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Into the Woods: Mountain biking in Maui's Makawao Forest Reserve

I take a shot at it, trying to avoid dangerous ruts in the pump track where I could lose momentum or fly over my handlebars. Riding the jumps and berms, I’m reminded of the similar thrills and chills of roller-coaster rides.

The trails of Kahakapao Recreation Area are managed by the state as part of its Na Ala Hele Trail and Access System. Established in 1988, the program constructs, restores and maintains hundreds of miles of trails and access roads throughout the Islands, largely through partnerships with community volunteers.

Maui has 22 Na Ala Hele sanctioned and managed trails scattered all over the island. As we continue pedaling our way on the loop trail, the quiet of the lush, massive forest interrupted only by the sound of our tires splashing mud and mountain winds coursing around thousands of trees, I realize why the slopes and summit of Haleakala are home to a full 16 of the Na Ala Hele system’s Maui trails. It’s almost too beautiful up here.

Still a novice mountain biker at the end of my afternoon ride, I head back to my car grimacing at the memory of jumping off my seat multiple times on the trail to walk my bike up inclines. I promise myself a trip back to Kahakapao to rack up more mountain bike miles on the Makawao Forest Reserve trails—much of it, hopefully, with me planted firmly on my seat.

There are dozens of other less-traveled trails left here for me to conquer. And if I’m not in the mood for mountain biking, there are always my own two feet.

Kahakapao Recreation Area/Makawao Forest Reserve
From Makawao, head northeast on Makawao Avenue; turn right onto Piiholo Road, left onto Waiahiwi Road, then right on Kahakapao Road and drive until you reach the Makawao Forest Reserve gate • The gate is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily • Mountain bike rentals are available from multiple Maui cycling businesses.

(This feature was originally published in the January/February 2014 issue of HAWAII Magazine.)

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