Hike the Lau'ulu Trail to the Kalapawili Ridge

Rate this Adventure Hawaii Lau'ulu Trail

  • Activities:

    Survival, Chillin, Camping, Photography, Backpacking, Hiking

  • Skill Level:


  • Season:

    Year Round

  • Trail Type:


  • RT Distance:

    3 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    2200 Feet


Take a hidden and unmaintained trail in the most remote park of the Haleakala crater for epic views of the enter crater, Kaupo Gap, Kipahulu Biological Preserve, and the Big Island in the distance.

If you're 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'll find solitude, unparalleled views of the crater, surreal high-altitude tropical rainforest, Maui, the Big Island in the distance and a sunrise that's 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 campsights. To find the Lau'ulu trail, head uphill behind the water spigot, looking for a path through the brush. You'll need to do some scouting (and bushwacking) as the trail becomes overgrown quickly, particularly at the beginning. Expect several stretches of bushwacking early on.

Soon the trail will become clear, and overall it's a 2,000' climb over a couple of miles to the crater rim and the Lua'ulu summit.

From this point you can go two directions, or back down the trail you came on to Paliku.

If you head East along Kalapawili Ridge you can reach the flat, table-like summit of Pohakupalaha, the "center of East Maui" and look down into the Kipahulu Biological Preserve. You'll notice the barb-wired fence, which is because the Preserve is off-limits to the public and trespassing can result in a $10,000 fine. It is strongly recommended that you 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'll past lava vents, and, at the largest vent, the famous "Crystal Cave" with animal skeletons and crystals embedded in the walls.

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.

Pack List

  • Good hiking boots/shoes
  • Sunscreen
  • Rain gear
  • Tent
  • Food
  • Water (you can refill at Paliku Cabin)
  • Map: scienceviews.com
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Josiah RoeAdmin

The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark. - John Muir

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