The most extreme of Haleakalā’s hikes is the Kaupo Trail, which starts at the Paliku campground and descends to Kaupo on the southern coast. Be prepared for ankle-twisting conditions, blistered feet, intense tropical sun, torrential showers and a possibly hard-to-follow path. Your knees will take a pounding as you descend more than 6100ft over 8.6 miles.
The first 3.7 miles of the trail drop 2500ft in elevation before reaching the park boundary. It’s a steep rocky path through rough lava and brushland, with short switchbacks alternating with level stretches. From here you’ll be rewarded with spectacular ocean views.
The last 4.9 miles pass through Kaupo Ranch property on a rough 4WD trail as it descends to the bottom of Kaupo Gap, exiting into a forest where feral pigs snuffle about. Here trail markings become vague, but once you reach the dirt road, it’s another 1.5 miles to the end at the eastern side of the Kaupo Store.
The ‘village’ of Kaupo is a long way from anywhere, with light traffic. Still, you’ll probably manage a lift. If you have to walk the final stretch, it’s 8 miles to the ʻOheʻo Gulch campground.
Because this is such a strenuous and remote trail, it’s not advisable to hike it alone. No camping is allowed on Kaupo Ranch property, so most hikers spend the night at the Paliku campground and then get an early start.