$122K Waihe‘e Ridge Trail Facelift Nears Completion
On one side of the Waiheʻe Ridge Trail, hikers look deep into the Waiheʻe Gorge. On the other, they look across Makamakaole Gulch and out into the Pacific Ocean. On a clear day, yet another view is across the entire central plain of Maui all the way to the top of Haleakalā. This challenging, but scenic trail is considered the most popular path on Mau‘i in the State’s Nā Ala Hele Trail and Access Program.
Now the thousands of people who make the 2.5-mile trek to the top can do it safer and likely with a lot less mud stuck to their boots. An almost completed $122,000 trail improvement program provides two viewing platforms, drainage features in particularly boggy areas, and better trail tread to reduce slickness.
Torrie Nohara, Nā Ala Hele trails specialist on Maui said, “On every trail, water control is the number one consideration. We’ve built “sheet drains” that will divert water off the trail and not only make it more enjoyable for users, but help prevent erosion. On the lower portions of the trail we did significant excavation of large boulders and rocks to improve the contour of the trail.”
The Nā Ala Hele program falls under the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife. It hired Cam Lockwood of Trails Unlimited to help design the new features and supervise trail improvement and construction work. His California-based company has built and improved trails nationwide.
Lockwood says the Waiheʻe Ridge Trail incorporates some of the best thinking and best practices around for trail improvements. “For instance,” Lockwood explained, “The large viewing platform on top and the one about a mile up the trail are constructed with pressure treated lumber raised off the ground to provide a longer useful life. Composite decking was used on the viewing platforms to also extend their life spans and to provide improved traction in the often, wet conditions at the terminus of the trail.”
He said the primary consideration for all the improvements was to make the entire trail more sustainable, more enjoyable, and safer. He describes the views from the top as “breathtaking” and hopes people will focus on those, rather than the challenge involved in making the 1,500-foot elevation gain hike.
While most of the major construction is now complete, crews continue to put finishing touches on some of the features and certain sections of the trail. The Waiheʻe Ridge Trail is open for hiking, but people are asked to exercise caution and respect when traversing through construction zones.