HALEAKALA IS TRULY A GIANT AMONG HILL CLIMBS; and it ends within a national park. Best to ignore its average grade and focus on length and elevation gain when evaluating this one. From the corner of Hana Highway and Baldwin Avenue in the small town of Paia on the island of Maui, head up Baldwin Avenue on a shallow and gradually increasing grade for 7.1 miles to the town of Makewao. At the intersection with Makewao Avenue go straight up the hill over a short steep stretch as Baldwin Avenue becomes Olinda (do not turn right on Makewao Avenue as some suggest as this adds 1.5 miles of flat riding within more traffic). Climb for 1 mile on Olinda and turn right on Hanamu for a mostly flat mile to the junction of Route 377. Turn left on shallow 377 (Haleakala Highway) for 5 miles to its junction with Route 378. Turn left on 378 (continuation of the Haleakala Highway), which will take you the rest of the way up the mountain—only 7,000 vertical feet to go!
- Location: Hawaii
- Total elevation gain: 9,997 feet (3,048m)
- Length: 36.5 miles (58.8km)
- Average grade: 5.2% (10% max.)
- Rating: Beyond category
The road soon begins to travel through big switchbacks up the hill, endless climbing it can seem, almost 10 miles and over solid grade. Just beyond, the switchbacks end and you come to the park-entrance gate. The visitors center is about a mile further up the road (water). The terrain becomes increasingly rocky and volcanic at this point with great views of the distant Pacific Ocean on a clear day and the pedaling gets a bit easier. Continue climbing on shallower grade and soon you are moving through a moonscape of black lava. The slope then increases over the final mile.
Keep to the right near the summit as the climb finishes at the shelter at over 10,000 feet (ride up the paved trail to the very top). This hill is so long, make sure you take plenty of food and fluids. The descent is wild and can be cold (and wet) so carry what you might need (on the way up you may see groups who are only descending this hill). Apart from one or two in Central and South America, the few paved climbs that are comparable to Haleakala are also located on the Hawaiian islands.