Stunning landscape view seen from Waihee Ridge Trail, overlooking Kahului and Haleakala, Maui, Hawaii, USA

Waihee Ridge Trail Hike, Maui: Complete 2024 Guide

Haven’t explored the windward side of Maui yet?

You’re not alone, most visitors to Maui head to Lahaina and the sunny, leeward side of Maui or to Haleakala National Park on the south side of Maui.

With its lush rainforests, spectacular mountain ranges and beautiful beaches, the windward side of Maui holds a special allure!

We make it a point to spend at least a day here, and usually that ends up as a hike on the Waihee Ridge Trail.

Situated in the West Maui mountains called Mount Kahalawai, the Waihee Ridge Trail hike is part rainforest, part view hike, and gives you flavor of what you are missing on this side of Maui.

Windward side, rain forest landscape from the Waihee Ridge Trail, Maui
Windward side, rain forest landscape from the Waihee Ridge Trail, Maui

The Waihee Ridge Trail hike is one of Maui’s most popular hikes, but if you are looking for an easy hike, this is not it.

Enjoy viewing waterfalls? The Waihee Ridge Trail is one of the best Maui waterfall hikes, with vistas of the two tiered Makamaka’ole Falls.

Hiking the Waihee Ridge Trail is challenging and not for everyone. Apart from the climb of 1,500 feet, you typically have to deal with wet, muddy and slippery trails!

But those who can brave this conditions will definitely appreciate the payoff.

Lush valleys, dense green forests, and panoramic views of oceans and mountain ranges, you can see them all from the Waihee Ridge Trail.

Hey, by the way! Snorkeling is probably at the top of your Maui itinerary — check out our guides to the best tours to Molokini Crater and Turtle Town, two of the top snorkel spots on Maui!

Cook pine forest along the Waihee Ridge Trail on Maui, Hawaii
Cook’s pine forest along the Waihee Ridge Trail on Maui, Hawaii

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Waihee Ridge Trail Hike: Fast Facts

Waihee Ridge Trail Difficulty

The Waihee Ridge Trail is rated as a hard hike.

You are mostly climbing uphill for two miles to the ridgeline summit and then descending two miles back.

But for the initial steep section, the climb is not overly difficult, and you definitely don’t need technical climbing skills, nor are there rope sections.

Beautiful views of the ocean and surrounding wooded landscape after the initial elevation gain on the Waihee Ridge Trail, Maui
Beautiful views of the ocean and surrounding wooded landscape after the initial elevation gain on the Waihee Ridge Trail, Maui

In fact, there are well-maintained steps on the steeper inclines within the ridge climb section, making it more manageable.

In my opinion, the primary reason hikers rate this hard is because it rains a lot in this area (the windward side of Maui, after all), and the trail gets slippery on the muddy and rocky sections.

Even when it doesn’t rain, the moisture from the low hanging clouds leaves the path quite wet.

Under these trail conditions, I recommend stepping with a great deal of caution, and I’ve found the descent to be much harder.

Yellow flowered Ohia may be seen along the Waihee Ridge Trail, Maui, Hawaii
Yellow flowered Ohia may be seen along the Waihee Ridge Trail, Maui, Hawaii

Waihee Ridge Trail Length

The Waihee Ridge Trail length is roughly 4 miles overall in distance, and the trail is out-and-back.

While the distance is not much, don’t underestimate the hike since it is all climbing, up or down.

If you park in the overflow parking lot, add an additional two miles to the hiking distance (one mile to the trailhead, and one mile back to the car).

Waihee Ridge Trail Elevation Gain

The Waihee Ridge Trail elevation gain is about 1,500 feet, and fairly evenly distributed. You are climbing roughly 800 feet per mile.

The first initial section off the parking lot, on the concrete paved path, is probably the steepest you’ll face, and once you’re through that, the rest of the trail has relatively easier inclines.

There are sections on the second half of trail, the ridge climb, that has steps. These steps actually help you with the hike up the trail, giving you better footing in wet conditions.

Steps along the Waihee Ridge Trail on the steeper ridge sections
Steps along the Waihee Ridge Trail on the steeper ridge sections

There are no flat sections to speak of, you are either climbing up or down.

Waihee Ridge Trail Time Taken

The Waihee Ridge Trail takes an average of about 3 hours to complete.

We stopped at multiple lookouts along the way to take photographs, and chatted with other hikers at the summit, which added about an hour.

