This Scenic Road Trip Route Is Considered One Of The Most Dangerous In Hawaii

A visit to the Big Island of Hawaii probably sounds very relaxing. You can walk along stunning beaches, do some snorkeling, visit coffee plantations, and hike or drive up to Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa volcanos. However, if you're more of a thrill seeker, there is a drive you can take on the Big Island that is considered one of the most dangerous in the state. That drive is along Hawaii Route 200, aka Saddle Road.

The road is named for the fact that it goes right across the island like a saddle on a horse. This 54-mile stretch sits right between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa and runs from Hilo to Waimea. There is a lot to see along the way, but it's not for the faint of heart. This area is often prone to terrible conditions from fog, and parts of the road aren't in the best shape despite recent improvements. That said, let's look at why Saddle Road is dangerous, what you can see along the way, and what you need to keep in mind if you decide to tackle this route.

What you need to know about Saddle Road before you go

If you're considering the drive out to Saddle Road, you want to start by checking with your rental car company to see if there are restrictions. After all, many companies used to ban it. While that's usually not the case now, it's still worth a look at your contract. In addition, there are very few gas stations and facilities there, and many spots don't have cell service. Luckily, some call boxes have been installed, but it's always best to fill up on gas before you go.

As for the road, it's paved now, but there is a stretch of about 4 to 7 miles that might give you a little trouble. Wildlife is another issue, often darting across the road unexpectedly. Many places tell you this is not a road to be trifled with, especially at night. As mentioned earlier, weather conditions can be a problem as well. When it's foggy, the visibility can be reduced to zero. Saddle Road will usually take one to two hours to drive through, but if you get stuck, it can be a lot longer. 

Saddle Road, like other places in Hawaii, is also said to be haunted. There have been stories of people seeing ghost lights on the road. Another legend known is that if you carry pork across Saddle Road, you may see ghosts or at least something not of this world.

What you'll see along Saddle Road

As you drive, the road across the Big Island will take you through dried lava fields, deserts, pastures, and rainforests. That's a whole lot of different terrain. Saddle Road can take you from the rainforest to the desert in 45 minutes. At mile 28, you can pick up the road to Mauna Loa Observatory, as well as the Mauna Kea summit road. Plus, if you're feeling very adventurous, you can even hike to the top of Mauna Kea from here. You'll also pass an exit to Bradshaw Army Airfield, the biggest military training reserve in the state. The army actually built Saddle Road in 1942 to help connect their training facilities after the attack on Pearl Harbor. 

One place you should check out if you decide to take this road is Apollo Valley, just past mile 4. On the east side, there is a valley that sort of looks like the surface of the moon. In fact, the astronauts who were part of the Apollo mission to the moon trained there. It's also been used to try out the moon and Mars rovers.