Puu Keokea
Red Hill 2x P5K
Kolekole 2x

Thu, Dec 8, 2016
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX Profile
Red Hill previously climbed Wed, Jun 25, 2014
later climbed Mon, Dec 12, 2016
Kolekole previously climbed Wed, Jun 25, 2014


My first full day on Maui turned out to be a much longer hike than I had planned, more than 20mi where I expected 11mi. I headed up the big mountain to Polipoli Springs State Park to climb a series of minor summits along the SW spine of Haleakala. The park is located within the large Kula Forest Reserve, home to a number of non-native groves including a large collection of Coast Redwoods that were planted in the 1930s. A fire burned through the forest back in 2007, leaving most of the redwoods intact but wiping out many other species. The downfall from the fire is tremendous, making cross-country travel extremely arduous. There is a 4WD road that goes up from the state park at 6,500ft to the highpoint of Red Hill at over 10,000ft along the spine. It is open to vehicles only in the lower half above the state park and mostly used by hunters. The entire route is open to hikers and mountain bikers, apparently fairly popular with the latter, though not nearly to the extent of the Haleakala Downhill that goes through the national park and catered to by numerous outfitters. The state park is reached via the narrow, heavily switchbacked Waipoli Rd that starts from Hwy377 at 3,200ft and climbs to 6,400ft in about 6mi. The pavement ends at the top of the switchbacks, traversing the side of the mountain another 4mi to the state park. I was unable, perhaps more like unwilling, to drive more than about a mile on the dirt section when the water-filled potholes started to get too big for my comfort level. That added almost six miles to the hike, the rest added by my extending the hike past where I'd planned to turn around.

I'd spent the night camped in the van about halfway up the switchbacks, off to the side of the road. It was both remote enough that I wouldn't be bothered by Maui Police and high enough to sleep comfortably cool. It rained on and off during the night, the pitter patter hitting the roof in a comforting, glad-I'm-not-in-a-tent sort of way. There was a lightning and thunder show that lit up the sky for an hour or so that was pretty cool and I didn't mind in the least being woken up by it. When I awoke around 7a it was foggy outside but not raining and it would be like that much of the day. It rained lightly for several hours in the morning and then on and off after that, but I had come sufficiently prepared with rain jacket and pants, a fleece, balaclava and two pairs of gloves. I would use all the clothing I'd stashed in my daypack to good effect and was comfortable most of the day.


This summit has the lowest elevation of those I visited, found about half a mile from the state park campground. I hiked about 3mi to reach this open grassy area that is closed to camping until they upgrade the septic system. It appears that the previous method of letting it flow into an off-limits area downhill from the campground was deemed unsanitary. On the far side of the open grass field is found the start of the Polipoli Trail that heads off towards my summit. Unfortunately, it doesn't actually reach the summit, skirting within about 500ft on the downhill side to the west. I had some serious bushwhacking up the tangle of the heavily overgrown slope with a light rain falling. All the while I was thinking how this was great fun though I couldn't think of a single other person I knew who might agree with me. The area is home to hordes of feral pigs that roam the forest lands and have created a trail network through the thickest of it. Unfortunately, I'm not all that capable of following pig tracks which are generally very low to the ground and difficult for old and unflexible humans to manage. I broke through stuff when I could, crawled when I had to, making slow progress uphill until I reached my target. At the highpoint, buried in the forest with nary a view, was a pole fixed to the ground in concrete and holding four metal fins at the top to mark the benchmark that was placed here. There was probably a foot or more of detritus covering the ground making the search for the benchmark itself a most unappetizing effort. I left that as an exercise for future adventurers. I returned to the trail via a slightly different route for no other reason than to prove to myself there was more than one way through the jungle. So much fun.

Puu Keokea

Back on the trail I followed it back to a junction that would connect with the Skyline 4WD route. Less than a mile from Polipoli and also off the trail is Puu Keokea a quarter mile to the north. Luckily it and the other summits were all above the forest line and the cross-country over grassy hillocks and low scrub was no serious challenge. If they had all been as much work as Polipoli I would never have gotten back before dark, even forgoing the bonus peaks. On the way to the summit I passed by a fenced enclosure, one of several found along the way. They seem to be designed to keep pigs out while providing water for birds with a tin roof collector, storage tank and bubbler.

Kanahau / Kalepeamoa

The next summit up the ridgeline was almost 2mi distance and along the way the vegetation begins to grow more sparse until there is just grass and lava and not a whole lot of the former. Kanahau is a steep and loose climb from the north where I ascended it and I slipped countless times in the effort. Only upon gaining the summit area did I notice a good use trail through the lava rock from the northeast. There are three possible highpoints and I visited them all since I couldn't say for sure which is highest. I descended the use trail back to the road and continued up to Kalepeamoa which was the most uninspiring summit of the day. The point identified on the topo and Listsofjohn is a flat lava field with almost zero prominence. Just to the south is a higher rock outcropping at the edge of volcanic vent that was more interesting and worthy of the summit name (though barely, with maybe 10ft of prominence).

Red Hill / Kolekole

I had planned to turn back at this point since I'd already visited the highest points of Haleakala on my previous visit. But since it was just past 1p, Red Hill was only 2mi away and I still had something like 5hrs of daylight, I decided to finish off the Skyline Trail by taking it to its start at the edge of the national park. I passed through a gate inside another fenced area, this one closing off the entire summit area to the pigs. I suspect it's all the communication installations and stuff at the top where they have a *shitload* of construction material lying about - seems they are building secret spy stuff up there. I bypassed Kolekole and headed up the now paved road inside the national park to the top of Red Hill where there is an enclosed observation deck for all those folks who flock up for the sunrise experience. There were several dozen folks here, all in shorts and all freezing their asses off. The inside of the windows were heavily fogged over, rendering viewing through the glass impossible. The temperature was probably close to 40F, maybe lower, there were clouds below, above, and skirting across the summit periodically. No real views today. I walked up with all my cold weather gear on (black ninja-style balaclava as well) which seemed to grab the attention of the other visitors. I was the only one that was comfortable. After leaving the highpoint, I decided to pay a visit to Kolekole just to the southwest about a quarter mile. The area is home to the USAF Maui Space Surveilance Complex (boy does that sound all cloak and dagger) and a large telescope shared with the University of Hawaii. The area was marked off as closed to the public in no uncertain terms, but I went up anyway. After finding the highpoint and photographing the benchmark there, I looked over to see a gentleman having just spied me about 50yds away. I ducked back behind the cargo sheds and was going to head back down the way I came when I turned to notice him following me. I stopped and walked back to meet him. I immediately apologized for disturbing him, my way of trying to disarm the situation. He seemed really spooked by my presence (the ninja balaclava probably wasn't helping). "You're not supposed to be here," he said rather obviously. "I know, I'm sorry," I replied. He asked what I was doing there and had a hard time believing someone would violate the Keep Out Zone for such a thing as photographing a benchmark. I'm not sure that he even knew what a benchmark was, in hindsight. He escorted me off the property, all the while his face almost white and somewhat in disbelief. At least he didn't call the sheriff, or worse. Bottom line - Red Hill okay, Kolekole not okay.

I spent the next three hours making my way back down the Skyline Trail and back to the van. I used the Mamane Trail, an interesting single track that travels through the forest, saving a few miles by not returning to the state park campground. It was nearly 5:30p by the time I returned, a few minutes before sunset. Not that I had any view of the sun all day. I was buried in fog once again back at the van and sunset was announced only as part of the slow dimming of the daylight that filtered down through the cloud layers. We'll have to see what sort of weather tomorrow brings...


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