A new guided trail program will begin Saturday, providing hikers with an interpretive program along the 3.5-mile Haleakala Bridle Trail that follows a portion of an old horse trail through Upcountry pastures.
The state Department of Land and Natural Resources' Na Ala Hele staff will coordinate the free hike that begins at 9 a.m. Saturday at the 6,200-foot level of Haleakala on Old Crater Road. Parking is available at the Waihou Spring State Forest Reserve parking lot.
The hike will proceed downhill for more than three miles through subalpine shrub land and working pastures and end at the top of Olinda Road at the 4,000-foot level of Haleakala.
Hikers can expect to see shrub land, eucalyptus forests, active livestock operations and old trail markers along open pastures. Hikers should dress in layers and prepare for wet and cool conditions with the potential for limited visibility because of fog. Good footwear with sturdy ankle support is recommended for steep and unstable terrain. The four-hour-long hike is rated as moderate in difficulty.
Reservations are required and space is limited. For more information, visit the Na Ala Hele website at hawaiitrails.ehawaii.gov/island.php?island=Maui or call trails specialist Torrie Nohara at 873-3508.
The guided hike follows a memorandum of agreement reached in May between the state and Haleakala Ranch. The agreement approved by the state Board of Land and Natural Resources allows hikers to follow the trail used prior to 1935 through ranch land that took people to the Haleakala Crater.
The current trail ends are at Olinda and Haleakala roads, and the path does not go all the way to the Haleakala Crater.
The agreement calls for at least two hiking events per year.
The dates and times of the hikes are determined by Haleakala Ranch in coordination with DLNR.
Access will be granted to hikers only; no horses or vehicles will be allowed, according to the agreement.
The agreement followed the filing of a lawsuit in 2nd Circuit Court seeking public access to the trail by the nonprofit PATH, Public Access Trails Hawaii, group. PATH contends the trail should be open to the public because it was used historically as a public highway.
PATH has indicated it will continue its lawsuit, with a civil trial set for January.