ROB'S MAUI Haleakala Adventure

Under Construction as of 10.18.08
Journey Catagories: Before | During | After | After


Aloha! See a few pictures of my journey at
For turn by turn directions consult the cue sheet here.

The Hawaiian Islands are the most isolated major island group on Earth - 2,400 miles from the nearest continent. Maui is the second largest of the Hawaiian Islands (727 square miles). Maui is known as the "Valley Isle". Maui is made up of two large valconos with a valley full of sugar cane between them. The smaller mountain on the west is West Maui Mountain, the larger mountain on the east is Haleakala ("house of the sun"). Haleakala is 10,023 feet tall and is still classified as an active volcano even though it hasn't errupted for 200+ years.

Why Ride Up Haleakala:

For me there were many reasons: 1) didn't seem right to ride down the mountain if you hadn't earned it by riding up the mountain 2) it sounded like a great challenge 3) because it's there - the only place you can ride from sea level straight up to 10,000+ feet.


Your mileage may vary. The author of this website makes no claim as to the suitability of this route for any other cyclist. Each rider must investigate the route and assume the responsibility for their decision to ride it or not. Use good judgement - multiple people have been injured and/or killed cycling on this mountain. Pay attention and stay focused as there is little margin for error. I would strongly suggest a good helmet and a careful check of your bike and equipment. Make sure your brakes are in good working order and you have a healthy amount of brake pads present before you start.

Other Haleakala Journals:

I found the experiences of others to be a great help in planning my ride up and down the mountain. I would encourage you to read each of the following accounts. They provide a nice cross-section of experiences. At this point I was about about 80% confident that I could do this ride. I was still unsure of all the continuous climbing having never attempted anything like this before.

Back in December 2002 Bicycling Magazine had an article about a ride up Haleakala volcano/mountain. It has since disappeared from their website but I was able to find it via the Web Archive after I returned from Maui. Click here for the article. - Mike Jacoubowsky 11/2005 - Rick Schultz 2005 - Kathryn Harrington and Marc San Soucie 11/2004 - Gordon Hamachi 02/2004 - Brian DeSousa 09/2002 - Dan Swiger 08/2001? - Don Axtell 12/2000 - Tom Roberts ??


For weather information I relied on the following websites. It seems to rain somewhere on Maui everyday. It can be cold, windy and raining like crazy on the upper elevations of Haleakala but be sunny near the coast. Some parts of the island get 400 inches of rain per year, other parts get as little as 10 inches. Generally it is about 30 degrees cooler at the summit versus near sea level. - National Weather Service Forecast Haleakala Summit - Kahului HI (airport city)
Hawaii Weather Today - Glenn James tropical weather analysis
Maui weather Today - Glenn James weather forecast for the Maui central valley
Haleakala Crater Cam - Haleakala Crater Live Camera
University of Hawaii, Institute for Astronomy - Mees Solar Observatory - great source of historical weather data for the Haleakala Mtn summit
Current Haleakala Weather - Mees Solar Observatory

Guide Books:

We used the following guide books for our trip to Maui:

Bike Rentals

I rented a TREK 1000 road bike from South Maui Cycles, it was $130 for the week. I would have rented the middle grade bike, TREK 2200 for $200 per week (aluminum frame, carbon seat stays and fork) if it had a triple crank but it only came in a standard double or compact double. All my bikes are triples so that is what I wanted to stay with. The 3rd alternative at this shop was a full carbon bike with a triple for $250 per week but I didn't want to spend that much. The bikeshop employee said some people can make it up the mountain with a standard double chainring, others need a compact double and others use a triple. That wasn't too helpful but I guess it is true. I decided to stick with what I was used to: a triple crank. I chose this shop for two reasons: others had used it and it was convenient to our condo - just 2.2 miles south on South Kihei Road. I was able to ride the bike from and to the shop.

Two things I failed to consider about the bike:
1. The TREK 1000 had a triple chain ring, but it was only an 8 speed cassette. My road bike has a 9 speed cassette. I really needed that one lower gear so I could spin on the steep parts of the mountain.
2. The bike had STI thumb shifters which took a little getting used to.

I had to sign a rental agreement promising not ride the bike down Haleakala Mountain. Apparently the other significant decents on the island were ok, but not Haleakala. Whatever. I also had to put a $630 deposit down on the bike in case I lost it, totalled it or took it home in my suitcase.

