Mountain Biking Makawao
One of the best places to mountain bike on Maui is in the Makawao Forest Reserve. Just four miles from downtown Makawao, single and double track trails wind their way through mixed deciduous and coniferous forest. At 2500 feet above sea level, the air is cool and the thick canopy provides ample shade – an excellent break from the heat of the beaches below.
The Reserve offers a wide variety of trails to suit any fit rider with previous trail riding experience. Below the parking lot local bikers have made a fantastic downhill trail complete with log rides, gap jumps, huge berms, and small rock drops. It's fast and entertaining even if you're not into catching air. Locals often shuttle this section of trail with trucks, and if you're friendly you might be able to bum a few rides.
Above the parking lot many miles of relatively smooth single and double track trails lead you all through the reserve. For a fun five or six mile loop, go through the gate at the far end of the gravel parking area. Follow the double track to a t-intersection with a well marked sign. Go right. Eventually you will do a single track loop with lots of fun turns and fast straightaways that brings you right back to the t-intersection.
Be adventurous, but don't be stupid. Even though you might not always know exactly where you are, all trails will eventually lead you back to the bottom of the steep paved hill just after the entrance gate. Local riders have made a lot of fun trails in between the more obvious main trails, and they are worth taking the time to explore.
Note: If your mountain biking experience is on paved or gravel bike paths, these trails will be very challenging for you. Feel free to test them out, but be aware that a "smooth mountain biking trail" will still have roots, mud, rocks, tight trees, and other obstacles for you to negotiate. It can be dangerous, and we recommend you stay within your comfort level.
Unless you plan on shipping your bike to Maui from the Mainland, the best thing to do is rent. In addition to offering fantastic crater trips, one of the best companies to rent from is Haleakala Bike Company. Their bikes are new, very well maintained, and they offer both full suspension and hard tail models. Hard tails are $50 per day or $140 for a week (as of the writing of this article in December of 2010.) Full suspension bikes are $85 per day or $300 for a week (Dec. 2010.) Unless you plan on hitting the gap jumps, a hard tail is all you will need for the Makawao Forest Reserve trails.
Note: If you're thinking about shipping your bike keep the following in mind. Shops usually charge about $50 to package a bike for shipping. Airlines charge about $100 each way. You'll need to bring tools to reassemble your bike, or pay another $50 - $75 for a shop on Maui to do it for you. The last time I checked, UPS and Fed Ex charged more than the airlines to ship a bike to Maui. It's easier and cheaper to rent one while visiting.
Directions from Kahului:
From the Hana Highway (Highway 36) turn right onto the Haleakala Highway (Highway 37). Turn left on Makawao Avenue (State Highway 400). Go straight through the four-way intersection in the center of town. Just past Saint Theresa's Catholic Church make a right onto Piiholo Road. After about a mile and a half (just past the Piiholo Ranch Zipline course on the left) the road will Y. Take the left fork onto the narrow and windy Waiahiwi Road. After about a quarter mile you will be forced to make a right onto Kahakapao Road. Follow Kahakapao Road another mile and a half to the top. Pass through the gate and go down then up a very steep paved hill with deep water bars built into the road. Parking is on your right in a gravel lot about a quarter mile past the gate.
Google Maps will provide accurate directions if you search "Makawao Forest Reserve Mountain Biking Trails, Haiku, HI, 96708."
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