Some people take four hours or more because on this hike you often tend to wait to see if you can get better views, especially on foggy, cloudy days.

Thick fog obscuring the Waihee Ridge Trail in Maui, Hawaii.
Thick fog obscuring the Waihee Ridge Trail in Maui, Hawaii.

The Waihee Ridge Trail is a very popular running trail, and you’ll often see some atheletic types zipping by, on their way to a personal best time!

What about Kids and Dogs on the Waihee Ridge Trail?

Dogs are welcome, but must be on a leash, and I did see a few on the Waihee Ridge Trail.

While we saw families with older kids, we didn’t see any with younger kids. The hike is hard, and you don’t want to end up having to carry toddlers up and down.

There are benches and even a picnic table at the summit, so families can enjoy a picnic with views from the top or take frequent breaks if the kids need them.

If the trail conditions are not good (wet and rainy), I would recommend against taking kids on the hike.

Ginger (awapuhi) blossoms can be seen along the Waihee Ridge Trail, Maui, Hawaii
Ginger (awapuhi) blossoms can be seen along the Waihee Ridge Trail, Maui, Hawaii

>> Book these 5-star rated, highly popular, Maui Tours now!

Getting to the Waihee Ridge Trailhead

The Waihee Ridge Trailhead is located on the windward side of Maui, in the West Maui Forest Preserve.

Waihee Ridge Trail is about an hour from Lahaina and half an hour from Kahului. I usually put Waihee Ridge Trail Kahekili Highway Wailuku HI 96793 on Google maps or GPS.

From Kahekili Highway (US 340), turn into Maluhia Road, directly opposite the Mendes Ranch. Keep a watch for this landmark (just before mile marker 7) or look for a red sign to Camp Maluhia (which is near the trailhead).

Continue uphill on Maluhia Road and in about 0.8 miles you will see the main parking lot for the Waihee Ridge Trail, just after you cross Camp Maluhia.

A sign on a fence marks the Waihee Ridge Trail trailhead. There are two porta-potties in the parking lot near the trailhead.

You will also see a sign requesting you to take precautions against spreading rapid Ohi’a death, a fungal disease that has already killed more than a million Ohi’a trees, the most abundant Hawaiian native tree.

Ohia Lehua, a plant endemic to Hawaii, is impacted by the rapid Ohia death from a fungal disease
Ohia Lehua, a plant endemic to Hawaii, is impacted by the rapid Ohia death from a fungal disease

Waihee Ridge Trail Parking

You have two main options for Waihee Ridge Trail parking.

The parking lot at the trailhead is the most convenient, but depending on when you hike, may be full.

Thinking of getting a very early start? Don’t bother! The gate to the parking lot is motorized and on an automated timer, and is open from 7 am to 7 pm.

By 10 am expect this small lot, which can probably hold about 40 cars, to be full. We just waited for someone to leave, which took about 15 minutes.

I'iwi, a Hawaiian honeycreeper can be spotted along the Waihee Ridge Trail, Maui
I’iwi, a Hawaiian honeycreeper can be spotted along the Waihee Ridge Trail, Maui

There is a small overflow parking lot after you turn onto Maluhia Road, but this is about 0.8 miles from the trailhead.

While that one usually has spots unless it is a busy weekend, parking there does add a couple of miles to your hike.

>> Book these 5-star rated, highly popular, Maui Tours now!

Best Time to Hike the Waihee Ridge Trail

Early morning is the best time to hike the Waihee Ridge Trail.

The parking lot gate opens at 7:00 am, so no point starting before that. But parking will get difficult later in the day.

But the main reason to hike at 7:00 am or morning is the weather. Early morning, the weather is usually nice, and you have the best chances for enjoying the views along the ridge and the summit.

By late morning and afternoon, the clouds roll in and your views are usually obstructed by fog.

Clouds moving into the mountains and valleys along the Waihee Ridge Trail in the late morning and afternoons
Clouds moving into the mountains and valleys along the Waihee Ridge Trail in the late morning and afternoons

Also, you have no shade for half the hike (the ridge part), and early morning is usually the coolest. Later, you have to deal with the heat and humidity.

Waihee Ridge Trail Map

The Waihee Ridge Trail map shown below indicates the location of the trailhead, the trail and other points of interest.

Waihee Ridge Trail Information

The Waihee Ridge Trail starts off from the parking lot at an elevation of roughly a 1,000 feet.

