For years friends have been encouraging me to head over to Maui and ride Hale'akala. Hale'akala sit at just over 10,000 feet and it's possible to throw the bikes in a truck and shuttle to the top. From there it's a 9,000 foot descent that starts above the clouds and almost drop you to the ocean.
I finally got around to it and let me say, it was everything they said it would be and more! Such an amazing experience. If you are looking for a once in a life mountain bike experience, put this one on your list.
We woke up at 3am in order to reach the top before the sunrise. It's pretty amazing to watch a sunrise at 10,000 feet, thousands of feet above the clouds. From there it's a short bike ride to the summit, maybe half a mile.
At this elevation it's usually clear in every direction. All the storm clouds are thousands of feet below you. It was so clear we could see Mauna Loa and Kilauea on the Big Island off in the distance.
I was riding with the Boy Scouts. We had a pretty big group of boy riding. Not all had done the ride before, or even been on bikes much. I was sure someone was going to get hurt! At the end of the day though there were only a few bruises and everybody had a great time. These kids were tough!
The first 6 or 7 miles of the ride is a dirt access road. I didn't think this sounded like much fun but I was wrong. The road is rough. It's also covered in 8 inches of dust and hidden rocks and holes are everywhere. Add 40mph speeds to that it gets pretty crazy. The good kind of crazy.
You can count on plenty of high speed, dusty corners with amazing views while descending that first 6 miles. We all couldn't stop laughing and having a great time.
Eventually you get to a spot where you can veer off onto some proper mountain bike trails. In the 90's, when mountain biking was booming, mountain bike specific trails were built here on Hale'akala, or more specifically the Polipoli State Park.
We headed off on Mamane trail for some fun, fast, flowly but still technical descending. There are decisions to be made at this point. You can keep on descending or head off for more climbing. There is a network of technical climbing trails in this area. You can climb all the way back up into the alpine. It starts in the forest but quickly turns rocks and barren. It makes for some amazing riding. I came back to do these trails another day. Today was about descending!
After Manane there are several ways down. Follow the road eventually leads you to an insanely fast descent down a paved road. Likely the most winding, twisty road I've ever ridden in my life. Or if you are with locals you can descend some seriously technical downhill trails nearly to the bottom.
I would definitely recommend hitting up with some locals to ride with if possible. Visit the bike shops etc. It will make the entire experience much more fun.
If you are the kind of person that likes big mountain bike adventures, I recommend you make this one happen. It's absolutely an unforgettable experience. To top it off you can spend another week riding amazing trails on Maui, Oahu or the Big Island!