Hiking the Pipiwai Trail (Maui Bamboo Forest Trail)


maui pipiwai trail

Woohoo, you’re in Maui! I’m going to guess that you’ve been mostly cooped up in a vehicle all day, cursing and stressing and divorcing along the Road to Hana, so how about escaping outside to meet nature, to breathe some of that fortifyingly (it’s a word now) pristine island air? And feel the familiar yet unwelcome persistence of tiny mosquitoes (non-native insects, by the way)? Sold?! Great. Go hike the Pipiwai Trail up 650 ft of elevation gain, to see Waimoku Falls. Grab a couple walking sticks, a hiking buddy, and hit the trail.

The mosquitoes were barely noticeable, actually, but others have complained about the little buggers when the wet and humid and muddy trails provide ideal environments for the dear things to flourish.

How to Get There

Parking for the “Seven Sacred Pools” and the Pipiwai Trail is at the Kīpahulu District of Haleakalā National Park (the south-east side of the park), located 12 miles past the town of Hāna (following the road around the Island, clockwise). You can’t miss it. Especially if you are using one of the Maui GPS apps.

Both trails are clearly marked, and clearly popular.

If you like to enjoy nature in solitude, and if you are looking for the most enjoyable bamboo forest hiking experience, get to the park early. You want to hear the wind dancing through the tall bamboo stands, right? To beat the rush, we stayed overnight in Hana town, then hit the road early (the curvy drive took about 45 minutes).

Trail Conditions: Often Muddy

This trail is in East Maui’s coastal jungle, so be prepared for rain and flash flooding.

The Pipiwai trail, with its cool bamboo forest portions and several waterfall views, offers a rewarding view and good hiking for people in decent shape.

We ventured out in late October, a few days after some light rain, so the trail was nice and muddy.

Yet still busy.

Many of the regulars (and a few people wearing inappropriate footwear) opted to hike in bare feet; seemed to work out for them. Definitely choose hiking boots over shoes with little tread. Things got slippery up there.

Pipiwai Trail, Oheo Gulch, Bamboo Forest in Kipahulu (sign in Haleakala NP)
Pipiwai and Ohe’o Gulch Trail Map

Short Walk to the Seven Sacred Pools

From the parking lot and visitors’ center, it is an easy, barely-a-mile-walk to see the Seven Sacred Pools (‘Ohe’o Gulch). And because it is short and easy, it is a heavily trafficked loop trail.

The trail is primarily used for walking, looking at other tourists, bird watching, and taking selfies, and is accessible year-round.

We didn’t stick around at this tourist attraction for long when we visited in November, as recent rains rendered the pools an uninviting brown colour and much of the pool area was blocked off, for safety’s sake. Still a neat place to see.

seven sacred pools at oheo gulch, a few days after a rain
‘Ohe’o Gulch and the so-called Seven Sacred Pools, a few days after a rain

Ideally, you’d want to work up a sweat by hiking 2 miles up (and 2 miles back down) the Pipiwai trail, then loop down to the “Seven Sacred Pools” (there are neither seven pools nor are they sacred) and cool off in the (hopefully) clear waters.

Restrooms: Always There For You

All restrooms are open 24 hours per day, seven days per week, except when the park is closed during severe weather events [source].

Points of Interest on The Pipiwai Trail

What can I say about a hike without spoiling every surprise? I can show you images that do a better job.

The Banyan Tree

banyan tree pipiwai trail
The majestic banyan tree on the way up to Waimoku Falls

Once you reach this spot, you know you’re about halfway up the trail to the Waimoku Falls.

Waimoku Falls info board

Key Takeaways

  • Taking the Pipiwai trail up to Waimoku Falls is a popular hike of moderate difficulty (no flip flops, people) and of decent length.
  • 4 miles round-trip.
  • Not for the weak or weak-willed.
  • Often a slippery, muddy trail.
  • Walk through a non sequitur bamboo forest.
  • Spoiler alert — amazing view of Waimoku waterfalls at the end. Expect a pterodactyl to come gliding over the top and swoop down at any moment.

Pipiwai Trail Images

Notice the tread on the hiking shoes
Too. Much. Pretty.

Things People Want to Know

Pipiwai Trail Deaths

Every so often, someone chooses an unfortunate day to hike (after a heavy rain, for example), or walks off the marked path and falls, or stands beneath a waterfall and suffers a collision with a piece of falling debris. And sometimes accidents just happen. Still, there are many factors you control: wear proper shoes, bring water, be mindful of the weather forecast and current trail conditions, respect the warnings of rangers and heed the posted signs.

And have fun…!

Is There Another Bamboo Forest Hike?

Yes, there are likely several. The one to which you are referring is probably the Na’ili’ili Haele Stream & Waterfalls trail on EMI land, which is now closed (unless you secure a permit, I’ve heard). There have been many fatalities here. Please do not go hiking after it has been raining, for risk of flash flooding.

“People have been killed and seriously injured here. The only way out if you are seriously hurt is a helicopter ride.”

“Lots of people have been rescued from here in the past week due to being uneducated on the dangers of this hike. Don’t be one of those people, and do your research.” – 2015

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I like to share my travel experiences and save others some time, money, and effort in planning their own adventures.

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