Maui: Iao Tableland Trail

I’ve been to Iao Valley State Park a dozen times, and I never thought to search for trails in this area. So on Valentine’s Day, we started our day hiking the Iao Tablelands Trail.

I’ve learned that the Tablelands trail (an ancient Hawaiian trail) connects to the Olowalu Petroglyphs trail (located along Honoapiilani Highway toward Lahaina) – but, there is no longer a maintained path and is very dangerous to attempt.Iao Valley Ridge_2

Not too far into the trail (about 5 minutes of walking), we reached an opening with an incredible view of Iao Needle. A short walk up the trail offered a much better view of the needle than the lookout below (which was crowded with tourists). As you go further up the trail, you will find that the Iao Needle doesn’t look like a needle anymore! Its side profile is flat and looks almost like a boot.

Iao Valley Ridge_3.JPG

Iao Needle

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Iao Needle (from the side!)Iao Valley Ridge_5Iao Valley Ridge_22Iao Valley Ridge_20

Just so everyone knows…we did not intend to wear the same shirt that day!Iao Valley Ridge_6.JPG

The trail was narrow and the sides were steep. We could see Kinihapai Stream to the right of us (Iao Stream was on the other side of the ridge). The bushes of ferns along the sides of the trail made the path feel wider and less scary.

Eventually we had to make a small climb up to the top of the ridge. The main trail continued further toward the valley, but I was eager to get higher and made the climb up instead. Once we reached the top of the ridge, we could finally see Iao Stream from the trail. If you continue walking toward Wailuku you will get a beautiful view of the valley with Kahului Harbor in the distance.

Since we hiked early in the morning, we also encountered A LOT of spiders and spider webs…I don’t think I have ever had to walk through so many spider webs before! Toni ended up carrying around a branch of ferns to swipe the webs along the trail; it looked like he was carrying around a small dainty umbrella!

Iao Valley Ridge_7.JPG Iao Valley Ridge_8 Iao Valley Ridge_9

After a few photos, we continued toward the valley. We both had no clue where the trail ended and didn’t know what to expect. We eventually reached a forest with lots of strawberry guava trees. In the forest we also encountered the smell of ganja, heard strange noises in the bushes, and bumped into a couple who told us there was nothing worth seeing if we continued on this trail. I knew there had to be something worth seeing out there, so we continued walking through the mud and battling spider webs.Iao Valley Ridge_10 Iao Valley Ridge_11

The trail started ascending up and the climb quickly became steep. I was getting excited because I felt like we were getting closer to our destination (even though I had no clue what that was at the time).Iao Valley Ridge_12 Iao Valley Ridge_13 Iao Valley Ridge_14

Soon, we arrived at the end of the trail – which was at the top of a knoll with 360 degree views of the valley!Iao Valley Ridge_16

The clearing spot. It was flat with a single tree at the top.Iao Valley Ridge_15

Kahoolewa Ridge Wall of Tears Iao Valley Ridge_17.JPG

View of Kapilau Ridge (the Wailuku cross is somewhere on this ridge)Iao Valley Ridge_18.JPG

View toward OlowaluIao Valley Ridge_19

View into WailukuIao Valley Ridge_21.JPG

It took us about 2 hours to complete the hike. This was a nice and easy hike with grand views along the way as well as at the end.  Maybe we will be back to hike along Iao Stream!

One thought on “Maui: Iao Tableland Trail

Add yours

  1. I have always wondered whether you could cross those mountains from Iao. Did you climb over the railings at Iao and just kept going until Olowalu? Could you see Puu Kukui? What an adventure. I’d love to do that.


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