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Hiking On Maui

by / Sunday, 29 December 2019 / Published in Maui Blog
Hiking_On_Maui

One of the most amazing things about the aloha state is the variety of micro climates that are present within each of the islands. In one day you can snorkel crystal blue waters and lounge on a white sand beach, explore a jungle, discover the hot and barren landscape of a lava field and watch the sunset bundled in a winter jacket from the peak of a dormant volcano. Once you’ve got your much needed dose of vitamin D and just enough of a tan to make your friends at home jealous, hiking on Maui can be experienced at a higher altitude.

Heading straight up the side of Haleakala from the town of Makawao, the county road narrows and and the air cools. Large eucalyptus trees spread their roots under the pavement, forming natural speed bumps on the inclined twists and turns of Olinda Road.

About 15 minutes up the road you will find a small parking area on the right side with access to the Waihou Spring Forest Reserve, one of our top destinations for hiking on Maui. This area was historically used for animals to graze but in 1909 was established by the Governor for the purpose of protecting the sources of Waihou Spring (one of the few perennial springs on the west slope of Haleakalā). An experimental pine forest was planted and continues to prosper in the cool mountain air.

There are two routes to choose from on the well marked trail, one being a short loop trail leading through pine, cypress, eucalyptus, ash, redwood and koa trees. The other leads down a steep ravine to the springs. If you’re up for it, the extra effort is worth the switch back trail to the bottom of the forest valley. Make sure you’re wearing practical footwear whenever hiking on Maui and carrying water if you do decide to head down into the canyon.

Weaving back and forth on the pine needle and eucalyptus leaf covered path, your destination is a dried up river bed where a waterfall once plunged from an expansive moss covered rock wall above. The cliff side now reveals perfectly formed doorways scattered along the lower levels. If you’d rather keep these tunnels a mystery, the origin to be discussed once you get there, stop reading now. It is fun to imagine dwarfs or ‘menehune’ (a mythological dwarf people in Hawaiian tradition who are said to live in the deep forests and hidden valleys of the Hawaiian Islands) hideouts, underground tunnels to who knows where. The sound of water trickling, native birds chirping and tree tops swaying in the breeze add a magical feel to the forest setting.

The holes in the rock wall were in fact cut as water diversion tunnels. It is easy enough to enter a few of the caves, crouching to weave through to a window in the cliff side. Use common sense hiking on Maui while walking on loose rocks and slippery tunnel entrances.

The entire hike down into the canyon, back up and around the loop trail takes no more than 1.5 hours and is an exceptional place for some forest bathing. Keep an eye out for the green horned and bulging eyed Jackson’s Chameleon slowly creeping along the trail or in the trees. This non native reptile was introduced to Hawaii as a pet, a few escaped and the species thrived in cooler elevations like Olinda.

There is a group of conservationists working hard to protect the native birds and restore natural habitats in this area. The Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project’s mission is to develop and implement techniques that recover Maui’s endangered birds and to restore their habitats through research, development, and application of conservation techniques. Some of the birds they seek to protect are the native sub species of Hawaiian Honeycreepers. If you’re a birder, make sure to check out their website before heading into the forest so you can identify these rare and culturally significant creatures while hiking on Maui. While their office is not open to the public, they do rely on donations and have options to adopt a bird, plant a tree or attend a fundraiser event.

On the drive back down, consider a stop at Rainbow Acres, a succulent and cactus nursery well worth a visit. Another species that thrives in the cool mountain air of Olinda, the term ‘succulent’ refers to the plant’s ability to retain water. Some of the plants here have been growing for 30-40 years and create a gorgeous display of botany. The nursery is open to the public on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm, and on Saturdays from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm.

The upcountry area of Olinda is unique, refreshing and an ideal place for hiking on Maui. If you’re looking for guided hiking on Maui, check out this link.

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