Haleakala Bike Climb - PJAMM Cycling



Explore Haleakala Bike Climb

Page Contributor(s): Ray Gurzynski, Washington Dennis Prior, Windsor, California, USA

Explore this Climb

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Climb Summary

Cycling Haleakala Volcano - crater, clouds and blue sky

Haleakala Crater as seen from the summit.

US Top 10 Most Epic Bike Climb

Start of Haleakala cycling climb from Paia at the beach with sea turtle.

Start the climb at sea level.

What You Should Know About Biking/Climbing Haleakala:

There’s nothing quite as incredible as road biking Maui.  Haleakala is an epic and challenging volcanic climb that takes you into a National Park on one of the most beautiful Hawaiian Islands.  The 35 mile climb from Paia to the Haleakala Lookout and the Visitor Center (located half a mile below the lookout) shares its first eight miles with another US Top 100 Climb (Baldwin Avenue/Olinda Road).  From Paia -- a small town of just over 2,000 with several restaurants and small shops to occupy your time pre- or post-ride -- you’ll ride eight miles on Baldwin (which turns into Olinda Rd at Makawao Avenue at the seven mile mark), turn right onto Hanamu for one mile, then turn left onto Haleakala Highway for the remaining 26.8 miles to the top.

More on Paia Town:

This Hawaiian town is the perfect spot to immerse yourself in Maui’s North Shore surf culture.  Paia solidified itself as a Bohemian Mecca when it became landing place for many of the 1960’s Counterculture “hippies” (hey, that’s my era, by the way!)  once they left San Francisco.  Now the “incarnation of Hawaii small town charm,” (Paia Town) you can enjoy all sorts of experiences in this unique town -- from yoga studios and coffee shops to health food stores, delicious seafood, and world class surfing -- you won’t regret making a little extra time on your trip for a stop in Paia.

Start of our Haleakala Volcano bike climb in Paia, Maui

 Start the climb in Paia.

When to Climb Haleakala by Bike:

The climb begins in Paia, a very dry area.  During the winter months (November through February) there is a 20% chance of rain.  The lowest rainfall month is June, followed by July.  The temperature can be a factor at the lower levels, so be prepared for that.  There is no chilly time to begin a climb in Paia (low-average high is 80 degrees in January and the high-average high is 87 degrees in August).  The warmest months at the top of Haleakala are June through August and the lowest rainfall happens in May through August.  Factoring in all these meteorological variables, we suggest June as the best month to climb Haleakala.  Of the five times PJAMM Cycling has completed this climb, three have been in June, and all three of these climbs were fine from bottom to top.

Start of our Haleakala Volcano bike climb in Paia, Maui 

We can experience all kinds of weather along our 35 mile climb

Check PJAMM’s Forecast (on the climb card above right top of this page) in advance.

How to Climb Haleakala by Bike: 

Train well because this is is one of the hardest climbs in the world (#2 US/#14 World) at 36 miles and 10,331 feet gained at a 5.3% average grade.  The road is paved to the top and never too steep -- the steepest ½ mile is the last stretch to the summit which is 9%, but at 10,000 feet.  Unlike Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa on the Big Island, there are two spots to pick up food and drink along the Haleakala route so you need not over stock from the start (Makawao six miles from start -- markets and bakery and the Kula Market 13.5 miles up on Highway 377).

Check out the PJAMM May 2018 Great Hawaiian Adventure Blog and Trip Page to see what we were up to on one of our recent cycling trips to Hawaii.

Start of our Haleakala Volcano bike climb in Paia, Maui 

On Baldwin Ave for the first 7 miles

Riding by bike past the Haleakala park sign

Highway 377 for 5 miles at 5.3%


Even the highways are beautiful in Hawaii!

   Riding by bike past the Haleakala park sign

                                                         Last 20 miles are on Highway 378 (Haleakala Highway).  

At mile 9.2 we turn onto Haleakala Highway (Highway 377) .  At Mile 14, Highway 377 and Haleakala Highway part ways and we turn left and begin a series of spectacular switchbacks that rival those of Palomar Mountain in San Diego County, California (by our count there are 24, which is a few more than Palomar).  The scenery is gorgeous on the way up and the road surface excellent with generally good shoulders and bike lanes.

