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Mountain Biking in Maui

Misty Trails Await on Hawai`i’s Second Largest Island

My husband Alex and I make a point to explore mountain biking almost everywhere we go. While Alex has biked for a long time, it’s my newest passion. So, when we went to the Big Island for a family reunion, we decided to island hop to Maui to find new trails and insane views. Why Maui? Hawai`i is dominated by private land that can make trail access tricky, but Maui has plenty of public land to keep riders busy for a couple of days—not to mention an epic descent from the top of a 10,000 ft. volcano. Here’s the rundown on our Maui mountain biking trip.

Day 1: Lahaina Pali Trail in the Ma`alaea Bay Area

Alex and I picked Ma`alaea Bay, a quiet harbor town on the dry side of Maui, as our basecamp because it’s inexpensive and offers access to great food and beaches. Before exploring the area, we fueled up at the Ma`alaea General Store.

With big rides planned for the next couple days, we started with a hike. Within striking distance of Ma`alaea is the historic Lahaina Pali Trail, which used to be the only road between the towns of Wailuku and Lahaina.

True to the trail’s name—Pali means “steep cliff” in Hawai`ian—the trail gains elevation quickly, but we figured if carriages used to power through, so could we. We chose to shake out our legs with a hike from the West Trailhead, where the sunset and the west-facing vistas totally delivered.

Day 2: The Skyline Trail on Mt. Haleakalā

Great bike days often start with coffee, so Alex and I made a pit stop at the Wailuku Coffee Company, an espresso bar in an old gas station.

We rented our bikes from Krank Cycles in Makawao, where we gathered tips and trail maps from the shop owner, before setting out for the Skyline Trail.

Skyline is famous for brilliant views from atop the 10,000-ft. dormant Mt. Haleakalā, and a long descent through lava fields, dense forest, and eucalyptus groves. Here are a few tips to set up the ride:

  • Commercial operations are not allowed to run bike shuttles, so plan to run your own shuttle or make friends with some locals.
  • Since the ride starts in Haleakalā National Park, entrance fees apply. If you’re just doing a drop-off, tell the entrance employee and they’ll waive the fee.
  • The Skyline Trail begins past a gate beyond the main parking lot area, which you can navigate to using the Trail Forks app or bike shop trail map.
  • The beginning of Skyline is a doubletrack access road, where the appeal lies in the unique scenery and views. Don’t worry—more flowy terrain lies ahead.

Is that what a mountain bike ride on the moon feels like?

One of the highlights of Skyline is the fun two miles of singletrack that is the Mamane Trail, which travels through the mist of a cloud forest.

When Mamane ended, we hopped on Waipoli Road, a dirt road that eventually turns to pavement for an all-out descent into Rice Memorial Park.

Day 3: The Pineapple Express Trail in Makawao

With expertly built berms and tacky red dirt, the Makawao Forest is what dreams are made of.

Since Makawao is a rainforest, the terrain can be really slick. Alex and I waited out a mist shower in town before hitting the trails.

The morning mist actually set up the trails perfectly. All the locals we talked to pointed us to the premium flow at Pineapple Express Trail. The climb was easy, and the reward huge with optional jumps and fun features for all skill levels.

The Makawao Forest also has a bike park built into their trail system, which made for a playful end to one of the most fun trails we never knew existed.

With cloud forests, volcanoes, and tacky trail, Hawai`i offers riding unlike anything Alex and I experienced. Like a good poke bowl, after a few days in Maui, we were left wanting more, and I’m looking forward to the day that Alex and I return for more sampling of Hawai`ian singletrack.

During their trip, Melissa and Alex tested out the new Backcountry Mountain Bike Collection—and loved it. If you’re planning a mountain biking trip of your own, check out the latest Mountain Bike Collection built by Backcountry.