An advantage of driving the Road to Hana and making a complete loop around the southeastern side of Maui was hiking in the small, publicly accessible section of Kīpahulu Valley Biological Reserve in Haleakalā National Park.
The Effort to Protect Kīpahulu Valleyhttps://www.nps.gov/hale/learn/historyculture/the-kipahulu-valley-expedition.htm
In 1969 … The Nature Conservancy (TNC) purchased close to 10,000 acres of land including the upper Kīpahulu Valley with monetary and land donations from hundreds of individuals. Laurance Rockefeller, whose original 58-acre land donation included part of the famous lower ‘Ohe‘o pools, was key to this effort. Charles Lindbergh, the famous aviator who deeply loved Kīpahulu, assisted with the fundraising effort. Many local residents donated or sold their land to TNC. TNC then transferred the land to Haleakalā National Park for permanent preservation.
This beautiful area was one of the highlights on our drive through the Hana backcountry. National Park Pass in hand, we pulled into the Kīpahulu Visitor Center, grabbed our hiking poles, and set off for the 400-foot Waimoku Falls, which is as far as the public can journey into the reserve.
The first section of the Pīpīwai Trail is a bit exposed but before too long we were heading into the tree cover. About half a mile in we came to the overlook for Makahiku Falls, but it was only a trickle! I assume we were a little ahead of the rainy season when the falls really begin to pour.
A more impressive sight was the massive banyan tree in the middle of the trail. We had to cross under its winding branches – some that had grown their own support structures (eg aerial prop roots) down into the earth – to continue on the trail.
The diversity of the forest transitioned as we entered bamboo alley – a long boardwalk winding through incredibly tall and thick bamboo. This section of the hike was about a mile in and one of my favorite parts – the bamboo clacks together as it sways, creating a sound I’ve never heard before.
Just beyond the bamboo, the trail wound alongside a stream and then opened to views of Waimoku Falls. Although this falls was also fairly dry, the 400-foot drop was still impressive – you can see it almost in its entirety from the trail as you approach.
There was lush greenery everywhere and beautiful red-orange flowers towering overhead. Totally worth the 3.7-mile roundtrip hike (800 feet gain), which took us about 2 hours to complete with only brief stops to take pictures, and a wonderful way to experience this area of Maui.
Postscript: I know I’ve carried on about this before, but I was so disappointed to see a group come clamoring out from behind the ‘do not pass’ sign at the end of the trail, returning from the pool at the base of the falls.
Not only is disregarding trail signage illegal, destructive, and potentially dangerous, it’s astoundingly disrespectful to the spirit of this place, which kānaka maoli (native Hawaiians) hold sacred.
I remain fearful that people who act as though the rules don’t apply to them will ruin these incredible spaces for others. Please be respectful of the natural and cultural resources you have the privilege to visit.
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