Two most important things to bring were shoes and pedals. I used their helmet so I didn't have to pack my helmet. Of course you need biking clothes, gloves, jacket and water bottles. Note that these rental bikes come with no computers. You can use a GPS or attach a your own computer to the rental bike. I used both: Garmin Forerunner 301 and Cateye Strada wireless computer.

I test rode the bike for a few minutes and it shifted and handled fine. But the front brake did little. I returned to the shop with 3 comments on the front brake: the pads where badly worn (below the wear indicators), the front brake provided little stopping ability and it made a weird noise. The employee removed the from wheel and I thought he was going to replace the pads - makes sense. Instead he took a file to brake pads. I kid you not - he actually made them thinner! Then he "tested" the brakes by pushing his body weight against the bike with the front brake pressed on. Hmmm, how does that simulate adult body weight flying down a hill (or mountain, wink, wink)? Yikes!

South Maui Bicycles
1993 South Kihei Road # 5
Kihei (808) 874-0068
10-6 Mon-Sat, closed Sun
South Maui Bicycles- website outdated and not very informative as of 08/2008

Island Biker Maui
415 Dairy Road
Kahului, Hawaii 96732
Island Biker Maui- nice website - shop in Kahului, the airport town

West Maui Cycles
1087 Limahana Pl, #6
Lahaina, Hawaii 96761
West Maui Cycles- nice website, nice store, nice bikes

Some riders chose to drive the route ahead of their rides to get the lay of the land but I decided I didn't want to do that for a couple reasons: 1) I didn't want to psych myself out about how hard or doable this route was and 2) I wanted to enjoy the experince of my initial mountain ascent from my bike where I could soak it in (literally as you'll see later). Did I mention that it rains a lot on parts of Maui? Well more on that later.

I did a lot of research on the route up the mountain via the others accounts on the Internet and drew the route on to get an idea. I used Google Maps to look at each part of the route. I divided the uphill route into 3 parts:

  1. Pa'ia to Crater Rd - 14.1 miles (cumulative 14.1)
  2. Crater Rd to Natl Park Head Quarters - 11.1 miles (cumulative 25.2)
  3. Natl Park Head Quarters to Summit - 10.4 miles (cumulative 35.6)

The elevation markings: sometimes you will find them painted on the road, sometimes you will find a sign and sometimes both. One time there were both markings but they were 50 feet apart - go figure. I had noticed a 1000' marking on Baldwin Ave but didn't realize it was the elevation mark - thus no picture of it. I didn't see any marking for 2000' but may have missed it.


For some perspective I am a recreational rider and average about 2500 miles a year of late. I had ridden my 4 bikes 45 times year-to-date for a distance of 1,300 miles with 5 of those rides being longer 50 miles. In the previous month I had done 10 rides for a total of 291 miles with a long ride of 50 miles. Several things conspired to keep my mileage lower than I had hoped: I was sick over the July 4th weekend and out of town two other weekends in July. So I had plenty of base miles but few long rides (>50 miles) and very moderate amount of climbing. The most climbing I have ever done was the 2007 edition of the Tour of Wildwood MO: 48 miles and 4,000 ft of elevation gain and loss.



I was very anxious to do this ride - I wanted to do it early in our vacation so I didn't have it hanging over my head. I didn't to worry about the weather day after day. I checked the weather forecast for Sunday and it didn't seem to bad so I decided to attempt the ascent on Sunday 08/03/2008, one week before my 49th birthday. Got up about 5:00am and finished gathering my gear together, loaded the bike into rented Saturn Vue and my kind wife dropped me off at the Pa'ia public parking lot. The lot is a good jumping off point and is located just west of the intersection of Highway 36 and Baldwin Ave (which is the stoplight in downtown Pa'ia). As I was getting ready it started to mist so I put my jacket on and turned on my lights. It took my Garmin Forerunner 301 GPS a long time to sync due to the change of location from the state of Missouri to the Hawaiian Islands. I began the ride at 6:35am.

The climbing starts immediately as you head southeast (away from the water) on Baldwin Avenue. It's a nice route and traffic was light. All the locals gave me plenty of space when passing. Only one person passed close: a tourist in a rented car in a big hurry. Perhaps he was late for breakfast.

You pass an old sugar cane plant, pretty views of the valley, a pair of pretty churches, a field of horses, a couple wrecked cars and a nice little park. At one point I saw a washing machine in the middle of a dirt field - how strange.

