Hiking: Lahaina Pali Trail in West Maui

The Lahaina Pali Trail in West Maui is a 4.6 mile one way trail. You can hike it in either direction. I took the east to west approach, because I wanted the morning sun in my back, not in my eyes. It goes from about 20o feet above sea level to 1,560 feet in elevation, and then drops back to sea level.

If you have ever been to Maui, you surely have seen the windmills on the West Maui mountains. This trail climbs up to the windmills, crosses the ridge behind the 10th one counting from the bottom, and goes back down to meet Highway 30 just west of the tunnel on the road to Lahaina.

[as always in my posts, you can enlarge the photographs by clicking on them, and in this post that might give you a better sense of the scale of things]

All the posts and comments on the AllTrails app say to start early. 8:00am is not early. I set my alarm for 5:00am, which seemed the middle of the night. Sunrise in Maui (just a week before summer solstice is at 5:45 am. I was at the trailhead at 6:00am sharp, and the first rays of the sun hit me as I was ready to go.

I had allocated three and a half hours for this hike one-way, and I ended up using three hours and 28 minutes. You might think I know my hiking equipment after 66 years of testing it.

The first rays of the Maui morning sun put everything into a golden light. This is a shot of the trail (can you even see it to the left of the tree?) just a few minutes after I started. The sun is right behind me and you can see my endless shadow in the picture.

Here I am a little further up the trail, and the golden light has turned into fierce Maui sun already.

Turning the other way, as the sun hid behind a cloud for me, I am looking down the valley between the main island and the West Maui, with Kahului (the largest city) in the back on the horizon.

Down in the bay we can see Maalaea Harbor, a very popular departure point for whale watching and diving tours on Maui. Of course, in the back you see the vast expanse of Haleakala itself, with 10,023 feet altitude the tallest point on Maui and one of the most massive volcanoes in the world. Here is my review of my hike on Haleakala from a few days ago.

This is a special shot of the Maui waters with the island of Kaho’olawe in the the background. This island is completely uninhabited and since a couple of decades ago again owned by the State of Hawaii, after it was used for decades by the United States military for bombing exercises.

I thought I’d show you a map to put this picture in context. The start of the green arrow is about where I stood when I shot this photo, and the arrow points to Kaho’olawe. The bay under the arrow is one of the most important breeding grounds of the humpback whales, hence the busy whale watching port of Maalaea. There are no whales in June, but during the winter months between January and March, people have posted that they can see countless whale breaches from this hike.

Finally I reached the windmills. They are gigantic. I took a dozen pictures, trying to get the picture to give a sense of the size, but none do them justice. There is no scale I can put on these, but I do know that each blade is 111 feet long.

This is how close I was allowed to get to them without trespassing.

Eventually I got over the ridge and then the long trek down the other side started. I must say that this is one of the rockiest trails I have ever been on. This picture shows a section of the trail. The boulders in the back are as tall as I am. This is the trail. Can you even see it?

Finally, I am getting close to the other side. You can see the highway in the middle of the picture. The end of the trail is in that green area by the highway.

Here is a picture of me waving down to my wife on my final approach. She dropped me off at the start and came back to the other side of the mountain to pick me up. With my camouflage outfit, you probably have trouble even seeing me. That is by design.

Here I am finally back. Thoroughly tired, very sweaty. Legs wobbly.

The trail is very, very, very, very rocky, all the way. You literally cannot take your eyes off the trail for a single step, lest you risk twisting your ankle or worse. Loose rocks, boulders, rounded rocks, rocks, rocks everywhere. Even though it was only a 4.6 mile hike, it felt like 10 miles. You need good boots to do that. At my age, hiking poles are a must. I don’t think I could even do this without poles.

I brought three liters of water and used about half of it. On a desert hike, in the tropical solstice sun, I bring plenty of water and I never regret it. This hike is always hot, no matter what time of the year or time of the day. Most times it is also very windy, but it was not today so early in the morning. The sea was as calm as a mirror.

I strongly recommend this hike – but you need to be a HIKER. This is not for the casual tourist. You need hiking gear, preparation, and you have to know your body.

I met very few people. One hiker passed me going east to west, and a total of six people met me coming the other way.

I was alone on the mountain, and I liked it that way.



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