You start immediately with a short, steep climb (300 feet) up a concrete, paved path along a fenced, private property. This is the hardest incline of the trail, so don’t get discouraged!

Rainforest Trail

You pass through a second cattle gate onto a mud trail through a beautiful forested section.

Evergreen trees in a tropical rainforest? Yes, and these are not native, they were planted by sailors years ago, needing wood for their masts.

Waihee Ridge Trail passing through an evergreen pine grove, Maui, Hawaii
Waihee Ridge Trail passing through an evergreen pine grove, Maui, Hawaii

Shortly into the forest, you will encounter this grove of Cook’s pine trees, and though out of place, is very beautiful. You can tell they were planted by the near symmetrical lines of trees.

After that, you move to a more traditional rainforest with lush vegetation of grass, ferns, ohia, orchids, eucalyptus, kukui nut tree and fruit trees like guava and ginger.

To identify and recognize some of these, refer to our detailed guide on Hawaiian plants, trees and flowers.

Waihee Ridge Trail passes through a tropical jungle for the first mile or so
Waihee Ridge Trail passes through a tropical jungle for the first mile or so

Your first view of the stunning, two-tiered, 270-foot Makamaka’ole Falls, one of the best Maui waterfalls, comes around 0.8 miles into the Waihee Ridge Trail hike, and this is your best view of this waterfall.

There is a little bench at the overlook, so you can rest and admire the views.

Scenic Makamakaole Falls vista from the Waihee Ridge Trail, Maui, Hawaii
Scenic Makamakaole Falls vista from the Waihee Ridge Trail, Maui, Hawaii

Midway Viewpoint (roughly a mile)

About a mile into the Waihee Ridge Trail, you will enter the ridgeline section and come to a viewing platform (with safety fencing).

The views from this point are amazing, with the lush Waihe’e valley below you and the Waihe’e river snaking through the valley.

On a clear day, you should be able to see Kahului, the biggest town in Maui, and the Haleakala area, though the crater summit is usually covered with clouds.

Stunning landscape view seen from Waihee Ridge Trail, overlooking Kahului and Haleakala, Maui, Hawaii, USA
Stunning landscape view seen from Waihee Ridge Trail, overlooking Kahului and Haleakala, Maui, Hawaii, USA

You can still see other waterfalls, but not as well as at the earlier viewpoint.

>> Book these 5-star rated, highly popular, Maui Tours now!

Ridgeline Trail

From the viewpoint, you can see the Waihe’e Ridge Trail winding its way up the ridge of the mountains.

As with other Hawaiian ridge hikes, you need to have a steady head for heights, as in many places, the drop off is quite steep and abrupt.

The trail is well-maintained and reasonably wide, we didn’t think it so narrow as to be dangerous or scary. You will take sets of steps at some steeper parts of the ridge.

Waihe'e Valley along the Waihee Ridge Trail, Maui
Waihe’e Valley along the Waihee Ridge Trail, Maui

Both on this ridge section as well as the forested section, you will see many Hawaiian birds, such as the common myna, warblers, apapane, the amakihi and the iiwi.

Some of these are endemic to Hawaii. They are endangered and protected, view them from a distance.

To identify these pretty birds, refer to our detailed guide on Hawaiian birds.

As you hike along, the trail will take some switchbacks and lead you to a couple of false summits, before you eventually reach the end of the trail.

Heading to the ridgeline summit on the scenic Waihee Ridge Trail, Maui, Hawaii
Heading to the ridgeline summit on the scenic Waihee Ridge Trail, Maui, Hawaii

Summit Viewpoint

The Waihee Ridge Trail ends at the summit of a hill called Lani-ili, for “sky skin” in Hawaiian. At the summit, you are at the highest point of the trail, an elevation of 2,563 feet.

The viewpoint has a wooden viewing platform surrounded by safety railing. You also have a full-sized picnic table and benches, wonder how they got up there?

The views are spectacular and 360 degree panoramic. You can see the ocean waters far below, beyond the lush Waihee valley.

Beautiful tropical rainforest mountains and valleys from the Waihee Ridge Trail, Maui
Beautiful tropical rainforest mountains and valleys from the Waihee Ridge Trail, Maui

Turn around, and you can see the Haleakala side of the island of Maui, though the crater is usually shrouded behind clouds.