Riding bikes up Hwy 377 to Haleakala Summit 

The climb feels safe, particularly after turning onto Hwy 378

Provisions can be had along the way (as of June, 2014):  Makawao (six miles from start -- markets and bakery) and the Kula Market (13.5 miles up on Highway 377 -- down a slight hill on the right, not readily visible from the road -- next to Kula Lodge & Restaurant).

Cycle to Kula Marketplace for rest on way to Haleakala 

Mile 13.5

Bike climb Haleakala Volcano - PJAMM cyclists eating lunch Kula Market 

Lunch at the Kula Market.

Cycling Haleakala Volcano - aerial drone photo of hairpin curve, green grass and roadway

One of the lower Haleakala switchbacks as seen via aerial drone photo.

Climbing Haleakala Volcano  by bike - road altitude markers, roadway, clouds and bike

23 hairpins before the park entrance.

6.9 miles of hairpins at 6.5% beginning at mile 14.2

Climbing Haleakala Volcano  by bike - road altitude markers, roadway, clouds and bike

Markers on the roadway from 4,500’ to 6,500’

Climbing Haleakala Volcano  by bike - John Johnson with bike at 10,000' sign

After entering the park, altitude markers are signed.

Best bike climb in Hawaii - Haleakala Volcano  - park fee entrance sign

There is a fee to enter the park on a bike

Cycling Haleakala Volcano - park entrance kiosk

Enter the park at mile 24.5

11.1 miles, 3,340’ at 5.5% left.

Bicycle ride Haleakala Volcano  - National Park Headquarters

Water at Haleakala National Park Headquarters at mile 25.6

NP established 1961, 33,265 acres, ~1,100,000 annual visitors.

Biking Haleakala Volcano  - hairpins, volcano, sky and clouds

8 mostly giant hairpins for 7.8 miles beginning mile 25.4

Range from .25 to 1.2 miles between turns.

Bicycling Haleakala Volcano  - road sign to summit or observatories

Turn right for the final 9% climb to the Summit . . . or . . .

Best bike climb in US - cyclists, observatories, sky, ocean, clouds

. . . Stay straight to the Halekala Observatory.

The views from the summit are some of the best you will ever experience -- Haleakala is world famous for a good reason!

View of sunrise on Haleakala Volcano Summit

Whether at sunrise, or . . .

 Ride your bike to Haleakala Summit Building for sunset.

       . . . sunset, Haleakala is breathtaking.

Although it really cannot be done via a bicycle, driving up to the summit by car before sunrise and watching the sun rise dramatically through and above the clouds surrounding this volcano is one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences you will not regret. However, be aware that you will need a permit for sunrise:

“Beginning February 1, 2017, visitors in personal or rental vehicles wishing to view sunrise at Haleakalā National Park will need to make sunrise viewing reservations ahead of time at recreation.gov.  You can call the reservation line at 1-877-444-6777 to make a reservation over the phone.  A small number of last-minute tickets are released online two days beforehand at 4:00 PM HST. The website will show tickets as sold out until 4:00 PM.  Please note that calling the park directly, or visiting in-person, will not result in a reservation since staff at Haleakalā National Park are unable to make reservations for you.  No reservations for sunset are required at this time.” (as of December, 2018) (US National Park Service - Haleakala).

PJAMM cycling Haleakala Volcano  - John Johnson, Brad Butterfield, Bill Cappobianco at summit sign with bikes

Ride your bike to Haleakala Summit Building for sunset.

PJAMM with Jean from North Carolina - she is THE Best -

insisted on making us sandwiches at the top - very gracious - thank you Jean!

Bike Rentals:

Those who favor Specialized are well served at Island Biker (Islandbiker.com); Maui Cyclery (gocyclingmaui.com; 99 Hana Highway) also has rentals and is actually right at the start of the Haleakala and Baldwin climbs.

