DLNR Opens New Mauna Kea ATV/Dirt Bike Riding Area

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News Release





Phone: (808) 587-0401

Fax: (808) 587-0390


For Immediate Release: April 10, 2007

DLNR Opens New Mauna Kea ATV/Dirt Bike Riding Area

HILO – Starting today, April 10, 2007, the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) will authorize off highway vehicle (OHV) use on select access roads for all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and off-highway motorcycles (dirt bikes) in the Mauna Kea Forest Reserve, located on the Big Island.  This will establish a second OHV riding area on the Big Island.

“We are pleased to announce, that in addition to the trails that have been authorized for OHV use in the Upper Waiakea ATV/dirt bike park on the slopes of Mauna Kea, there is now a second area on the Big Island that departmental staff and local riders have determined is suitable for off-road vehicles to ride safely and with minimal disturbance to the forest environment,” said Peter Young, DLNR chairperson.

DLNR’s Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) and an organization called the “ATV Riders of Hawai‘i,” have worked together to identify suitable roads that can accommodate responsible riding, and will be posting signs so users will have a clear indication of where they can ride and where it is prohibited.

For some time hunters have been using OHVs on access roads in the Mauna Kea Forest Reserve. However, the need to designate access roads arose due to the growing popularity and subsequence increase OHV use in this forest reserve by riders who simply did not know where it is appropriate to ride, and where it is not appropriate.

Within Mauna Kea forest reserve, old gravel quarries were being used as OHV race tracks which over time, the users had extended into the native forest.  DLNR will actively prohibit and enforce closure to the quarry site because these extended, unauthorized trails have degraded the quality of the native forest, and this action will improve public safety for both the OHV and other recreational users.

Over the past three years, unauthorized trails going cross country within the forest were appearing due to increased OHV use. Hill climbing on the environmentally sensitive pu‘u (cinder cones) has created erosion prone ruts and scars that will last for several decades if not mitigated. Riders speeding on narrow, winding forest roads created a hazard to other recreation vehicles and interfered with game bird hunting due to the increased OHV sound levels and use in random locations.

“The majority of OHV riders are law-abiding citizens, and simply don’t know where they can ride or how sensitive the landscape is in this high elevation,” said Young. “We do not want to completely restrict this activity on the mountain, but would prefer to provide an opportunity to enjoy responsible OHV riding in authorized locations. This is a high elevation, scenic forest, and riding must occur in a manner that does not degrade this rare and fragile environment.”

The riding area consists of two jeep roads, R-10 (Skyline road) and R-1 (the Na Ala Hele Mauna Kea access road). Total length one way is 40.4 miles and users can ride in both directions.

These roads offer varying terrain and some of the most spectacular views in the state.  The trail will circumnavigate Mauna Kea mountain following elevations ranging from 7,000 feet to 10,000 feet.  Riders will be able to view the landscape to the northwest (South Kohala coast), north Hamakua coast, and northeast Hilo coast.  The terrain is rough and rocky for the whole length, with steep uphills and downhills to flat sections.  Riders will travel through sparse mamane forest cover to non-vegetated alpine zones.

In order to protect the forest environment riders may only ride on Roads R-1 (Mauna Kea access road) and R-10 (Skyline road).  Riders are not allowed to ride on any side roads or trails. Riders are responsible to know the areas that are open and a missing sign will not relieve a rider of this responsibility. This is a multi-use area that is shared with hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts. Riders must be aware, and considerate of others in the area.

Important:   It is recommended that all riders/operators of non-licensed vehicle, ATV, motorcycle, dune buggies, etc. while on these roads should wear bright colored clothing.  However, when hiking off of these roads, it is mandatory that you wear an exterior garment (shirt, vest, jacket, or coat) made of commercially manufactured, solid blaze-orange mesh material with a maximum mesh size of one-eighth inch.  (All types of camouflage orange are prohibited for these garments).  When wearing a backpack, the blaze orange on the upper torso must be visible from both front and back.  It is also mandatory to sign in and out at the hunter check stations at Kilohana and Puu Huluhulu.

Requirements to ride

Riders must obtain, in advance, a permit from the Division of Forestry and Wildlife and complete a liability waiver agreement. These are available at the DOFAW office in Hilo at 19 E. Kawili St. (974-4221) and in Waimea at 66-1220-A Lalamilo Road (887-6063).  You must carry the permit at all times when riding.  (Exception:  any person in possession of a valid hunting license and who is actually hunting does not require a permit or waiver.) This permit will include a map that clearly shows where OHV use is designated and authorized.

All OHVs must be equipped with a functioning U.S. Forest Service approved spark arrestor.  Riding areas nationwide are reducing use due to the associated sound levels; therefore, DLNR supports the California OHV sound limit of 96 decibels.

It is mandatory that each permittee sign in and out at the hunter check stations at Kilohana and Pu‘u Huluhulu.  Occasional closures due to forest fires and animal eradication will be posted at these check stations.

It is mandatory that all riders/operators of non-licensed vehicles, ATV, motorcycle, dune buggies, etc. while in any DOFAW public hunting area shall wear an exterior garment (shirt, vest, jacket, or coat) made of commercially manufactured, solid blaze-orange material or solid blaze-orange mesh material with a maximum mesh size of one-eighth inch.  (All types of camouflage orange are prohibited for these garments).  When wearing a back pack, the blaze orange on the upper torso must be visible from both front and back.

All local state and federal laws apply.

It is unlawful to operate an OHV under the influence of drugs or alcohol or in a manner that endangers the safety of others, or to ride on trails, access roads or open land that is not designated and posted for OHV use.