On the sides you can see the West Maui mountain ranges covered with lush, rainforest vegetation, and deep valleys with streams and rivers winding through the base.

Be cautious on the hike back, especially if muddy and slippery!

Hawaiian Birds to Spot on the Waihee Ridge Trail Hike

The Waihee Ridge Trail is a hot spot for many beautiful birds of Maui, both introduced to the island and some endemic birds (found nowhere else)!

While you’re definitely going to hear some of them on the hike, spotting these pretty Hawaiian forest birds requires keen eyesight, a good pair of binoculars, and a lot of patience!

Some of the common Hawaiian birds you can expect to see are the warbling white eye (with a characteristic white ring around its eyes), the scaly-breasted munia (with distinctive scale markings on the chest), the Japanese bush warbler (secretive, more likely to hear its song) and the red-billed leiothrix (with a striking yellow-orange breast).

Our kids spotted a couple of striking red Northern cardinals as well, some of the most pretty birds in Hawaii.

The ‘apapane, one of the endemic Hawaiian birds, can be spotted here among the native ohi’a lehua trees, feeding on the nectar from the tree’s pretty red or yellow flowers.

Apapane feeding on Ohi'a Lehua flower nectar
Apapane feeding on Ohi’a Lehua flower nectar

Refer to our detailed post on Hawaiian birds to identify and learn about these bird species, some endemic to Hawaii, and found nowhere else on the world!

If you’re an avid birdwatcher, the nearby Waihee Coastal Dunes and Wetlands Refuge is a great place to see birds, offering trails that cover multiple terrains including wetlands, coastal shoreline and a golf course.

Hiking Gear Checklist

Many of Hawaii’s hikes are demanding, make sure you are well equipped and well prepared. Here’s what we typically take with us:

Tips for Hiking the Waihee Ridge Trail

The most basic tip for hiking the Waihee Ridge Trail is be aware of the weather conditions.

The Waihee Ridge Trail weather can change quickly, and be prepared for rain. I usually take a light poncho with me.

Make sure you wear sturdy hiking shoes, and trekking poles will help as well. Expect the trail to be muddy and slippery.

I recommend you use bug spray and mosquito repellent, especially at dawn or dusk, since part of the trail is forested.

Rainforest part of the Waihee Ridge Trail, Maui, Hawaii, USA
Rainforest part of the Waihee Ridge Trail, Maui, Hawaii, USA

On the ridge section, there is no shade. Bring sunglasses, sunscreen and a hat to protect yourself from the sun.

Bring lots of water and snacks. Expect hot and humid conditions, and you can get dehydrated fast, especially while climbing.

Start early, as close to 7:00 am as you can, for the best hiking experience and views.

Cell service is non-existent on the trail, so download the maps and directions. For the most part, the trail is well-marked, and very unlikely you will get lost.

What Else to Do near the Waihee Ridge Trail?

Feeling peckish after the hike?

Check out the Ula Ula Cafe along the Kahekili Highway near the golf course. A farm-to-table food truck serving delicious Hawaiian food from locally sourced ingredients.

We loved their acai bowls, macadamia nut encrusted mahi-mahi and the tropical macadamia nut smoothie.

Acai bowl with fruit
Acai bowl with fruit

If you want an afternoon activity after the morning hike, check out the horseback riding tours offered by the nearby Mendes Ranch.

Our kids loved this popular, highly rated Maui Horseback-Riding Tour run by Hawaiian cowboys called paniolos. Our guide took us through scenic trails with spectacular views of the ocean and the countryside.

>> Check price and availability for the horseback riding tour now!

The Best Maui Tours

Have you booked these top-rated Maui guided adventures yet?

Small-group Road to Hana tour so everyone in your group can sit back and enjoy the views without worrying about negotiating hairpin bends or finding parking at popular stops!

A Haleakala sunrise tour so you can experience the bucket-list sunrise atop the volcano without the need to reserve a parking spot or drive up in the dark!

A Maui whale watching raft tour, which will let you see the massive humpback whales at eye level! (You can also opt for a more sedate boat whale watching tour.) A MUST winter Maui activity!

A Maui snorkeling excursion that combines the Molokini Crater with Turtle Town, the two most epic snorkeling destinations on the island!

A 7-line Maui zipline experience where you can glide over the forests on the north shore of Maui. Enjoy ocean views and navigate obstacle course challenges!

