The Complete Guide to Hiking the Pipiwai Trail

woman hiking on Pipiwai Trail through lush vegetation
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Pipiwai Trail

Pipiwai Trail, Hawaii 96713, USA

The Pipiwai Trail is easy to access on the south end of Haleakalā National Park, is exceptionally well-maintained, and takes hikers past a wide range of unique sights. Along the way you'll be able to explore a dense bamboo forest, a grove of ancient banyan trees, and the spectacular 400-foot Waimoku Falls. This iconic hike is one of Maui’s idyllic treasures.

Trail Details

The out-and-back hike is located in the Kipahulu region of Haleakalā National Park. It gains 650 feet in elevation in just under 4 miles of trail. Depending on fitness level, the hike can take anywhere from two to five hours to complete (though we recommend taking your time to enjoy the sights and snap some photos). The most difficult part of the hike occurs within the first half mile with a couple of steep areas. Once you’re past the incline, it is relatively smooth-sailing from there.

As one of Maui’s most popular hikes, complete solitude is hard to come by on Pipiwai (the encompassing Haleakala National Park regularly sees more than 1 million visitors per year). Luckily, the trail is long enough and diverse enough to provide hikers with plenty of space to explore.

Getting There

The Pipiwai Trail is located near the end of the Road to Hana drive on Maui, about 12 miles past Hana town near mile marker 42. Find parking at the Kipahulu Visitors Center at Haleakala National Park for $25 per car. This is a different visitors center than the one at the top of Haleakala Crater, so don’t get the two confused if you have your heart set on this hike. Stop at the visitors center to get more information about the trail conditions for the day, check out some maps, and learn more about the area. There will be signs pointing you in the correct direction of the trail, which begins just across the street from the parking lot.

Highlights on the Trail

Although Pipiwai Trail is relatively simple to navigate, knowing what to expect before setting out will make it even easier to make the most of your time. Plus, having something to look forward to will make all those steps more rewarding.

Makahiku Falls

This 185-foot waterfall gives hikers just a taste of what’s to come. Begin the hike by accessing the trailhead across the road from the parking lot, and after about half a mile you’ll be in sight of Makahiku Falls. The falls here are surrounded by greenery ranging from massive ferns to bamboo and vines.

Banyan Tree

After passing through a gate, you will come upon a giant banyan tree. Banyans originate in India, and first came to the islands as gifts to Hawaiian royalty from Indian royalty. Over time, these majestic trees gained their own special place in Hawaiian myths and legends. Be sure to take a close look at their roots, which grow from the branches down to the ground and expand outward.

Bamboo Forest

Continuing along the trail past a couple of bridges, you’ll start to notice scattered groves of bamboo, which will eventually turn into a thick bamboo forest. Years ago, the National Park Service added a handy boardwalk through this forest to keep hikers headed in the right direction and keep the mud at bay. Spend some time in the mysterious, zen-like oasis before continuing out of the forest and towards Waimoku Falls.

Waimoku Falls

Once the bamboo begins to thin out, you’ll pass some mountain apple trees and a small stream before emerging from the trees into a crescent-shaped rock wall in full view of Waimoku Falls. The powerful waterfall flows from 400 feet up, spraying cool mist from yards away.

Tips for Visiting

  • Throughout the hike you’ll spot several warning signs; take them seriously. The National Park Service has done a fantastic job maintaining the trail, but venturing off of the designated path can be hazardous due to flash flooding, rock falls, and other natural dangers. Getting caught in restricted areas could result in hefty fines or a court date.
  • Although the hike has plenty of covered areas, be sure to pack sunscreen and don’t forget the bug spray.
  • Before or after the hike (if there’s time) do the half-mile loop to Oheo Gulch from the visitors center to view the Seven Sacred Pools. The waters from Waimoku Falls flow all the way down the mountain into the ocean here.
  • If you don’t have the time or aren’t up for a longer hike, turn around at Makahiku Falls and head back from there. You will still get a taste of the spectacular scenery and views of a beautiful natural waterfall without completing the entire trail.
  • Even though most of the photos you’ll see from this trail show wooden walkways within the bamboo forest, don’t let that fool you! This is still an unpaved dirt trail with exposed roots that can get dusty, rocky, or muddy for a majority of the way, so be sure to bring sturdy hiking shoes or boots.
  • Use the restroom at the visitors center before setting out on the hike; there are none on the trail.
  • The National Park Service offers a guided hike along the Pipiwai Trail on Sundays at 10:00 a.m. on a reservation basis. To reserve call 808-248-7375.
  • Bring more water than you think you’ll need.
  • If you're visiting during the rainy season, call ahead to the visitors center to make sure that the trail is still open. The park service has been known to close down the Pipiwai Trail during particularly wet periods since the hike is in a high-risk flood area.
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The Complete Guide to Hiking the Pipiwai Trail