For more information on riding preparedness tips, safe road habits and emergency protocol, please call the Division of Forestry and Wildlife Hilo office at 974-4221.

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For more information, media may contact:

Deborah Ward

DLNR Public Information Specialist

Phone: (808) 587-0320


Department of Land and Natural Resources is working statewide with local communities and various off-highway vehicle (OHV) enthusiasts to explore the growing interest in finding places to legally ride off-road.

“DLNR’s priority is to protect and preserve natural and cultural resources on state land, in the parks, forest reserves, and unencumbered lands,” said Peter Young, DLNR chairperson.

At present, it is prohibited to use and operate off-highway motorcycles, all terrain vehicles (ATV), and recreational vehicles such as dune buggies while on unauthorized and undesignated portions of state land, such as unencumbered state land, state parks, forest reserves, public hunting areas and the ancillary access roads and trails

All motorized vehicles are prohibited from operating on beaches, through vegetation or on any other area that is not a designated roadway.  Violators are subject to citations and/or arrest, and the motorized equipment may be seized and subject to forfeiture.

“The goal of developing these working relationships is to work together to responsibly identify suitable places that can sustain the impact of the variety of vehicles able to ride off-road, and to avoid damage to natural resources in sensitive areas from outlaw-style riding,” Young said.

“At the same time we want to foster rider cooperation and respect for the environment through education,” he said.

However, because there are severe environmental and social limitations on a considerable amount of public land statewide, there is concern that increasing OHV use will hit a threshold that is beyond the role and responsibility of the government to service. DLNR is hopeful that the private sector retail shops that promote and sell OHVs and private landowners will collaborate through partnerships that allow for the establishment of additional OHV riding areas, such as on marginal agricultural lands that are not subject to use.


The island of O‘ahu has a riding area that was developed in the late 1970’s on state land in Kahuku, via a revocable permit issued to Hawai‘i Motorsports Association. Under a lease agreement with the Army, public use is restricted to weekends and holidays only, and is closed during military training periods. Due to the increasing popularity of OHV’s, this area is reaching recreational capacity.

DLNR’s Na Ala Hele Trails and Access Program is presently working with the Sand Island Off-Highway Vehicle Association (SIOHVA) to develop an OHV riding area on approximately 30 acres of an unused portion of Sand Island State Park.  Currently, DLNR is working with SIOHVA on a lease for the joint management of this portion of the State Park. SIOHVA plans to develop several trails for a multitude of OHV uses, including ATV, Off-Highway motorcycles, a Pee Wee riding trail area for children, a four wheel drive truck trail, and a BMX riding area.


On the island of Lana‘i, hunters may use off-highway vehicles to ride on privately-owned access roads in a leased game management area. Public OHV access is provided through an agreement between DLNR and the Lana‘i Company. DLNR manages and maintains the condition of the access roads through the financial support of the RTP and other Wildlife Program funds.  Riders must stay on the designated access roads.


On the island of Kaua‘i, the County will be using an 18-acre area in Kalepa for a moto-cross track to replace the existing moto-cross track next to Wailua Golf Course.  In 2001 DLNR set-aside this state land to the County of Kaua‘i under general executive order 4168, for recreation purposes.  DLNR anticipates that the method and design being applied to Sand Island State park of OHV use may be a useful in developing the 18 acres set aside to Kaua‘i County.


On the island of Maui, DLNR has set up an initial working group to survey off-highway vehicle riders as to their numbers, riding preferences etc. before shifting a search for suitable riding areas from less available public lands to private land. The public will be involved through the entire process.  Maui branch staff is still investigating potential state parcels that may be suitable for authorized and managed OHV use.


The Upper Waiakea ATV/Dirt Bike park (just south of Hilo) located on state land and managed by DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife Na Ala Hele Trails and Access Program, has been in operation since July 4, 2004 and continues to run with few problems.  Red and Blue trail loops were added to the original 11 mile perimeter trail and now there are 28 miles that can be ridden in both directions for a 56 mile riding experience.  The trails offer varying degrees of difficulty from easy to difficult. Riders can obtain a classy new recreation guide with map.  Signs have been posted on the trails to keep riders from getting lost.  It is now a national caliber riding facility that every rider will enjoy.

County Motocross Track

This track in Hilo is managed by 808MX/ATV Association in an agreement with the County of Hawaii.  The track is open and in use.  This is a “pay for use” facility and admission is charged for spectators.  It is not a commercial venture in that 808MX is only trying to cover costs.  Races are run on a regular schedule and the track is open some weekdays for practice.  As many as 250 racers are signing up for weekend races and attendance is constantly growing.  For more info contact Anthony Ferreira at (808) 961-4405 or HangOnRider@msn.com.

Kona Motorsport Park

This is a multi activity facility to be developed about 6 miles north of Kailua, Kona.  It has been

covered in the local newspapers.  It will have a motocross track, oval dirt track, drag strip, BMX

track, and more.  There will be some off-road trails. The land is currently State-owned but the agreement is apparently to transfer it to the County and for there to be an agreement between the County and Hawaii Racing Association.  It is intended to be a commercial facility with entrance fees.  Hawaii Racing Association is currently working on financing.  For more info contact Nelson Parker at (808) 960-5296 or nelson@teammotorhead.com.

For more information about available OHV riding areas on these islands, call: O‘ahu — Hawai‘i Motorsports Association (668-6276); Maui and Lana‘i — DLNR Na Ala Hele office at 873-3508; Kaua‘i — DLNR Na Ala Hele at 274-3442; Hawai‘i — 974-4221.

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About wayne.blyth

Chairman of MKRUG
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