Around the 6.5 mile mark you enter the town of Makawao. At Makawao Avenue (7.0 mile mark), Baldwin Ave become Olinda Road and the road steepens considerably for half a mile or so. At 8.0 mile is the right turn onto Hanamu Road - you don't want to miss it! Oskie Rice Arena/Maui Roping Club is on your left at this intersection. Along Hanamu Road you will encounter many speed bumps as they attempt to keep the speed down to 20 mph. The next intersection, with Kealaloa Ave, comes up fast so be prepared, you need to go left here. Another .3 miles takes you to Haleakala Highway, you turn left at the stop sign (uphill of course). I stopped to call my wife at this point. I had ridden about 9 miles and was feeling it in my legs a bit. At this point I was about 25% done mileage wise with the ride uphill. Elevation wise I would guess around 2000 ft but I wasn't sure since I hadn't seen any elevation signs or markings.

Up the road a ways I passed the 2500 ft elevation sign and marker on the pavement as you ride through a nicely wooded section. A short time later I encountered the first group of downhill riders. They looked rather odd in those large motorcycle helmets (great for safety). I smiled and waved at them but most of them had their game faces on and were concentrating on the road ahead of them.

Just past the 14 mile mark you see the big brown signs to Haleakala National Park and you turn left on Crater Road (East Highway 378). I encountered a second group of downhill riders here. I stopped to take some pictures and a couple of cyclists passed by me headed uphill: the first was a thirty something male wearing a kit. The second was a fifty-ish male. I briefly consider tagging up with him for the long climb up Crater Road but decided it would be better for me to ride my own pace.

After the first bend, on your left, is the Sunrise Market - a great place to stop for food and water and to rest at the picnic table. Last chance to purchase food. When you see the 3500 ft elevation sign you are past the Sunrise Market - it's just behind you on the opposite side of the road. I missed it initially and doubled back for Gatorade, a Payday bar and rest. Lots of homes in this area. A sign indicates a rash of burglaries in the area. Great view looking over the valley below. So you have ridden about 14 miles from sea level and have had a nice warmup.

The uphill fun starts here: a series of 21 (or so depending on how you count them) switchbacks over the next 6 or 7 miles. Some are tight, others less so. After 6 miles or so I stopped to rest, drink and take some pictures. A man and women were approaching on bikes so I took their picture as they went by. I stopped at a scenic turnout on the downhill side of the road. A young guy on a fancy motorcycle stopped there also. We spoke briefly - I told him it looked like he was having fun. He had passed me a couple times. I could always hear him coming and going as he ripped through the turns. Took some more pictures and continued my way uphill across a series of cattle guards.

As I hit the cattle guard immediately below the entrance to Haleakala National Park I felt a twinge in the thigh muscle on my right leg. Stopped for more pictures and to pay the park entrance fee. It's $5.00 for bikes. Tip: if you return by automobile within 3 days then you can show your receipt and get $5.00 off the $10.00 auto fee. Unless, of course, you decided to ride in rain for 30 miles and soaked your receipt to the point it had no ink left on it. It was foggy/misty here so I put my jacket back on.

Up the road about a mile from the park entrance is the lower Visitors Center complete with a nice bathroom, water fountain, gift shop and cell phone reception. I called my wife from here to check in - cell reception for AT&T Wireless was fine here. I took some pictures here including one of the flowering Silversword - what an interesting plant. It was foggy here and misting. At this point I was about 70% done uphill mileage wise with the ride. Elevation wise I was between 7000 and 8000 ft.

Somewhere in here my legs started cramping, both of them. Big thigh muscles were protesting all this uphill climbing. Cramps were bad so I had to stop repeatedly all the way to the summit. I'd rest for a couple minutes, drink some fluids and stretch my legs a little. Back on the bike I would pedal gingerly for a while - wish I had that extra low gear here. Sometimes I'd make it only 2/10's of mile before the cramping would return, other times I made it about a mile. After several miles of this I decided to shift to a harder gear and to stand and pedal. That seemed to help, no more cramps in the thighs but then my legs got really tired and my feet started to tingle. If I sat down then the cramps returned after a while. So I limped the last several miles like this in the rain. I hoped for a dry spot to rest and recover but there really isn't any cover or shelter for these last 10 miles until you reach the top.

