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Eke Crater, Maui

Posted by Don Nelsen (2007-12-04)

With the NW shrouded in cold rain and clouds, I thought I’d offer this trip report for your entertainment. It’s only 5 hours away!


I set off for Maui a couple of days after Thanksgiving and made plans to do some hiking and exploring on the “Valley Isle.” I went on six different hikes but the most entertaining was the following. In researching remote and difficult locations I came upon some information about a plateau high on the north face of the West Maui Mountains called Eke Crater. (Pronounced "Ay-Kay") I found only one trail guide book (Maui Trailblazer by Jerry and Janine Sprout) that even mentioned Eke and the description was daunting: “…with some 30 feet of rainfall each year. You can’t walk there - too far and too dangerous, with tangles of greenery, muddy rockslides, and lava tubes ready to slurp up a wayward hiker. ....Foliage presents a defeating obstacle and rain at this point would be downright demoralizing.”


Here's an aerial photo I stole off the web: This originally appeared in the Hawaiian Airlines Magazine, Hana Hou



Well, rain was at hand since the storm that has drenched the Pacific NW for the past several days had its origin deep in the tropics and Maui got it first! (At least it was Warm rain!) Further investigation revealed even more interesting information about Eke: One source talked about ancient ruins and even a sundial that long predated the ancient Hawaiians and suggested that this was a relic of the lost civilization of Mu, fabled to have been lost as much at 50,000 years ago somewhere in the vast Pacific Ocean. Another source stated that Eke Crater was considered by early Hawaiians to be Heaven’s gate, the doorway from this world to the next.


Legends have lived down through the millennia of lost worlds and lost civilizations such as Atlantis, Lemuria, Mu, Cibola and many more. Some stories have turned out to be true such as the lost city and civilization of Troy, a legend for over two thousand years until the city was found in the 1870’s. Others, such as Cibola and Lemuria, probably were never based in fact and few still give them any credence. A thing often in common with such legends is that the city or civilizations have sunk into the sea or that the actual location is simply unknown. This site, however, is known – albeit, extremely difficult to get to!


An adventurer who actually made it to Eke Crater over a hundred and twenty years ago said "It rises abruptly from the mountain side several hundred feet in height with its sides spangled with silver swords and shining grasses. It is so situated with all its sides higher than the surrounding land that it has received no debris from the wash of the mountain, and therefore has its thirty pits still open and apparently bottomless.

"I ascended it the first time early one morning after a still and cloudless night, and found columns of steam like smoke rising from seven of these pits. It was the warm breath of these volcanic throats turning into vapor in the cold upper air. The cavernous depths of this crater evidently form vast reservoirs, not now for molten rock, but for water to supply the neighboring valleys. The chief parts of the streams of Honokohau, Kahakuloa, and Waihee gush forth from its sides and base.”
With tales like these, how could I not give it a try!?


I should note: It would be unwise to trek beyond the last of the hog fences I encountered due to the possibility of introducing weed seeds or other seeds from your boots or clothing that might eventually sully this pristine area. Also, there are many rare and indiginous plants etc. that you might crush or otherwise disturb.  Lastly, you could get killed by falling into a vegatation covered pit or lava tube or fall off a cliff hidden in foliage.  No one would likely ever find you since the feral hogs would get you long before any rescuers could. Cell phones don't work here, either. That being said - enjoy!


Eke Crater looming out of the mists, 4,500 feet high and 10 miles away in this photo from the main road.:

 I carefully plotted the coordinates of the start of the trek into my GPS and saw that the maps showed “4WD” roads leading about half of the way, and then a trail aptly named “Eke Crater Trail” for the remainder. I’ve done long grueling hikes into the Hawaiian jungles so had a pretty good idea of what to expect and to say the least, did not expect to find much of a trail.  With no guide book action and the daunting descriptions found online, probably very few if any Hawaiians or Hawaii visitors hiked this trail often enough to keep it open. My guess was correct. I had hoped to find at least a couple of miles of serviceable road to take care of some of the hot, humid lower elevations of the route but it was not to be:  I found a locked gate just a few hundred feet off the main highway at a hunter check station.  A sign stated that the gate was open weekends for 4WD only.  As it turned out, they meant what they said about 4WD only and I soon found that even if the gate were open, I could not have gotten more that about a half mile up the road in my 2WD rental car anyway. So, the start of our journey was at 350’ elevation, it was 80 degrees plus, and the humidity was close to 100%.

We walked the easily hikeable 4WD road for 1.5 miles and came to a permanently closed gate. From here on out it was a bushwhack of varying intensity from difficult to extremely difficult. We pushed on, buoyed by the occasional glimpses of our distant quarry through the ever changing clouds.

We came to another fence at the 3.7 mile point and yet another at 4.3 miles in.  It appeared to us that there once was a rough 4WD road all the way to this last fence but it appeared to have not been used or maintained for decades

At the third fence, we found this ominous sign that said snares were in use beyond this point to control feral pigs! We were careful where we stepped for the rest of the hike!!


Quarry in sight only 3 miles away:


Wind sculpted vegetation on the ridge we hiked up:

Ohia Lehua trees, native to Hawaii:

Close up of the flowers:

2.8 miles to go and no sign of a trail:

Here the Eke Trail must have begun beyond this fourth fence but it was clear that no one had come this way for many years and the way was completely blocked by a dense mixture of shrubs, ferns and low trees.  I battled my way to the edge of a fifty foot dropoff and could see where a trail must have once been but was now completely choked with head high, dense ferns.  I’ve ‘whacked through this kind vegetation before and knew full well that forward progress in this kind of jungle is measured in the yards per hour not the miles per hour so, reluctantly, had to retreat at least for the duration of this particular visit to Maui.




Re: Eke Crater, Maui

Posted by pablo (2007-12-05)
Great trip report, your lead-in was a bit spooky with the stories and the feral pigs and all. I guess those dark spots on the top from the B&W picture are the pits mentioned. Whatta place. Also answers the question 'Where's Don?'.

BTW, judging from the recent bout of Hawaiian TRs maybe PH should pickup the HH domain, looks like it's free:

whois hawaiianhikers.org
[Querying whois.publicinterestregistry.net]


Re: Eke Crater, Maui

Posted by joerunner (2007-12-05)

Great report done but it sucks that your route was impassable.  Maybe there is another way?

Did you see any wildlife?  Feral pigs?

Re: Eke Crater, Maui

Posted by jeff e of the gwn (2007-12-11)

a great report!!!!reading from my desk at work at the start of winter.

   I have been looking for info on this hike years back on the net . Topozone.com has maps of the area and a trail line .  For some reason, that only hikers and explorers understand  i have been drawn to doing this hike for years, but have  only ever  found info vague on the actual trail. From what i now know now the reason is that this trail and hike is hardcore.

 so now and again i google eke crater,  and viola your report.

Kudos for going as far as you did.

if you ever do consider it again drop me a line, maybe we could get soem like minded peopl to do a small  expediton type hike,  it looks like a small group for safety,  satilite phone etc etc would be a safer way of doing things .

 Maybe even get some camera work and make some kind of mini film of it .


Jeff E


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