Natural Area Reserve
Wright Road Trail
Round Trip Mileage: 4.7 miles
Elevation Gain: 330 feet
Gear: This hike is above 4,200 feet in an alpine rainforest so it's much cooler than coastal areas. The trail is often very muddy, so boots are a good idea. Plan for rain and don't forget the mosquito repellent.
Map: Topographical Map of Pu'u Maka'ala
Overview: 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 is one well-cleared hiking trail through the Reserve also known as the Wright Road Trail. The trail 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. 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. 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.
Getting to the 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, and the 4WD portion of Ama'ūma'u Road in the center. With a 2WD vehicle, turn around and park off the road. With 4WD, continue 0.25 mile to the fenced entrance of Pu'u Maka'ala Natural Area Reserve and park there.
The Hike: If you parked at the 2WD parking area off of Ama'ūma'u Road, walk to the end of the pavement and 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 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 travels into the heart of the reserve for more than two miles until it ends at some fencing. Return the way you came.