I finally made it to the top and saw the Visitors Center but I didn't want to stop until I had reached the summit. I turned right and continued toward the summit. A park ranger got out of his truck to take a picture and document the water flow on the road. I yelled "are we there yet" to him - he laughed and said I had 3/4 mile to go. This final 3/4 mile is rather cruel as the grade kicks up to about 10% when you are at your most tired. In my lowest gear I stood on the pedals and cranked away. My legs were very tired from all the standing on the pedals - it seemd to take forever to do the last quarter mile. It was raining harder at the top, 2-3" of rain flooded the road in places. Finally I crested Red Hill to the summit and stopped at the elevation sign: 10,000 feet! Then across the parking lot and rode up the wheelchair ramp/sidewalk to the very top 10,023 feet! I had made it. I went inside the observatory to get out of the wind and rain. I ate some food and drank some fluids. Then back outside to get some pictures of the bike at the top and a pic of the Garmin and bike computer - all in the rain. There was little visibility so no way to "enjoy the veiw". Tried to call my wife but there was no cell reception at the summit. I would have to wait for another day to enjoy the view from the top of the mountain.

I had hoped to summit in about 6 hours, then be gone from the higher elevations when the rain rolled in. Well that didn't happen for a varity of reasons: I stopped to take 49 pictures, make several phone calls, many rest stops to deal with leg cramps etc. All in all I wasn't too disappointed since completing the climb safely was goal number one. The tempature at summit for this day was: average: 45, high: 53, low: 39. At the time I summited the temp was somewhere between 40-43 degrees. Add a little wind and some rain and you can understand why I was so cold.


Disclaimer: I signed a rental agreement stating that I would not ride the rental bike down the mountain. Had I did ridden down the mountain I imagine it would have gone something like this:

As I was leaving it was raining even harder. It was windy, cold and raining and I was tired and soaked. I thought about stopping at the upper Visitors Center but I really wanted out of the rain and down off the mountain. I was worried about my family being worried about me since they had not heard from me for some time (3+ hours). Down the hill I headed in the hard rain, water spraying off the front wheel all over me.

The downhill part is suppose to be fun, the reward for the long journey up the mountain. I was very cold by now and riding downhill doesn't generate much body heat since you are coasting most of the time.

I had to moderate my speed since: it was raining and windy, visibility was poor, I was tired, I was very cold and there was tons of water washing sideways across the road. I was very determined to get down the mountain without crashing. So you can imagine all the braking that happened over the next 22 miles. I would estimate my speed to be 15-20 most of the way down Crater Road - the GPS speed profile seems to confirm this. I stopped occasionaly to rest my hands from the constant braking. Part way down the bike began to shake - I assumed a broken spoke had knocked a wheel out alignment. I stopped and checked both wheels - no problems. Back on the bike, headed downhill, it began to shake again. I suddenly realized that it was me shaking from the cold that was cuasing the vibration on the bike! I really wished I had rain gear and arm/leg warmers at this point.

It was somewhere along here that I realized a couple advantages to riding in the rain: 1) there was practically no automobile traffic to contend with 2) the cool tempatures and rain kept the wheel rims rather cool even though I was braking almost constantly.

Finally I made to the lower Visitors Center. It was warmer in the restroom out of the rain and wind. I called my wife to let her know I was halfway down Crater Road and still in one piece. I could hardly hold the phone to my ear I was shaking so much. I was convinced that the rain would stop at the lower Visitors Center since this is where it had began on the way up. No such luck - it continued to rain on me until I was a couple miles from the Haleakala Highway. I had planned to stop at the Sunrise Market to rest and get more food but they were closed (this was about 3pm in the afternoon). I stopped at the intersection with Haleakala Highway to call my wife to let her know I was down the steep part of the mountain, out of the rain, into warmer tempatures and feeling much better.

Once I left Crater Road the ride down Haleakala Highway was much more enjoyable as it wasn't raining and was warmer. I would note that the automobile traffic was heavier. My speed increased to 20-30 mph on the straighter parts, slowing for the curves as necessasary. At some places the shoulder disappears and you must get into the traffic lane to avoid the gaurd rails that jut out. After 6 miles I turned right on Highway 37. To add icing to the cake I had a flat front tire near Makawao Road. Thankfully the flat happened on straight section of highway after I was done with Crater Road and the rain! A few minutes later I was back on the road cruising about 30 mph. I might have gone faster but there was a fair bit of road construction in this area. A right turn onto Highway 36 into the trade winds for about 4 miles to Pa'ia.

My journey ended about 4:36pm, 10:01 after I had started. I was happy and relieved to be done!


Description Mileage Clock Time Riding Time Flats Pictures
Up 35.64 7:28:34 XXX 0 49
Down 38.78 2:27:16 XXX 1 0
TOTAL 74.43 10:01:08 6:49:39 1 49


See a few pictures of my journey at
For turn by turn directions consult the cue sheet here.

