By: Pete Estabrooks
Luckily once you’ve tired of the sun the sand and the surf Maui is still a runner’s paradise its elevation humidity and warm ocean breezes make any stint on your legs adventure and not exercise with each side of the island offering spectacular runs; Paia Bay to Baldwin Beach to Kahalui, tourist central Kihea to Makena Beach, along the Hana Highway, north from D.T. Flemming Beach to the view over Honolua Bay or an ultra-run on the wide paved shoulders up the Haleakala volcano it’s all the same, beautiful. For the curious and avid runner though there are two trails that span the incredible dichotomy of the Valley Island.
On the dry side is the Lahaina Pali trail, 8.5 kilometers of rugged, scorched earth power, scenery forever and awesome silence. Accessible via a parking lot on the Ukumehame side the trailhead is easy to find, pass through the only tunnel on the Honoapiilani highway to Lahaina down the hill and pull over to your right. From the first few steps on a hand-paved path built hundreds of years ago it becomes apparent this is not a sprint but an exercise in focus and foot placement. Climbing steadily uphill the first three kilometers the Pali trail winds in a labyrinth fashion removing you from the sights and sounds of civilization ascending into the quiet valleys, nooks and crannies of the island. Transported into a primordial peace and quiet points you are stepping on the exact spot where Maui rose from the ocean eons ago. Before you can wrap your head completely around that thought a visceral hum and unearthly vibration pulls you out of your reverie and moves you from the beginning of time to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 as you gaze in amazement at the dimensions of a single wind tower. Within meters the tower has grown to a cluster of turbines and you crest the hill onto the Kealalooa Ridge understanding immediately the tower placement when you are buffeted by the warm howling trade winds common to Hawaii. From here its fast, the view of Maalaea harbor and Kihea draw you along easily navigated dirt packed downhill path along looping switchbacks that end in the Maalaea side parking lot. That’s 8.5 kilometers of fun; a quick spin on your heels and with the wind at your back the return is almost easier.
High on the other side of the island the Makawao Forest trail runs a similar distance but a world apart. Head out of the cowboy town of Makawao towards Haiku on Piiholo Rd, follow the sign to Piiholo Ranch then turn right on Kahakapao Rd and continue onward and upward for 6 kilometers pulling into the obvious parking lot. Follow the wide path exiting the lot down to the trailhead. Start your run on the west loop the uphill along the winding continuous uphill trail so silent that the only sounds are your lungs working and your feet on the soft path and exotic leaves underfoot. Once the path levels out and you can look at just the tops of your shoes massive trees and lush vegetation surround you weaving into a canopy so thick that should it be raining the only evidence you’ll have is the rhythmic lull of raindrops on leaves overhead. Stay tight to the trail avoiding Fong ridge (nothing bad, just longer) and finish the east loop allows you to breathe in the smell of the eucalyptus and pine as you pick up speed and rocket downhill back to the trailhead. 8 Kilometers running in the land before time, if you have time turn around and run back for the same uphill start downhill fun finish.