Climb Location:

The climb up Haleakala begins at the intersection of Highway 36 (Hana Highway) and Baldwin Ave (20.91605, -156.38119  latitude/longitude), seven miles from Kahului International Airport.  Note that an alternate beginning to this ride is just outside Kahului Airport at the intersection of Hana Highway and Haleakala Highway (Highway 37).  This alternate route intersects the preferred route 8.7 miles and 1,905 feet up the volcano at the intersection of Highway 37-377/Haleakala Highway.  Beginning at Paia gets you to that intersection at 9.1miles/1,989 feet.  The Paia route is more scenic with less traffic and is by all accounts a superior beginning route.

Road biking Maui is unbelievably challenging, but unbelievably worth it.

cycling Haleakala Volcano, road, steep grade sign, blue sky

Longest cruiser descent in the US

Mauna Loa has rollers and ascents on the “descent”

Mauna Kea has 4.7 miles of tough gravel

Leaving Haleakala as the best descent.

One of the Hardest bike climbs in the US and world - Haleakala Volcano - nene crossing sign and roadway

Haven’t seen one yet . . . but, beware, I guess . . .

Cycling Haleakala Volcano - as seen from Hana Highway

From Hana Highway near Paia - ~30 miles away as the crow flies.

Haleakala from the air.


From the start of the Waipoli climb to Haleakala Summit is the #2 most difficult climb in the U.S. (33.8 miles/10,021 feet/ 5.9% average grade/Fiets 18.68; we did not rank it because it is impassable on a road bike)​.  From Waipoli Road at about mile 13 to Haleakala Summit is roughly 18.2 miles/7,185 feet/8.9%/Fiets 17.12 -- that alone would be #6 U.S.  This is not manageable on a road bike, so we do not include it on our list, but at 18.68 Fiets it ranks #2 U.S. and #6 World -- https://ridewithgps.com/routes/21799781 

PJAMM Strava Buddy Ray Gurzynski writes of this spectacular adventure:

This route is similar to Mauna Kea in the sense that the hardest part is an unpaved upper section which finally blessedly reverts to pavement near the top. Also like Mauna Kea, the unpaved section varies from challenging to marginally rideable to it's walk-a-bike time. I have not ridden MK but have been up there in a vehicle so I feel qualified to make this comparison.
One difference perhaps is that the MK section is periodically graded, which creates a substantial variable in the difficulty equation. While it would never be "easy", if a rider had the good fortune to ride MK right after a grading it might be slightly less terrible, that being as kind a description as I'd use for that beastly stretch!

Skyline Trail sign on bike ride up backside of Haleakala Volcano.   


    Cycling Skyline Trial to Haleakala

The Skyline Ridge Trail on Haleakala is a typical doubletrack jeep/4x4/logging/fire road (regional terminology varies but they're all about the same -- I'm sure you get the idea).  The upper portion of the SRT was the worst. My impression was that it has been graded in the past, but not anytime recently. it was very chunky: think lava landscape rocks from golf to baseball-sized for the full width. This stuff was simply unrideable in a few places. In fact, it was difficult to walk in, let alone push my bike, and I was wearing nice wide soled Teva sandals (sort of a trademark of mine -- I like getting off my bike and walking like a human, rather than hobbling about like an injured bird).  But I digress...

The MK unpaved section obviously is very heavily traveled, thus they have to keep it at least driveable. The SRT  gets essentially no traffic save for hikers, some downhill mountain bikers, and very occasionally someone like me doing it uphill. There's a mere handful of us on Strava. And I suppose official personnel periodically check on it's condition, but seemingly very, very infrequently. Then thankfully there is pavement again near the top, access roads to the observatory stuff and the connector road over to the main tourist summit building.

John, I of course do not know if anyone has brought this route to your attention before me, but I would be very curious to get your thoughts on it, and to see how it'd fare when entered into your magic climb rating algorithm.

Perhaps it deserves an asterisk, an honorable mention, or a subset letter postscript like the private property-crossing climb The Bear (6A).”

Thank you for you contribution Ray.  PJAMM took this one on with a cross bike and 40mm tires in May, 2018.

Gravel section on the way up.

Thumbs Up! Haleakala Summit.jpg

 Ray at the Summit!