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Mountain Biking Makawao
Makawao Forest Reserve
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.
NEW! Also see: Maui Bike Tours Comparison
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 over 20 miles of relatively smooth single and double track trails lead you all through the reserve. For one of the fun five or six-mile loops, 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 bring 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. If too heavy for you, consider a Maui Beach Cruiser Rental and stick to bike lanes in the beachy spots
Maui Bicycle Rental
Krank Cycles has garnered a reputation as one of the friendliest and most knowledgeable bike rental companies on the island. For years, Krank Cycles has been equipping riders with mountain and road bike rentals. Offering a full fleet of rentals in all sizes—from 650b Enduro bikes to front-suspension mountain bikes—their location in Makawao proper, less than fifteen minutes from the Forest Reserve, make a stop at their spot super convenient; meanwhile, their staff keeps close tabs on trail conditions and can answer most, if not all of your questions.
The only company on Maui to offer full-day rentals, Krank Cycles will tune the suspension of your ride for your weight and riding style—so that you can take to the trails in full confidence.
Maui Bike Tours
If you plan on mountain biking through Upcountry – including the gorgeous forests of Makawao – your best bet is to join a local bike tour on Maui, often departing from the entrance of Haleakala National Park at 6,500 feet.
Cruiser Phil’s Sunrise Tour and Morning Bike Tour options offer a guided experience at both the summit of Haleakala Volcano and for the duration of your 26-mile downhill bike ride. Hotel pick-up and drop-off service is included on every tour, as are hot beverages prior to your departure for Haleakala, which includes a guided van tour of the National Park with the experienced, highly knowledgeable folks at Haleakala EcoTours. Once at 6,500 feet, the pros at Cruiser Phil’s will get you geared up and ready for an exciting, scenic journey down the winding slopes of Haleakala, stopping in scenic areas of Upcountry before the final stopping point in the north shore gem of Paia Town. Be aware that this tour is not for beginners, and all guests must be at least 5 feet tall, weigh less than 280 pounds, and be 12 years of age or older. Bring plenty of light layers, and get ready for an adventurous morning you’ll be proud to brag about for a lifetime.
Self-Guided Bike Tour
For a slightly less regimented, more do-it-yourself kind of biking experience on Maui, we recommend Haleakala Downhill Bike Tours, which are a thoughtful mixture of being helpful, informative, and low key while still offering a fully self-paced biking experience. After meeting in Paia for a quick snack, tour overview, and cup of coffee, guests will board the tour vehicle for a narrated, scenic drive up to the entrance of Haleakala National Park. Once geared up and briefed, guests are free to take the 26 mile downhill bike ride through Haleakala and Upcountry at their own pace, stopping as often as they like to take photos, grab a bite to eat or drink, browse local art galleries, and boutique shops, visit local farms and more before finally arriving back at the starting point in Paia Town. Guests must be at least 12 years of age, at least 4’10” tall, and have some experience with mountain biking to participate.
Another popular self-guided downhill biking option, the Sunrise Special, Summit Deluxe and Haleakala Express tour options from Bike Maui are an ideal fit for travelers who prefer to keep their adventure on their own time. After meeting in Haiku on Maui’s north shore, guests will be driven up to the summit of Haleakala on the Sunrise Special and Summit Deluxe tours, or the 6,500-foot biking starting point during the Haleakala Express tour, for a self-paced adventure beginning at 3 am, 8 am or 9 am, respectively.
Return to Haiku by 4 pm, and spend your morning how you like, taking full advantage of the otherworldly views and attractions along the 23-mile trail. Guests must wear closed-toe shoes, weigh 270 pounds or less, and be at least 4’10” tall and 12 years of age. KONA mountain bikes, Bell helmets, DaKine backpacks, and Helly Hansen rain gear are included on every self-guided tour.
Although no longer offering the biking portion, one of the most highly rated tours on Maui is Skyline Hawaii’s Haleakala Sunrise & Zip Tour. Beginning with an early morning pick-up directly from your accommodation, you’ll receive fascinating insight from a local guide on the drive up to the summit of Haleakala, all in time to witness a volcanic sunrise above the clouds for yourself, jackets and gloves included. Afterward, you’ll be driven back down while you enjoy panoramic views of Maui’s coastline and the West Maui Mountains along the way. Once at the stopping point, you’ll be treated to a continental breakfast before going on the ride of your life through 5-ziplines, a pendulum swing, and a swinging bridge amidst the lush eucalyptus trees of Upcountry. All gear is included, and guests must be 12 or older, weigh between 60-260 pounds, and be able to hike a 1/2 mile at elevation to participate. Learn more about Maui ziplines.
Makawao Forest 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, 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.” See below for a map.