Lana'ihale P2K

Sat, Jun 21, 2014
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX Profile

Lana'ihale is the highpoint of Lanai, a smaller island off the coast of West Maui, not far from where I was staying with the family. Since arriving in Maui, I had made only one serious hiking effort, but it had come to naught. My daughter had wanted to join me, but after only half an hour's effort wanted to turn back - the relentlessly steep ridgeline we were climbing was more than she had hoped for. Back we went. I wasn't all that disappointed, knowing I had another week after she left in which to get more serious hiking in - most of this week would be spent on more leisurely family outing such as snorkling at Molokini, a luau, a submarine ride and other fun tourist trappings. So oddly, my first real hike while staying on Maui wasn't even on Maui, but on nearby Lanai. My son and I caught the early 6:45a ferry ride over (takes about an hour) from Lahaina, Maui to Manele, Lanai ($30/person, each way). He wanted to spend the day around the harbor fishing, swimming and snorkling while I headed off to hike to the island highpoint.

We parted company right after getting off the boat as I caught the bus ride ($10/all day) into Lanai City for the start of the route to Lana'ihale. It was almost 8a by the time I got off the bus at one of the few hotels in town. I'm not even sure what the name of it was, but as soon as I got off I set off in search of the dirt road leading up to Lana'ihale. My starting point was not the best, but I was afraid it was the only bus stop in town - they don't have nice little route maps to hand out - only later did I realize the bus stopped at a second resort closer to the route. I ended up wandering through the town streets, made my way to a golf course, through it to the resort next door, and then some distance cross-country, following the GPS to what was seeming to be a mythical dirt road. My wandering took me through a second golf course that at first I thought was under construction, but soon came to realize was in fact abandoned. The cement golf path had cracks that suggested it was at least 5yrs old. weeds were growing in the sand pits and the fairways had browned without irrigation to keep them green. I wonder if the 2008 financial crisis had something to do with it. Certainly it could be revived if business picks up, but I don't know if they have enough hotel space on the island to support it. I'm told Larry Ellison owns most of Lanai, so perhaps he's got some master plan guiding all this. Then again, maybe not.

More cross-country through the woods had me closing in on the dirt road I was looking for. I was disappointed to find myself going downhill for some of this, but at least the off-trail travel wasn't hard. I heard, and then spied a cammo green jeep driving through the woods below me - the route I had been seeking! Another 50ft downhill and I was on the road and my GPS happy. It signaled with cheerful tones periodically when I'm on route. Google labels this as the Lanaihale Trail, but signs along the route call it Koloiki Trail until a junction where it becomes the Munro Trail. "Trail" in this case refers to a jeep trail because it is a road the entire way. Nowhere did I find anything resembling a single-track trail, but there were a number of dirt, rock and gravel jeep roads.

The route follows through forest for the entire route to the summit, with occasional overlooks where one can get views of the NW side of Lanai as well as the islands of Molokai and Maui. The summit, reached after 2.5hrs and almost 7 1/2mi, had no real views and no real summit, just a barely perceptible highpoint along the long ridgeline before it starts gently heading down. I went past the highpoint marked on the GPS for a few hundred yards "just to be sure", then returned back to the summit and a short distance further to an overlook to the west. I could see Lanai City, most of the west side of the island, and the paved highway leading to the harbor that I had driven in on in the morning. I wondered if I might not be able to head back to the harbor directly by continuing on the road over the summit. Checking with the GPS, I found I was 4.75mi in a straight line to the harbor. That might translate into as much as ten miles, but it seemed a worthwhile adventure - I had plenty of food, water, time and energy.

It turned out to be a fabulous idea. The road headed south off the summit, eventually turning west to join the highway. Before reaching the highway I turned off on a rough spur road to tag a few bonus peaks that popped up on my GPS. These were located lower down at about the 1,500-foot elevation on the drier side of the island. After reaching the first of two bonus peaks, I found the road heading off in the wrong direction and had to head cross-country again to avoid ending up on the cliffy south coast too far east of the harbor. Though very brushy, the particular stuff that grows about chest high was surprisingly easy to wade through. The branches were all thin as a pencil and bent easily. Some varieties had thorns and would grab at me but I quickly learned to avoid these and thankfully they weren't dominant on the slopes.

After reaching the second bonus peak I followed an old track SW until it petered out along a ridgeline overlooking the harbor to the NE, about 1,100ft up and just under a mile away. I called my son on the cellphone to see what he was up to and arranged to meet back at the harbor in time to catch the 2p ferry back to Maui. It took about half an hour to descend from the ridgeline, a bit slow over moderately brushy but sometimes loose volcanic slopes. No fences surrounded the harbor or its accompanying businesses, and without much ado I crawled out from under a forest onto the grass at the harbor's edge. I found Ryan fishing off the end of the rocky breakwater just as the ferry was spotted coming in towards the harbor.

One of the striking things I noted on the day was the complete absence of any No Trespassing signs. Some roads were closed and signed as such, but nowhere did I feel unwelcome on my 15mi romp along the island. I saw only two vehicles during the hike and the only other folks I saw all day were either at the harbor or in town. Overall, a most enjoyable day!

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