Friday, August 16, 2013

How-to Tips for Epic One-Way Hikes in Hawaii

This week, a vacationing hiker asked me about a one-way hike inside Haleakala National Park. A local hiking guide service on Maui had quoted him an outrageously high price of over $2000 for an overnight guided hike with transportation! He wondered if there was a cheaper way to do it.

Some of the wildest, most memorable hikes I've taken in Hawaii have been one-way trails, but transportation was usually a thorny problem. Here are my top tips for solving that issue:

1. Make friends. Nothing beats an island friend who is willing to drop you off at one trailhead and pick you up at another. But this isn't an option for most hikers, especially first-time visitors to Hawaii.

2. Call a taxi. This strategy has never worked for me. But I know hikers who have arranged in advance for a taxi to pick them up at the end of their hike, then drive them back to where they started hiking and parked their rental car. If you ask a tour company or hiking outfitter to do this, they'll usually agree - but it won't be cheap. 

3. Hitchhike. While you are always putting yourself at risk by hitchhiking, and I can't personally recommend it (nor can I be held liable for anything that happens if you do try it), it's a fact that many hikers do hitchhike in Hawaii.

In Haleakala National Park, rangers have signposted a roadside hitchhiking zone near the Halemaumau Trailhead parking lot. It's used by hikers who want to hike one-way down the Sliding Sands Trail and across the volcano, then exit via the Halemaumau Trail. I've used this hitchhiking zone several times, and never waited more than 20 minutes for a lift up the mountain. It helps that I always bring a hand-written sign spelling out "SUMMIT VISITOR CENTER" so drivers know where I'm trying to go. 

On the other hand, hitchhiking did not work for me when I hiked from Waianapanapa State Park to Hana Bay, then needed a lift back to my campsite at the state park. I ended up walking several miles along the narrow highway unsafely after dark because no day-tripping tourists were willing to pick me up as they rushed back to Paia from Hana.

4. Hike halfway, both ways. For some trails, like the Kaupo Gap Trail and Skyline Trail starting inside Haleakala National Park, I've ended up hiking twice as far just to experience the entirety of these trails. If you're exiting at Kaupo or inside Polipoli Spring State Recreation Area, it's tough to find someone who will pick you up, even if you offer to pay them, and it's too remote to hitchhike. My solution was to start at the top of each trail, hike halfway down, then turn around and hike back up. Then I drove around the island to each exit trailhead, hiked halfway up the trail and back down again. It's more effort than most vacationers will want to make, but I did get to hike 100% of both of these beautiful, mostly untrammeled trails, which I comprehensively cover in my hiking guidebook Top Trails Maui: Must-Do Hikes for Everyone.

Do you have suggestions for arranging transportation for one-way hikes on Maui or any of the other Hawaiian Islands? Please share your ideas and tips by posting a comment. Thanks!

Related links:
Do You Need GPS to Hike in Hawaii?
The Best Hike on Maui Is...
How Not to Hike on Maui & in the Iao Valley

Photo credits: Haleakala National Park (Sara Benson & Michael Connolly Jr.) 

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