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Hike the Lau'ulu Trail to the Kalapawili Ridge

Kula, Hawaii



3 miles

Elevation Gain

2200 ft

Route Type



Added by Josiah Roe

Pristine and unparalleled views from the eastern edge of Haleakala crater of Kaupo Gap, Kipahulu Biological Preserve, and the Big Island.

If you are looking for something akin to true backcountry travel and scrambling in Maui, the Lau'ulu trail and the Pohaku Palaha summit on the north/north east rim of the Haleakala volcano is a great option. You will find solitude, unparalleled views of the crater, surreal high-altitude tropical rainforest, Maui, the Big Island in the distance and a sunrise that is impossible to describe.

Note: distances for this trip assume a start at Paliku Cabin. You'll add at least 16 miles and varying elevation gain depending on your route from either the Summit, Halemau'u, or Kaupo.

Regardless of your approach to the trailhead, it takes at least 8 miles of travel to reach the trailhead at Paliku Cabin, either across the desolate wasteland of from the western rim of the crater from either Haleakala Summit (Sliding Sands Trail) or Halemau'u , or through the Kaupo Gap on the Kaupo Trail from the Hana Highway.

Once at the Cabin there are several campsites. To find the Lau'ulu trail head uphill behind the water spigot looking for a path through the brush. You will need to do some scouting as the trail becomes overgrown quickly, particularly at the beginning.

Eventually the trail will become clear with an overall climb of some 2,000' over a couple of miles to the crater rim and the Lua'ulu summit.

From this point you can continue west along the ridge or east to the summit or back down the trail to Paliku.

If you head East along Kalapawili Ridge you can reach the flat, table-like summit of Pohakupalaha aka the "center of East Maui" and look down into the Kipahulu Biological Preserve. You will notice the barb-wired fence as the Preserve is off-limits to the public and trespassing can result in a $10,000 fine. Do not jump the fence to look for the famous and pristine Lake Waianapanapa or the nearby wilderness cabin.

If you head west along Kalapawili (if the valley is filled with fog, avoid) there is not a trail but as you contour to the right when necessary the ridge will descend into a saddle. Stay to the left and look for a 3 foot high wooden stake wrapped with a blue ribbon. Another 18-inch, 4x4 post wrapped with blue ribbon marks the trail down to the valley floor. The trail is not always clear, so bare left. You will travel past lava vents, the largest of which the famous "Crystal Cave" with animal skeletons and crystals embedded in the walls, is absolutely worth a detour.

Head towards the gulch below and follow it to Halemau'u trail. Left will take you back to Paliku, right for Holua Cabin and up the switchbacks and out of the crater.

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