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Fine Art Images of Hawaii by Thomas Upton

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Mud Lane - Not so muddy

Updated: Apr 6

Waimea is a busy town sitting south of the Kohala Volcano and midway between the Kona and Hamakua coasts. It resides essentially on a saddle point between Kohala and Mauna Kea at about 2700 feet of elevation. We go there almost every weekend for the Farmer’s Markets and often do a little exploring in the area after we finish shopping.

Driving east out of Waimea takes you further away from the lava fields of Kona and the landscape transitions towards the rainforests of the east side. Near Waimea, this transition leads to beautiful, hilly, and serene pasture land that is only identifiable as Hawaii by the occasional unmistakable Pu’us (cinder domes) that dot the landscape. The traffic thins on the road to Honoka’a and on the left you soon see a sign for Mud Lane. This conjures up images of mucking through trails of wet clay and 4WD vehicles, which may deter you from turning onto this road. If so, you’ve erred, and will miss out on one of the most beautiful and peaceful stretches of road you will find anywhere on the Island or perhaps even the entire state. So do turn, and after 100 yards and a short right bend, a tree-lined lane opens before you that is jaw-dropping:

Spectacular Mud Lane in Waimea on the Big Island. Photo by Thomas Upton
Spectacular Mud Lane in Waimea on the Big Island

The road is paved for a few miles and densely lined with towering Eucalyptus trees that create a complete canopy over the road. Ginger plants line the road underneath the Eucs and become more dense as you proceed. Somewhere along the way, the Eucs thin out and are replaced by Ironwood trees and other varieties. Walking the length of the paved road (and back) makes a great morning experience, but it gets more interesting once the pavement ends. From this point, the road turns into an unpaved 4WD track that degrades progressively as you head east. For the truly intrepid, you can continue all the way to the Waipi’o valley during which you will unfortunately pass abandoned and stripped cars, various appliances and other junk left by fools.

We prefer to follow the unpaved trail for about ¾ mile and then turn left off of Mud Lane at a gate clearly marked with cautions regarding the potential to introduce invasive species into the woods. A trail past the gate heads north which I believe (but cannot guarantee) is accessible to hikers. “No trespassing” signs in the woods along the way make it very clear that you must remain on the trail, which looks like this:

Mud Lane trail through the Eucalyptus forest on the Big Island. Photo by Thomas Upton
Mud Lane trail through the Eucalyptus forest on the Big Island

The Euc forest becomes more dense as you travel this hiking trail. It can be very muddy after a rain, so plan accordingly. It winds for a few miles through the wood, during which you may well encounter other hikers, some oddly equipped with beach toys and floats. Continuing for an hour or so, you will ultimately come to a beautiful waterfall:

The Upper Hi'ilawe Falls at the end of the Mud Lane trail. Photo by Thomas Upton
The Upper Hi'ilawe Falls at the end of the Mud Lane trail

It is referred to by various names online, but I think the correct name may be Upper Hi’ilawe Falls. That would make these falls the upstream neighbor of Hi’ilawe Falls, the gigantic falls in Waipi’o Valley that are among the tallest on the Big Island.

There is a beautiful pool at the bottom and many bathers explore the waters above the falls as well. There is a lot of vegetation that I first took to be poison ivy (3-leaf clusters), which it is NOT. Enjoy the falls, have a swim, but leave no trace of your visit please. Be thankful and respectful that whoever owns this land is kind enough to allow walkers to enjoy it!

Be sure to check out the other blog posts for other Big Island adventures. And this website has one of the largest collections of high-quality landscape photographs of the Big Island so have a look at these galleries as you plan your own trips! 🔼

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