiting you can explore rainforests, discover waterfalls, and even see the power of the ocean on display in various blowholes. Even amongst stiff competition, The Waihee Ridge Trail Maui offers is my absolute favorite. 

This hike takes you across the ridgeline at the top of a mountain where you have gorgeous views down to the ocean on either side. Even though the entire hike is 4.4 miles out and back, you don’t have to go that far to get an incredible experience.

Even if you only want to go 1 mile out and back you will still get to experience some of the breathtaking ridgeline views!

Waihee Ridge Trail overlooking Kahului and Haleakala in Maui
Waihee Ridge Trail, overlooking Kahului and Haleakala in Maui

Waihe’e Ridge Trail Details

  • Distance – 4 miles out and back
  • Duration – 2.5 hours average to complete
  • Difficulty – Moderate (Basically all uphill)
  • Elevation gain – 1,610 ft
  • Open from – 7am to 7pm
  • Bathrooms – Porta potty in the parking lot

Planning for the Waihe’e Ridge Trail

I truly don’t understand why this hike isn’t more popular. The experience of traversing the top of a mountain with awesome views down to the Pacific Ocean on either side really was powerful.

The Waihe’e Ridge Trail Length

If you go all the way up and back the trail is 4.4 miles. I’ve seen it listed as 5 miles total, but while measuring on my watch I almost exactly 4.4 miles.

The entire hike often gets rated as moderately difficult, but once again you don’t have to do the entire thing to get an amazing payoff. There is a pretty intense elevation gain going all the way up though. You will ascend approximately 2,000 feet.

Waihee Trailhead Location

I think the location of this trail is a huge contributor to it not being more popular. It is located northwest of the airport on the Kahekili Highway, which sometimes gets called the “other Hana Highway.” Note – this highway leads the exact opposite direction of Hana.

If you leave the airport and head northwest you will get to the trailhead in about 30 minutes. The problem is that the trailhead isn’t very close to many of the resort areas.  

Even though it may seem like a simple drive around the top of the island to get to the most popular resort areas like Kaanapali, it isn’t quite that simple. The road that way has many switchbacks along a mountain cliff. The drive is gorgeous, but it will take about an hour and a half. The fastest way to get to the Kaanapali resort area is to go back towards the airport and then across the middle of the island.

Waihe’e Ridge Trail Weather

The Waihee Trail is on the “windward” side of the island. This means that it is the side of the island that generally gets much more of a breeze than the other side, which ultimately makes it even more lush and green. 

The negative associated with the Waihee Ridge Trail weather is that the wind can also blow in clouds more often, which can create some dense fog along the way.

If you run into fog about a mile up you could lose the exquisite views. I would still find the trail fun and challenging, but I understand that it wouldn’t quite be the same without.

Beware of Mud

Like many of the trails in Hawaii If it has recently rained a lot the trail will become quite muddy (don’t wear your new Yeezys). This can make things especially difficult because there is such an intense elevation gain required (about 2,000 feet). 

With tons of rain the mud steps along the way could get quite difficult to navigate.

Parking – Don’t Jump Into The First Lot

When you turn off of the main Kahekili highway you will see a sign that says “Waihee Ridge Trail” and a parking lot. Don’t park here! It’s not that this is a bad parking lot, it’s just not actually located at the trailhead.

Drive beyond the first lot and up the road .9 miles. You will see another parking lot and the actual trailhead. While this trail isn’t as popular as a number of others, it still can get pretty popular and the lot may fill up.

Note – I was there on Friday at 12:30 pm and I didn’t have any trouble finding parking.

Waihee Ridge Trail parking
Waihee Ridge Trail parking lot view from the trail

The Payoff

Even with the risks associated with a foggy day, muddy trail, and limited parking I still think this hike is worth it. I couldn’t help but stop and take pictures every two minutes.

It was a great workout, but not too difficult. Even if you do get tired there are benches situated at various lookout points along the way.

The Waihee Ridge Trail is a perfect combination of exquisite views and a challenging but not insane workout!

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