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A strenuous undertaking through beautiful rainforest, most suitable for experienced backpackers.

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Point to Point

6,373' 1,943 m


968' 295 m


5,406' 1,648 m


0' 0 m



Avg Grade (8°)


Max Grade (27°)

Dogs No Dogs

Features Birding · Views · Wildlife


Most visitors plan to complete this challenging trail as a one-way excursion by arranging for a pickup at the end. Alternatively, leave a car at both ends and make it into a multi-day backpacking journey by utilizing the park's fine backcountry camping/cabins with the necessary permits. Most people spend the night at the Paliku cabin and start the descent to the southern coast early in the day to avoid the worst of the heat.

From the 3-way intersection with the Halemau'u Trail and the Lau'ulu Trail, take the Kaupo Trail south across the flat crater floor before dropping off the lip and heading down the volcano's hillside through brushy, steep terrain. It was originally thought that this "gap" in the crater rim wall was blown out in a spectacular Mount St. Helen's-style eruption, but recent research has shown that it was formed instead by wind and rain erosion.

You'll almost certainly have all the solitude you seek on this remote, infrequently used trail. Enjoy watching for wildlife while crossing ancient lava flows, dry dense native vegetation and pristine forests. Be prepared for a tough, rocky path that can sometimes be hard to find. Intense switchbacks are interspersed with somewhat level sections and constant ocean/Big Island views in the distance.

Just as you leave behind the prominent ridgeline that has been looming above, the trail crosses a fenceline from National Park land into private property. Trail users have permission to continue through, but please be respectful. The remainder of the route is on old doubletrack through ranch land. The grade steepens considerably near the Kaupo Cutoff and Kaupo Side Loop. You may inadvertently take one of these options due to the increasingly vague trail markings here. Proceed through pastures looking for the NPS markers to stay on track. The trail ends upon reaching the more established-looking dirt road and trailhead, but it is another few miles on the Kaupo Gap Road to reach the Piilmani Highway 31.

Heed the warnings and be prepared for cold and unpredictable weather. Also, be aware that the high altitude will cause dehydration and fatigue much faster than at sea-level. As of this writing, no food is available for purchase inside the park, so bring your own.

Flora & Fauna

Koa forest, Ohia trees, endangered birds.


Shared By:

Megan W

Trail Ratings

  4.3 from 6 votes


in Kaupo


  4.3 from 6 votes
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in Kaupo


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72 Views Last Month
15,193 Since Apr 28, 2016



A wonderful trail once past the trees, and a rewarding way to get into the crater.
Aug 31, 2017 near Wailua, HI
The 'trail'. Yes, it goes straight ahead here. It was awfully claustrophobic with no visibility.
Aug 31, 2017 near Wailua, HI
This is the good bit. After the extremely poor bush track, you meet this doubletrack which is easy to follow (but still a steep climb).
Aug 31, 2017 near Wailua, HI
The "trail".
Aug 31, 2017 near Wailua, HI
Trail marker
Aug 31, 2017 near Wailua, HI
The "trail"
Aug 31, 2017 near Wailua, HI


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Jan 20, 2018
Jacob Winey
Took Kaupo gap up to the crater, then across the crater, and up to the summit! In all, took 7 hours. Kaupo gap involved a lot of bushwhacking. 16mi — 7h 00m