Cycling Haleakala, Maui, Hawaii: 1 Climb, 10k Feet, 36 Miles

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On the day after New Years day, my Dad and I cycled up Haleakala, a dormant volcano in the Southeast of Maui, Hawaii.  The ride was 36 miles up and 36 miles down, starting at sea-level and peaking at 10,023 ft.  It’s the longest climb I’ve ever done by over 6,000 feet.

We rented bikes from the Maui Cyclery in Paia and picked them up that morning as soon as the store opened at 8am.  We were on the road by 9am and on our way up the volcano.


The ride is uphill the entire way save for one 100ft section that is slightly downhill.  There are literally no flat sections.  On the flip side, there’s only one brief section that’s over a 10% grade.  Otherwise the grade is consistently between 4% and 6%.

Prior to leaving we researched water stops along the route.  There’s a town 6.5 miles out, then another at 13 miles (elevation: ~3,000).  Then there’s a visitors center at around 26 miles (elevation: ~7,000).  The two towns had stores that sold water and food, but the visitors center only had water, no food.  We packed all our food, only stopping for water at 13 miles and 26 miles.

IMG_1149The weather and temperature were perfect.  At sea level the temperature was in the high 70s.  At the top the temperature was in the low 50s.  We were shielded from the sun by a high layer of clouds, which was great considering we needed to ride several hours between water stops.  The bike shop employees warned us of two things: that we might run out of water, and that we’d be very, very cold on the way down.  We were lucky to have the high clouds to hide us from a dehydrating sun, and to have relatively moderate temperatures.  We rode through dense fog from 4,000 feet to 7,000 feet but fortunately we had prepared the right clothing and didn’t get very wet.

The ride was brutally difficult.  We climbed for 5.5 hours at a gradual pace, taking rests when we needed them and stopping for water twice.  I kept saying to myself, “Only X thousand more feet to go!”  Then, “Damn that’s a lot of feet.”  But we kept going and made it all the way to the summit.  The descent took about 75 minutes.

My dad said it was the most epic thing he’s ever cycled.  It was probably the third most epic thing I’ve ever cycled, third behind the Devil Mountain Double and Death Ride respectively.  But epic nonetheless.  I’d totally do it again, and I’d totally recommend others ride it, too.  The trick is to pack enough food and warm clothes.  Otherwise, climb, climb, climb!

Get more stats about the ride on Strava.