Pu'u Maka'ala Natural Area Reserve
Round Trip Mileage: 4.75 miles
Elevation Gain: 330 feet
Pu'u Maka'ala Natural Area Reserve is located north of Volcano Village high on the flanks of Mauna Loa over 4,000 feet above sea level. The Reserve protects 18,730 acres of lush endemic alpine rainforest where Hāpu'u Pulu tree ferns - some up to twenty feet tall - dominate the landscape. There are two cleared trails in the Reserve. The trails will draw you deeper and deeper into endemic rainforest where sunlight fights to reach the forest floor. Although this hike is listed in the Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park section of this site, it is not within the Park (it is just north of Volcano Village, outside the Park). A Natural Area Reserve is a state land designation established to protect representative examples of Hawai'i's natural history, land, and water areas that support unique Hawaiian ecosystems. Hiking in Pu'u Maka'ala is allowed for groups of ten persons or less. You should ensure that your boots are cleared of foreign seeds. Hunting is allowed in accordance with DNLR rules, so you should wear brightly colored clothing. There is no motorized access, no camping, and no fires allowed. Plan ahead to Leave No Trace and pack out all trash. There are no facilities at the trailhead area.
Trailhead: From Hwy. 11 in Volcano Village, find Wright Road and turn north. Stay on Wright Road past many neighborhood roads over several miles until it takes and abrupt ninety-degree turn to the west. Take the next right, which is Ama'ūma'u Road. Follow this road until the pavement ends at a small turn-around. There are two driveways on the left and right. Park off the road in a clearing for 3-4 cars on the left side of the road.
Gear: Standard hiking gear. The trail is often very muddy, so boots are a good idea. Plan for rain and don't forget the mosquito repellent.
Hike: Find the 4WD portion of Ama'ūma'u Road between two driveways. It's a grassy two-track with high forest on both sides. After 0.25 mile, you'll reach the 4WD parking area where Ama'ūma'u Road takes a ninety-degree turn to the west at a fenced gate. The entrance to the trailhead is directly ahead at the end of Ama'ūma'u Road where you should find a brown sign with yellow lettering indicating Pu'u Maka'ala Natural Area Reserve. Enter the Reserve via a stile ladder that provides access over the fence behind the sign. The trail is marked by a considerable amount of colored tape tied to trees. There is a sign that refers to the birds in the area near the beginning. The trail splits here. The right turn travels for 1/2 mile toward the Hawai’i Volcanoes Wilderness Area. The main trail travels into the heart of the reserve for more than two miles until it ends at some fencing. Return the way you came.