Supplemental: The Kaupo Trail
Haleakala National Park, Maui
If you came to this page looking for the general narrative of our sea-to-summit climb of Haleakala, then you have come to the wrong place. You should go here
This page serves as a repository for supplemental pictures of our time around Kaupo and our climb up the Kaupo Trail. Additionally, it is written in a more 'guidebook'-like fashion, rather than as a narrative of our particular trip.
Supplemental images that are not in the general narrative are shown with a special color around them.
Haleakala National Park, on the island of Maui, encompasses much of the summit and crater areas of the 10,000-foot volcano known as Haleakala. The primary access to the park and its backcountry is via an access highway on the north side of the volcano. The highway leads up from the populous central part of Maui, and is the way in which the vast majority of Haleakala NP's visitors reach the major features of the park. Unusually (compared to most National Parks), the highway leads all the way to the very summit of Haleakala, and the most heavily-used trails start from high-elevation points along the way. Therefore, most people hiking into Haleakala do so from above, and walk down into the crater.
Kaupo Trail in 3D
The Kaupo Trail is completely the opposite of all of the above. Situated on the other side of Haleakala - the southern side - the Kaupo Trail is relatively difficult to get to, involving a drive along a remote and sometimes rough highway. Instead of starting off high and leading downhill, the Kaupo Trail is like a more typical mountain trail, starting off at about 900 feet above sea-level and climbs up into the volcano's crater. And lastly, when compared to the other trails in the park, almost no one hikes the Kaupo Trail. That, however, is considered by many to be a good thing!
Remote Piilani Highway
To reach the Kaupo Trailhead, you must first reach the little coastal town of Kaupo, on the south coast of Maui. There are two ways to get there from the Maui's main central 'valley'. The first is to drive down the twisty and tropical Hana Highway, on the eastern side of the island, and the other is to drive around the dry, western side of Maui. In both cases, the road eventually turns into the Pillani Highway - a remote backway that runs along the southern coast of Maui.
The central part of the Piilani Highway (which is known as highway 31, by the way) is quite undeveloped and rough. For perhaps a 10 to 15 mile stretch, the Pillani highway is a very narrow, sometimes gravel, sometimes rough highway that winds between cliffs and rocky shoreline.
The Piilani highway is absolutely do-able in any sort of vehicle, however. It may be rough in places, but nothing that any passenger car cannot handle easily, especially if you go slow. The road is prone to washouts and rockfall, though, so it may be closed from time to time after rough weather.
In the center of this rough 15-mile stretch is the little hamlet of Kaupo. It is nothing more than a church or two and a few small houses and ranches on the side of the road. And, one store - the semi-historic Kaupo General Store. Very basic snacks and other sundry items can be purchased here, but be warned that the prices are somewhat high.
Rainbow above Kaupo Store
Multi-day Outings on the Kaupo Trail
If you are planning to hike the Kaupo Trail as a day hike, then you can skip this section. If you are planning your outing on the Kaupo Trail as part of a multi-day backpack, you must first get a backcountry permit at one of the park's Visitor Centers. There are two such centers: one on the main entrance highway on the north side of the park, and the other in a little coastal sliver of the park known as Kipahulu. The Kipahulu Visitor Center is about 6 miles east of the town of Kaupo, and so is the most logical place to get your permit. The permits are free, and must be obtained on the day of or on the day before the start of your hike. As part of obtaining a permit, you must watch an orientation video, and then a ranger will let you flip through a series of printed pictures that describe the Kaupo Trail's route.
Haleakala Backcountry Prep
If you are planning to get an early start and you want to stay overnight in the general vicinity of Kaupo, there are few options. There are no motels or official campgrounds near Kaupo - the closest campground being the one in the Kipahulu section of the part, about 10 km (6 miles) east of Kaupo. There is one other option - a sort of unofficial one - that can be used. There are a couple of grassy spots near the Piilani Highway along the coast just east of Kaupo, in the general vicinity (but not on the grounds) of the Huialohoa Church. The Church is a one hundred and fifty year old historic structure down near the coast not far from town.
When we did our multi-day climb of Haleakala via the Kaupo Trail, we camped the night before our start on a little grassy peninsula about a third of a mile from the church, and you can see the precise spot if you look at the map associated with the 'Mokulau Landing' pictures below.