The 10-acre forest reserve known as Polipoli sits at 6,400 feet on the slopes of Haleakala in Upcountry Maui. Its trails wind through redwood trees and misty mountaintops, producing a dreamlike experience—and a distinct feeling of not being on Maui anymore.
You start with a winding road from Kula to Polipoli…
…that climbs above the morning clouds. At last, the road turns to dirt, and a four-wheel drive vehicle is often necessary.
The flora and fauna: A foggy tree line encircling the grassy campsite. Wildflowers, towering trees and the sound of iwa birds seducing the senses.
Keep walking and the Polipoli trail opens into a forest of cypress, cedars and pine. The maze of trees filters the sunshine, creating tunnels of light.
The trail explores every variation of light and dark, alive and expired. The trail winds on, as fallen leaves create the illusion of a brisk, autumn day.
Some trees stand as tall as 200 feet, as others rest like giants outward from the path. Unknown flora in impressive colors and styles throughout incite curiosity.
A seemingly endless cluster of vibrant green ferns dominates the forest floor. The rain fights its way in, momentarily watering the path with a shower and turning everything to grey.
A tiny glimpse of blue sky appears through the lush landscape. For fleeting moments, cross paths with florescent flora requiring closer inspection.
Suddenly, towering treetops give way to unobstructed blue skies.
The fog rolls in again, with an air of surreality…. Until the loop ends in a bright campground, for a second feeling out of place, then slowly pulling you out of this dream state. The sun, it starts its slow descent downwards.
From Kahului, take Highway 37 past Pukalani to the second junction of Highway 377. Turn left on 377 for about 0.3 mile, then right on Waipoli Road. This becomes Polipoli Access Road at the first cattle guard and climbs up the mountain through a long series of switchbacks until it enters the forest at a 6,400-foot elevation, where the pavement ends. For more information, visit Hawaii's Department of Land & Natural Resource's Polipoli Spring State Recreation Area.