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Cycling at Haleakala National Park Given "High Risk" Rating

Haleakala Bike Tour; 'neofunkboy' via Flickr.

Haleakala Bike Tour; 'neofunkboy' via Flickr.

Bike riding can be as dangerous as climbing Mount Rainier or horseback riding in the Rockies? That's the preliminary finding by a National Park Service team that assessed the risk of commercial cycling at Haleakala National Park.

The assessment, prepared in the wake of the death last fall of a woman pedaling down from the summit of 10,023-foot Mount Haleakala, was presented earlier this week to the Park Service's West Region Board of Review.

“Based on accidents and fatalities, it rates as one of the highest risks,” park Superintendent Marilyn Parris said about the bike tours in an interview with The Maui News.


NOW they tell us! When Sandy and I took this bike ride down Haleakala in 1992, it was a lot of fun and seemed quite safe, even for us relatively inexperienced riders. Some pretty slick advertising had enticed us to sign on for the bike ride -- and get out of bed to board the the shuttle van at a god-awful early hour. As I recall, the brochure we responded to featured pictures of (ex) Vice President Dan Quayle and his family enjoying the ride. The tour operator gave us an excellent orientation as well as a practice session that emphasized safety. We were repeatedly assured that the ride would be easy, and indeed there was only a quarter-mile of pedaling required on the entire trip from mountain top to the ocean. We were even told (inaccurately, it turned out), that our breakfast stop near the foot of the mountain would be a champagne brunch. Sandy was mortified to learn that the bike trip down Haleakala is now considered dangerous. That said, this ride was one of the most interesting and memorable experiences that my wife and I have ever had in a national park. We're glad that we weren't scared off.

I am truly deeply sorry for the loss of the person who died riding down Haleakala. I too have done this ride down the side and it was awesome!!! Our instructor was very thorough and very safe and I too look at it as one of the best experiences I had in Maui. I think that it is sad that you can no longer experience such an awesome ride! I wish that the state of Hawaii would have you fill out and sign some kind of waver that does not hold the state of Hawaii responsible for these kinds of incidents including climbing on waterfalls, getting to close to the blow holes etc, getting too close to the volcanoes. Hawaii is such a beautiful and rare area to experience and ever so slowly one by the one the "people" can no longer enjoy these wonderful things anymore. I do not think that is fair. People know that they are taking risks and should use common sense and caution when enjoying these kinds of activities AND PAY ATTENTION to the INSTRUCTOR. There is a reason why they explain everything to you. It is just going to be a matter of time until you can no longer enjoy Hawaii's beautiful treasures anymore!

I really hope that the NPS doesn't ban bike tours down the Haleakala road. This trip was the high point of our trip to Maui. Our tour company and our tour leader gave very clear and graphic warnings of the need to keep the bike under control, and pointed out the places where people had been killed. He told us that if you dumped the bike on the lava fields you would get cut up by the sharp rocks rather badly. We wore a full jumpsuit to protect us from that. He said that if you feel uncomfortable at any time, the van was there to bring you down the mountain. The trip does not require that you be tremendously muscled or fit, with one exception. Your hands must be strong. You have to be able to control that hand brake for miles without losing your grip.

One fatality out of how many clients who have done this commercial ride over how many years = one of the highest risks?!?!?!?! Compared with what? Surely not with, say, the climbers who die annually on Mt. Rainier, Mt. McKinley and other wild places in the National Park system.

Claire @

People don't need commecial tours. Just rent a good bike and do it yourself. If you question the safety, don't go. Too many things are commecialized, it takes the individuality of the experience and creates an amusement style ride that is best left out of a National Park.

Richard, it's not always about safety concerns. The issues might be physical ability (how many visitors are able to ride up Haleakala in order to ride down?) and even logistics (for the majority who can't ride up, how do they get bikes up to the top, and for that matter, where do they rent bikes with good, well-maintained brakes?). Car rental contracts on the Big Island usually prohibit their cars to be driven over Saddle Road. If commercial downhill rides were banned on Haleakala, I'm guessing that Maui bike rental operations would similarly forbid their bikes on the volcano.

Claire @

That is so sad!!!

You can always do what my wife and I did several years ago. We went to Haleakala Bike Company. They took us to the top to see the sunrise, then took us to the entrance of the National Park. NPS does not allow bike shops to let a person ride from inside the Park without a guide. Right outside the entrance they unloaded bikes, had us test them, and sent us on our way. The great thing about doing this was that we got to go at our own pace. Others went faster or slower. We laughed when we saw the groups going by that had to stick together. To me, the ability to go at our pace was thrilling. We rode our bikes back to the bike shop, picked up our car and were on our way. Even if the NPS stops it inside the park, you still have this as an option.

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