Kaupo Gap Trail

Page Type
Hawaii, United States, Australia/Oceana
Route Type:
Time Required:
A long day
Walk up

Route Quality: 2 Votes

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Kaupo Gap Trail
Created On: Sep 14, 2004
Last Edited On: May 12, 2012


Take Hwy 37 as described in the "Getting There" section but continue on south past the junction to the summit to where the road becomes Hwy 31. Follow this increasingly narrow, winding road toward Kaupo. The trail starts 1.45 miles up the roughly paved road .11 mile to the right (east) of the store on the left (landward or Mauka) side of the highway. (The store may or may not be open at any given time, so be sure to have acquired what you need for this hike before you get to here)

Route Description

In order to gain the full 10,000 vertical on this trek you will have to make your way down the road and start at the beach about .8 mile and 320 vertical feet below the store. The most efficient way to do this is to go east .5 mile on the hwy, turning south on a side road and following it down to the beach another .3 mile. This is posted "no Trespassing" but appears to be state land so it should be ok to hike down the road to the ocean. Here is a detailed map with mileages for the start of this route:

Kaupo Gap map detailDetail of the start of this route

Once at the right hand side of the Kaupo store, facing the mountain, go to the east .11 miles and turn uphill on the roughly paved single lane road. The trail starts out as a jeep road quickly turning into a regular trail. It goes on and off old grades, currenty used ranch roads and old overgrown roads but is easy to follow and has a pretty good supply of shade for much of the distance. This is private land until you cross the park boundary at 3.1 miles from the TH, but the owners have given hikers permission to pass. After about 3.8 miles more, pass the junction leading to the Paliku shelter taking the left fork. The most direct route to the summit is to always take the left forks for the rest of the trail. The last few hundred yards of trail are on the summit road, finally arriving at the 10,023 ' summit. Congratulations! You've just done over 10,000 vertical in one continuous hike! Now all you have to do is fill your water bottles at the visitor center and return on the same trail - (yeah, sure!)

Essential Gear

The trail is rough in sections and there is no shade once in the upper valley so good footwear, a hat and sunscreen are neccesary. There is no water (unless you count the stock watering holes and tanks on the lower kaupo section of trail)for the entire 17.8 miles so bring plenty. (17.8 miles one way if you start at the shoreline; 15.6 miles one-way if you start at the regular trailhead.)You start out firmly in the tropics but end up in the subarctic so light gloves and a windbreaker may be useful as well, especially in winter months.

You are unlikely to see anyone on the Kaupo section of this trail and very few people, if any, until you are within about 4 miles of the summit on the Sliding Sands Trail so know what you are getting into and plan accordingly.

Miscellaneous Info

If you have information about this route that doesn't pertain to any of the other sections, please add it here.

Additions and CorrectionsPost an Addition or Correction

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dmiki - Jun 24, 2007 3:43 pm - Hasn't voted

Kaupo Trail closed

Due to erosion the trail is closed for maintenance indefinitely(?) [info from the visitor center at the summit]. Might still be doable in practice.

More on this here: http://www.nps.gov/hale/planyourvisit/wilderness-area.htm

Don Nelsen

Don Nelsen - Jun 24, 2007 11:43 pm - Hasn't voted


I appreciate the update. Were you over there and tried to access the trail?



mandrake - Jun 3, 2009 5:58 pm - Voted 10/10

Kaupo Open

Successful downclimb of Haleakala on May 29-30, 2009. From Paliku the trail was a bit overgrown but followable on the descent. It's fairly well marked in the confusing areas. One should be prepared for the descent, but it's not nearly as steep/scary as the NP would have you believe.

Finding the lower trailhead to drop a shuttle vehicle is probably the crux. The road is just east of the Kaupo Store. One lane, it looks like it was once paved, but is in the process of being absorbed by the jungle. Drive carefully as this road is still in use. Drive upwards to the signed trailhead at about 1mi, 1040' elevation.

larryk - Dec 24, 2012 4:07 am - Hasn't voted

Kaupo Gap Trail

Successful hike up the mtn from Kaupo trail head 12/21/2012. The road to the trail head was easy to find and much less rough than it appeared. Take first left after passing the General Store and drive 1.45 miles to trail head with parking for at least 6 cars available.Drove to the trail head in a compact car without difficulty, with the exception of getting two horses to move out of the way on a narrow single lane road fenced on both sides. There has been an attempt to mark the trail with brown trail markers, however they are spaced at variable intervals and difficult to follow. Lost the trail several times. Ended up on a dirt road that my garmin gps loaded with a 24k topo map showed was an " unnamed road" about several hundred yards west of the gap trail.This was about halfway up the trail to the park boundary. Tried going down, east etc without success in finding the trail. Finally went back up to the original dirt road which ended at a pasture fence. At this point, climbed the fence , continuing on the road , which at this point was an easily followed grass road that took me to the trail. One of the difficulties in following the trail early in the hike is it is so lightly traveled that the wildlife trails ( wild boars ) have made more prominent trails than hikers and there are more than several old overgrown roads. Once inside the national park the trail is easy to follow but the first several miles are very narrow single track , often through thick foot high grass that will get boots easily saturated if it is raining.

