Tuesday, 6 November 2012

New Maui hike at Kahakapao

Always on the lookout for new stuff to do here, I got wind last week of a "new" upcountry hike that has opened up on the hillside above Makawao. An article then appeared in the local paper talking of a lost hiker rescued up there, which confirmed it existed. A bunch of 'net searching and I found info on the Kahakapo Trail in the Makawao Forest Reserve. After visiting the bird sanctuary the other day (which is in the same vicinity), we went to find the place.

Like most trails on Maui, finding the trailhead is a pain in the butt. See below for directions.

I looked hard on line for trail maps of the place. I liked this sketch map a lot, but it's wrong. Wrong as in nonsense. Wrong as in "missing a ton of trails". Wrong as in "not even nearly to scale". I found a site where someone took that wrong map and superimposed it on the sat image of the area. Really bad.

But I did find an real Division of Lands and Natural Resources map of the "official" trail, and enough info to tell me it was a 5.6 mile (10 km) loop that gained 800 ft (250 m). Looking at the official map you can see how bad the sketch map is.

So off we went. Initially, we weren't planning on doing the whole thing. But it's such an easy hike, we were able to walk it in 3 hrs. Here's our GPS track set in Google Earth.
The big picture 
Zoomed in
It's not that interesting a hike. There's no birds to speak of, native or otherwise. There's nothing to see and no consequential views. The west side of the loop and the top half of the east side are just lots of eucalyptus trees.
The "road" at the start
There's a few koa trees, the odd native fern. Low down on the east side, you walk through a native fern grove.
Lots 'o ferns
The "lower east side" also has monoculture pine forests...
Pines with no understory
...and Cook Island pine forests. The main trail is really well marked and impossible to lose. So as I said, it's really blah hiking and not worth it as a hike. Except...

Since I have started to volunteer with folks who build trails for hikers and mountain bikers, I pay attention to trail design. This is one beautifully built trail. You climb 800' but you can't tell you're doing it. You zig and zag, and wander seemingly aimlessly but purposely. The climb is never tiring, though eventually you catch on to the fact that you could just shortcut most of the zigs on...

...an amazingly well designed set of mountain bike trails. The main hiking trail has an easy enough grade to ride up for anyone, and the west side of the loop has just an incredible maze of beautifully designed single track downhill specific mountain bike trails.
Technical swirls in a natural gully
This whole place is trail art. The mountain bike trails flow with the land. The main loop trail was built in 2010 by the Na Ale Hale trails group and the Sierra Club, but the mountain bike trails were added by the Maui Mountain Bike Alliance. They did an awesome job.

And it's been successful. Despite limited info and practically no directions or signage, this is the first trail I've ever been on in Maui that's busy. Busy as in at least 20 vehicles in the parking lot, more than a dozen bikers and handful of hikers on a Saturday afternoon.

If you're a mountain biker, you gotta try this. If you're a hiker, I still recommend the Waikoa Loop Trail off Waianapanapa Road for better birds, views and a cloud forest.

Finding the place:

This link will highlight the route for you on a map.

Go into Makawao to the 4 way stop. Head towards Haiku on Makawao Road. In about half a mile, turn right onto Piholo Road (just past the church, school and cemetery). Just over a mile up the road, veer onto your first left (Waiahiwi Rd) where you will see your first little brown sign for the Makawao Forest Reserve (as in the rest of Maui, there's little itty bitty brown and yellow signs that point the way to the trailhead -- when they put them up and they don't get wrecked). Wiggle your way along this road for a quarter mile, past Ehu Rd., and turn right onto Kahakapao Road (no signage here at all). Follow the road uphill, and arrive at a gate with a bunch of trail signs. This gate is locked at sunset. Drive through the gate, and go very, very slow from here on. Between here and the parking lot 1 mile ahead are 4 wickedly deep, car eating drainage channels crossing the road (like upside down speed bumps). Unless you have a truck, creep over them slowly at an angle and you should be OK (my Ford Focus made it fine). Park in a well marked gravel lot.

1 comment:

Edwin said...

Long time no post, seen any of the games at the Maui invitational?

Saw the Marquette v Butler game yesterday night. Must see game winner for Butler!