An oceanfront luau in Wailea where you can enjoy a sunset buffet and traditional Polynesian entertainment. You can also opt for a Kaanapali oceanfront luau.

Renting a Car in Maui

The best things to do in Maui are located all over the island.

Public transport options on Maui are minimal to non-existent, so if you want to explore the island beyond your base, you’ll want to book a rental car for your Maui trip.

We always use Discover Cars to book Maui car rentals. They search across a variety of rental car companies, both budget and brand, to offer you the best deals, AND they offer free cancellations. Plus, there are no hidden fees.

>> Check availability and prices on Maui car rentals now!

Where to Stay in Maui

Depending on whether you want a vacation rental with more room and the option to cook some of your meals, or you want a resort or hotel experience, and depending on which part of Maui you want to choose as your base, you have a variety of options.

By far the majority of visitors to Maui choose to base on the west side, where there is a large selection of accommodations available, from resorts and hotels to vacation rentals.

We suggest starting your search for Maui accommodations by browsing vacation rentals on VRBO. You can filter to choose a specific area, such as Kihei, Kapalua, or Wailea.

We have stayed in VRBO rentals in Kihei and Kapalua and find that the choice and quality are generally great.

>> Look for a Maui vacation rental on VRBO now!

Spectacular views from the Waihe'e Ridge Trail
Spectacular views from the Waihe’e Ridge Trail

More Maui Travel Inspiration

If you are considering a trip to Maui, read some of our other comprehensive guides to craft the ultimate Maui itinerary!

If you are a first-time visitor to Maui, start by reading our article on the best things to do in Maui. From beautiful beaches and lush rainforest to Maui’s volcanic crater, our round-up captures the most iconic Maui experiences and activities.

If you are dreaming of a winter getaway to a tropical paradise, read our guide on why you should visit Maui in winter!

And if you are planning a brief first visit to Maui, here’s our 3-day Maui itinerary to help you flesh out your own trip!

Driving the Road to Hana is one of Maui’s bucket-list experiences. We have a comprehensive guide to the best stops on the Road to Hana, including waterfalls and short hikes on the way.

One of the top stops on the route is Wai’anapanapa State Park, which requires reservations. Read our full guide to Maui’s black sand beach in this popular state park!

Maui boasts one of only two national parks in Hawaii. Read our round-up of the best things to do in Haleakala National Park. We also have the ultimate guide to sunrise at Haleakala.

We also have a guide to the best hikes in Haleakala National Park, and in-depth hiking guides to the two most epic hikes in the park: the Sliding Sands Trail and the Pipiwai Trail.

Speaking of hiking, also be sure to check out our round-up of the best Maui hikes, from easy to challenging. Plus, peruse our complete guides to hiking the popular Kapalua Coastal Trail in northwest Maui, and the Waihee Ridge Trail for astounding views!

We also have a round-up of the best waterfalls in Maui, from the 400-foot Waimoku Falls to Upper Waikani Falls near Hana. Some Maui waterfalls can be seen from viewpoints whereas others require hiking.

Water activities are plentiful in Maui! Check out our epic guide to whale watching in Maui, and our guide to the best Molokini snorkeling tours and the best Turtle Town snorkeling.

If you’d rather snorkel from shore, read our round-up of the best snorkel spots in West Maui.

Every Maui itinerary should have plenty of beach time: there are so many beautiful beaches in Maui that you are spoiled for choice. We have a round-up of the best beaches in South Maui, plus a detailed guide to Wailea Beach in southwest Maui, and one for Maluaka Beach along the Turtle Town stretch of coast.

We also have articles on the much-visited Kaanapali Beach, the popular Napili Beach and local favorite Keawakapu Beach. Along the northwest side, Honolua Bay is a famous surfing spot, and Ho’okipa Beach, near Paia, is a windsurfing mecca.

If you are looking to experience a different side of Maui, plan a visit to the Iao Valley State Monument. The lush landscapes and serene ambience will wow you! Also read our guide to Maui’s state parks, which include popular Makena State Park, home to Big Beach and Little Beach.

Spend a day exploring Upcountry Maui. Some of the best things to do in Upcountry Maui include touring farms and gardens. Help milk goats, tour a tea farm, go wine tasting and much more.

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Get the complete guide to hiking the challenging Waihe'e Ridge Trail in the West Maui Mountains! The trail offers magnificent views of both the mountains and the coast. It's one of the best maui hikes you can do!

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