Had planned to hike to the start of the crater at 8.6 miles and hike back down to my car.The hike was an example of the weather differences on the mountain. In the gap it was windy, est. at times 40mph winds, driving rain and cold. Come prepared with layers !!! Came upon my first hikers at the 10 mile to summit sign. Was informed it was beautiful and sunny most of the way to the summit through the crater.. Decided to summit. Great decision. Great weather and interesting and beautiful landscape. Hitchhiked down the mountain and took a very expensive cab ride back to Kaupo.

Looking for wildlife ? Started the hike an hour before sunrise. Numerous pairs of eyes reflecting back at me through the brush the first 1-2 miles up the trail. Wild boars and a few deer with large antlers.

Would agree with mandrake that the steepness, and difficulty of the terrain posted on other sites is overstated . Made the summit in a little under nine hours, including at least a half hour of backtracking ,etc. trying to find the trail in the first part of the hike outside the park boundary.

cakewalk - Feb 25, 2015 12:53 am - Hasn't voted

Kaupo Gap Trail

There are probably not many people hiking this trail and it shows when you're there. In certain places the trail is not well marked nor maintained. However I still do recommend this sea to summit hike because however difficult it may be, it's awesome to do things like this and the park is beautiful. National Geographic has a Trails Illustrated topo map of the park that you can buy for $12 at the park headquarters when you register at Kipahulu. We lost the trail shortly after the start, approximately .5 mile from the trailhead. It cost us a lot of time and anguish as we had limited time to get to Paliku campsites before dark. It looks and sounds like others have made our same detour and why wouldn't people when the trial marker posts point you in the wrong direction! Here is how to avoid the detour we made (getting lost) on 2/18/15: When you get to a switchgrass area after approximately 1/4-1/2 mile there will be a marker post on the left side of the trail telling you to go straight up a hill. Don't do that: TAKE A RIGHT INTO THE SWITCHGRASS for a short bit and keep looking to your left and take a left up into a treed area to continue on the trail. I had limited resources so I did what I could to mark the trail. I put two substantial pencil arrows pointing to the right on the marker post. I also put lava rocks and limbs across the wrong paths in two places and I built three cairns to hopefully guide someone the correct way. I did beat down a trail, beat back some of the switchgrass and I broke some branches that were impeding the trail. This won't last long, as everything is growing out of control and there are cattle, pigs, wild dogs, horses and deer making all sorts of other trials. A small amount of routine maintenance would make a huge difference here but yea right, that's gonna happen! Have a nice hike!


thebeave7 - Dec 21, 2016 9:16 pm - Hasn't voted


Successfully went up and down the Kaupo on 12/20. The ranch owners have been tearing up the lower trail with hwavy equipment making the first 1/2 impossible to find. After about 1/2mile someone had nicely flagged the route with blue tape. So I'd you don't see the blue tape tie of route. The trail from the park boundary isn't well established and is heavily overgrown the first 2mi with knee to waste high grass. Running the upper crater is a lot of fun though.

Don Nelsen

Don Nelsen - Dec 21, 2016 11:10 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Overgrown

Beave, thanks for the update and info!


melissa7129 - Mar 17, 2017 2:17 pm - Hasn't voted

Kaupo Trail

We hiked from the beach to the top in two days the weekend of March 11, 2017. This is a freaking fabulous hike that requires you to be very fit, carry 150 ounces of water or so for the first 8 miles, and have mental fortitude. I highly recommend that a gps device is used from the park start (mile 1 past the store) to the paliku camp site.

The park start is on private lands, an easeway, and is barely marked and we checked every 200-300 feet for the first mile to make sure we were on the trail. After that we ended up on the private roads that were easy to hike and still required a good map (or maplets) to make sure you took the right road to the top. Overall this was 4 miles and 3000 vertical feet.

From the park boundary to Paliku campsite (4 miles, 3000 vertical feet) the trail was so overgrown in places we had to make our trail. The trees and brush required forcing your way through, it was grueling and exhausting.

Once at the Paliku campsite (which is great) we watered up and the rest of the hike was easy.

This is one hike to put on your bucket list. The views, flora and fauna were amazing.

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