The Pipiwai Trail meanders through a thick tropical rainforest and along multiple creeks and waterfalls. The road to Kipahulu, where the trailhead is located, is a long and windy road with many single-lane sections. But if you enjoy unique locations for their unmatched beauty and multi-sensory immersion, this adventure is for you!
From the parking area near 'Ohe'o Gulch, where a $10 fee is charged for entrance into Haleakalā National Park (this parking pass is good for three days anywhere in the park), few amenities can be found. Drinking water is only intermittently available based on times of high rainfall, and there is no food for sale. Be prepared with basic items such as food and water, sunscreen, proper clothing, and footwear. Given the frequently warm and humid weather in the area, shorts and sturdy hiking sandals are recommended.
The trail begins by passing a replica of an ancient Hawaiian hut before crossing the road and tracing the Pipiwai Stream as it ascends north. The frequently muddy trail quietly moves through the verdant, lush vegetation of windward Maui. The first vista offered is of Makahiku Falls. Many signs along the trail indicate that there is no water access, and there have been fatal attempts to access the stream.
Keep watch for a large banyan tree following the falls; please respect this unique lifeform and do not carve into it as many others have done. Beyond this tree the trail crosses the Pipiwai stream on a sturdy bridge and ascends rather quickly into the bamboo forest. Perhaps the highlight of this trail is this unique bamboo forest, which is thick enough in some areas of the trail to darken the sky. If you are still, you may be able to hear wind knocking bamboo stalks together. You'll encounter trail sections that are expanding from erosion, so remember to hike in the center of the trail despite the mud. As the trail continues through the bamboo it becomes an aluminum boardwalk that helps prevent trail erosion.
As you exit the bamboo forest, additional views of the Pipiwai stream can be seen. Sturdy hiking sandals are helpful just before coming to the view of Waimoku Falls, where a brief stream crossing is required. There is a sign at the end of the trail warning about access, as fatalities have occurred. While a $100 fine can be issued for violating this closure sign, many people ignore this warning. From here, hike back down the trail to your starting point and vehicle.
A bonus can be included either at the beginning or end of the Pipiwai Trail: 'Ohe'o Gulch. This short loop trail of 0.5 miles wanders through thin coastal plains and along the Sacred Pools, where there is potential for freshwater swimming. However, swimming may be restricted during times of high rainfall due to the risk of flash flood and leptospirosis, E. coli bacteria.