“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” (-John Muir)
When I go to the upcountry Maui wilds, I typically go to the Pine Forest that leads to the Waihou Spring Trail because it is one of my favorite spots on this beautiful island. But the other day when I headed out for a hike, I decided to check out a new trail – and I’m so glad I did, because I now have a new favorite place. (This entire island is basically my favorite place, but certain places are even more ‘favorite’ than others.)
The Kahakapao Loop Trail in the Makawao Forest Reserve winds through pine forest, ash groves, fern forests, fragrant eucalyptus groves, and seductively-scented patches of wild ginger.
Located 2800-3700 feet above sea level on the slopes of Haleakala, the 6.2-mile Kahakapao Loop Trail is cool, breezy, shaded, and peaceful. In addition to being a dog-friendly hiking trail, it is also the best mountain biking trail on the island and there are numerous trails criss-crossing the Kahakapao Loop for mountain bikers of varying skill levels. Follow the red arrows to stay on the Kahakapao Trail!
Along the ½ mile path that leads to the start of the Kahakapao Loop, there are two well-designed ‘bike-only’ areas with ramps, jumps, etc., some for beginners and others for more advanced riders. I only encountered two bikers and three other hikers while I was there, and I hiked the trail twice in a row. Not many tourists find their way to this area so it is quiet and secluded, perfect for those looking to escape from the world for a bit of nature-refreshing.
As part of a reforestation project, the three main trees found in the forest are Eucalyptus, Tropical Ash, and Cook Pines. Although none of them are native to Hawaii, they have been very successful in creating this green Wonderland! One of the reasons I love the pine forests on Maui so much is because they seem so not what you would expect to find in the tropical paradise of Hawaii. However, the scent of the Eucalyptus trees has become so intertwined in my mind with the unique fragrance of the island that I can’t imagine the island without them.
**50 of the 300 species of eucalyptus trees have been introduced to Hawaii, the most well-known of which are the painted ‘Rainbow’ eucalyptus trees. The type found in the Makawao Forest Reserve is a different type of eucalyptus – although the bark peels in a way that is similar to the rainbow trees, they are not as colorful and they have an absolutely beguiling fragrance.
Hike the Kahakapao Trail
Directions: Heading down Baldwin Ave into Makawao, turn left at the town’s main intersection (at Polli’s Mexican.) Turn right just past the cemetery onto Pi’iholo Road. Turn left onto Kahakapao Road, and follow it to the Kahakapao Recreational Area parking lot.