Upcountry Maui Hiking: Makawao

Makawao Forest Reserve on Maui. Photo © Juerg Baumann/123rf.
Makawao Forest Reserve on Maui. Photo © Juerg Baumann/123rf.

While much of the land behind Makawao is either privately owned ranchland or part of the state watershed system, two well-maintained trails provide Makawao hikers with a couple of options for getting back into the forest.

In the heart of the Makawao Forest Reserve, the Kahakapao Loop Trail is popular with mountain bikers and families walking their dogs. This forested 5.7-mile loop weaves through eucalyptus and pines, and the air is cool at just over 3,000 feet elevation.

To reach the trailhead from Makawao, follow Makawao Avenue toward Ha‘iku for 0.3 mile before turning right on Pi‘iholo Road. After 1.5 miles, just past the Pi‘iholo zipline tours, take a left at the fork in the road and follow it for 0.5 mile. Here you’ll make a right onto Kahakapao Road and drive 1.5 miles on a narrow uphill until you reach a metal gate (open 7am-7pm daily). From the gate, a steep asphalt road continues for another 0.5 miles until it reaches a gravel parking lot. Expect to encounter some cyclists while hiking, since it’s a multiuse network of trails.

If you don’t feel like dealing with throngs of bikers, head to the Waihou Spring Trail, toward the top of Olinda Road. This two-mile trail is only open to hikers and doesn’t have as steep an elevation gain as at Kahakapao. It’s uniquely situated among an experimental planting of pine trees, and while the wooded trail is nice enough for walking, the treat is at the end, where a steep switchback leads to a hidden gulch. Here you’ll find a 30-foot vertical rock face with tunnels bored through, and if you have a flashlight, you can climb in the tunnels and follow them for a short distance. To reach the trailhead for Waihou Springs, go to Makawao’s only intersection and follow Olinda Road uphill for five very curvy miles.

Map of Upcountry Maui, Hawaii

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