My kind wife was nice enough to come fetch me from Pi'ai after my long journey. She took a low resolution picture of me on her phone camera since my good camera (Nikon E4500) had expired from the rain. My jacket pocket had filled with water and soaked the camera. I was annoyed with myself for not storing the camera in a ziplock bag before the decent. Man was I dirty - my legs were a weird shade of gray from all the road grime of 30 miles of rain. My shoes were soaked. I was tired and sore but happy to have completed the journey I started some 10 hours before. Luckily the absence of rain the final 18 or so miles and fast pace allowed the bike and I to dry out a bit. We loaded the bike into car and I changed into some dry clothes.

We drove to a Starbucks in Kahului for some warm coffee then made the drive back to Kihei were we dined on Maui Zaui pizza from Round Table Pizza (highly recommended) and Primo beer.

Once back in Saint Louis I realized I had neglected to take a photo of the geological marker at the very top of Mt. Haleakala. I guess somehow the rain, wind and cold had distracted me. No photo of me at the top either, so you'll just have to take my word about it.

Here's my route as recorded by my Garmin GPS:


So why all the bad cramping in my legs? I tried to prevent the cramping by drinking Gatorade and spiking my plain water bottle with Elete Electrolyte Add-in from But maybe I didn't drink enough fluids. Maybe I needed more frequent breaks. Maybe it was just too much to expect of my leg muscles to do 10,000 of vertical climbing in a few hours time. Maybe I need better training. Probably some combination of all that.


Sure I feel good about my accomplishement but one needs to keep it in perspective. There is a yearly race to summit of Mt. Haleakala called Cycle To The Sun. The course record is 2 hours 38 minutes, set in 1992 by now retired pro Jonathan Vaughters at the age of 19. Jonathan is currently the CEO of Slipstream Sports and directeur sportif of Team Garmin-Chipotle. Winning times appear to be in the 2 hour 50 minute range the past few years. This website has graph showing the average grade to 5.5% over 36 miles. The route I rode matches the race route listed on their website.

We drove to the Mt. Haleakala summit a couple days later. About halfway up Crater Rd we encountered a unicyclist. Unbelieveable! Mt Haleakala is tough climb on two wheels so we couldn't believe our eyes to see someone riding a unicycle. The unicycle had an unusually large wheel and he seemed to making good progress. At the summit we met his son who was waiting for him. His son noted that no one had ever climbed Mt. Haleakala on a unicycle and his Dad wanted to be the first. I told how impressed I was and wished his Dad luck. It was crazy windy at the summit. On the is day (8/5) the average wind speed at the summit was 25 mph with gusts to 40 mph! We didn't see him summit as we went for a hike down the Sliding Sands Trail to Ka Lu'u o ka O'o cone. How fitting that it rained on my daughter and I during this event also. Once home I did some research on the web and learned his name is Mike Tierney and he has done many big climbs on his custom unicycle. Very inspiring. Read the article here: Maui News You can read more about Mike and his exploits here: Aspen Times


Would I do it again? Yes, assuming:
1. The weather was better.
2. That I trained more on long hills.
3. That I carried more cold weather gear: rain cover, arm/leg warmers.
4. That I had lower gearing: a 9 or 10 speed cassette.

Other Maui Island Hawaii Rides:

Since I had rented the bike for a week I did manage to get a couple additonal rides in while on the island.

Kihei Maui to La Perouse Bay Maui Loop (33 miles):

From the condo I rode straight south as far as I could go along South Kihei Road. Left onto Okolani Dr, right on Wailea Alanui Dr, though the nicely landscaped resort town of Wailea. Right on Makena Alanui, Makena Rd through Makena State Park. The road gets narrower and narrower and I fully expected it to become someone's driveway and deadend at a house but it kept going. Very pretty ride through a residential neighborhood. The the road rolls through a chunky lava field that looks like dirt but is lava.

Here's my route as recorded by my Garmin GPS:

Kihei, Kahului, Wailuku Maui Loop (23 miles):

A valley loop around the sugar cane fields. I jumped on the very nice bike path that parallels the Mokulele Highway (311 & 350). The path appears to be very new. I got see them burning the sugarcane - huge cloud of smoke along the fields next to the highway. Took a couple pictures of the burning and of the sugarcane plant near Hansen Rd.

Here's my route as recorded by my Garmin GPS:


back to: Top of this Page | Bicycle Page | Rob's Index Page

Contact the Author
Copyright © 2008-2008 Robert P. Anderson