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Pipiwai Trail to Waimoku Falls

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There are four key points of interest on this trail. (There were five actually, but one proved to be too dangerous so the state closed it down.) The first one though is this enormous banyan tree.

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The second is this view of Makahiku Falls.

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The third is the picturesque bamboo forest.

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And the fourth is the 400 ft Waimoku Falls.

The Pipiwai Trail is one of the finest hikes I’ve been on in Hawaii. It’s part of the National Parks System and is probably the most ridiculously well maintained hiking trail I’ve seen.

The Pipiwai Trail is located in southeast Maui. It’s within Haleakala National Park in the area called Kipahulu. The Pipiwai Trail is a 4-mile (round trip) hike that takes about 2 hours to complete. If you want to linger in the forest, you could spend up to 4 hours on this trail exploring the terrain and not be bored.

What I liked about the Pipiwai Trail was how much you get to see in such a short amount of time. And with an elevation gain of just 600 feet, the hiking is not too strenuous. You will break a sweat though.

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Though the trail can be completed in 2 hours, it does take some time to get here. The Pipiwai Trail is located towards the end of the “Road to Hana” on Maui. It’s actually 12 miles past Hana town.

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You park at the Haleakala National Park Visitors Center. Parking is $10. This is a different visitors center than the one at the top of Haleakala Crater.

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This sign gives you an idea of what you can do in Kipahulu. The ‘Oheo Gulch label you see in the lower right of the sign is the Seven Sacred Pools.

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The trailhead to the Pipiwai Trail is pretty unassuming.

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From the start it looks like any other hiking trail in Hawaii. Pretty standard.

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But then right away, you see some great views. You’re hiking along the western slope of a ravine. On the other side you can see the top of a bamboo forest.

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Stop off at this overlook to take a peek of what lies below.

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You’ll see the 200 ft Makahiku Falls.

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Hike a bit more and you’ll come across this enormous banyan.

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People have carved their names all over this tree.

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The branches look like brontosaurus necks.

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Continue on over a few bridges that seem well maintained.

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The bridges take you over Pipiwai Stream and offers views of several step falls.

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And then you enter the bamboo forest.

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As cheesy as it sounds, this forest does feel “magical.”

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As you walk through it you can’t help but think that Jet Li is going to fly over you at any moment.

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The National Park Service has done a great job at making this hike accessible to most.

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They cut out a huge hallway through the dense bamboo so you can easily pass through.

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Then they created a boardwalk that keeps you out of the mud.

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I was really impressed with the design of the boardwalk.

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For me, it actually added to the beauty of the hike.

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The boardwalk lasts for quite a while twisting and turning.

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Photographers could easily spend an hour in this forest setting up different shots and compositions. I didn’t have my tripod with me, but I wish I had brought it. It would have definitely been worth it.

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You eventually pop out of the forest and make your way to the stream.

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You’ll walk on some wet rocks at first.

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But then, just when the trail would get muddy, there are more boards in place for you to walk on.

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As you start getting closer to the stream, keep looking up. You’ll see the Waimoku Falls between the trees. Remember, this thing is 400 feet tall.

The trickiest part of the hike is right before the waterfall when you need to cross the stream. Don’t be afraid to get your shoes wet in the stream if you need to. Better to have wet socks than slip on a rock and crack your head open.

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When you reach the falls you’ll be standing in a giant waterfall chute at the bottom of a massive cliff.

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Waimoku Falls pours down from the stream above.

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There is no swimming hole at the bottom of Waimoku Falls. Do not by any means stand under this thing. Debris comes down with the water. Even a pebble could injure you if it hit you from 400 feet up.

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You can get a good view from the hill. It’s a little eerie to stand on the hill when you realize it was created by a huge rockfall that happened when the sidewall of this gulch collapsed at some point in time.

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After spending a few minutes taking photos at Waimoku Falls we set off on our return hike.

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You go back the same way you came in.

See also:

  • If you come to this area, I’d recommend staying a couple nights at the hotel in Hana called Travaasa Hana. I spent four nights there recently and found that there is a ton of stuff to do in Hana. It was so relaxing.
  • We didn’t have time for this but if you do the Pipiwai Trail, you might as well walk over and check out Ohe’o Gulch, or “Seven Sacred Pools.”
  • There’s a ton of stuff to check out on the Road to Hana. Here’s a website dedicated to the drive.

This story was last modified on October 20, 2013. (Originally published in April 2013.)

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