Hiking Upcountry Maui
Poli Poli State Park
Located on the western slopes of Haleakala is an area known as “Upcountry”. This term actually encompasses a huge area with a sparse, spread out community known as Kula. I’m not positive, but my guess is there are at least a dozen climate zones in this area.
One of my favorite trails on the island and one of the highest elevation hikes other than the crater is Poli Poli State Park. It is, in my opinion, one of the worlds most unique forests because it was planted as a watershed after decades of deforestation due mostly to farming, cattle ranching and logging. On these slopes directly above Keokea is an amazing forested tapestry of some 20 species of trees from all over the world. They include California Redwood, Cedar, Spruce, Chinese Fir, Monterey Jack Pine, Mexican Weeping Pine and Eucalyptus. They were planted by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) which was a federal program that helped with reforestation on Maui from 1935-41.
Consequently, in just a few steps, you can stroll from one completely different forest to another. The undergrowth of ferns and mosses on the trees in this 6000’ elevation cloud forest adds a green sparkle to the mist that breaths in and out of the forest all day long. It is truly a magical place. The loop trail is about 5 miles long and doable in a few hours, but plan on a full day as the road to the park takes about an hour from Allii Lavender Farm, and the road past the park entrance opens up above the treeline with spectacular views of Maui, the island of Lanaʻi and the Big Island of Hawaiʻi.
You’ll need a vehicle with good clearance as the road up the mountain is loose powder like dirt with large lava rocks underneath. A good portion is paved, but it is a steep switchback road so be careful not to overheat your vehicle going up or burn out your brakes coming down. Remember to bring some warm clothes as it can get surprisingly cold, especially in the afternoon. Heading up early as you can in the morning assures that you’ll have plenty of time to explore and you may even see some of Upcountry Maui’s wildlife such as wild Boar, Asian Axis Deer, Ringneck Pheasant and the Pueo (Hawaiian Owl) among others. There are many areas of Maui that have some wonderful hiking trails, but if you love the mountains you’ll truly enjoy this one. Just be safe and take your time.
Aloha Nui Loa