Double Track Mountain Bike Route on Escape Road
12.5 loop ~500’ ascent
Mountain biking in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is only allowed on Escape Road. Escape road is a double track access road that traverses through a desert lava flow and deep into a lush native Ohia and apuʻu fern forest. A manageable climb rewards you with a fun, flowy descent.
Escape road mountain biking route runs between Highway 11 to Mauna Ulu parking lot. Gain access to the trail from three locations: ride it down from Highway 11 just before the official park entrance, pick it up at Thurstonʻs Lava Tube (Nahuku), or start at Mauna Ulu parking lot and ride it up. The double track is fairly well maintained, but occasionally the grass gets high and the ginger may encroach.
Riding it up from Mauna Ulu will bring you through several distinct micro-climates and environments. Cycle the first segment across the 1973 lava flow. The surrounding lava fields and elevation shifts tend to cause this short distance to be hot, sunny, and breezy. There are some really interesting lava formations, including lava tree molds. Rarely used by hikers at this point, the location is often deserted, silent and peaceful.
The next section of the mountain biking trail starts with a gradual climb through a grassy area, with short curves and dips. This grassland environment has few tall trees and little shade, so the sun shines brilliantly down on the wild orchids and butterflies.
After gaining a little elevation, the foliage gets denser and shady areas from tree overgrowth become more common. Looking inwards, you can occasionally see hidden crevasses and ridges. Eventually, the foliage turns into a dense ō‘hi‘a and puʻu forest, with ginger and other invasive species trying to take over. The temperatures turn cooler and the rain and fog might roll in creating a mysterious atmosphere. The sounds of the forest are rich with native birds, including the ʻapapane, possibly ʻiʻiwi, and amakihi.
Along this mountain biking route, youʻll hit two gates to keep ungulates out. Be sure to close them to protect the forest from damaging pigs. After the first gate, there is a steeper section, just think of the fun biking down! Not far beyond the top of the hill, youʻll hit a second gate and just beyond THurstonsʻ lava tube. Donʻt run anyone down! Bicycle past Thurstonʻs (or stop to check it out, but lock your bike) on the paved part of the pathway. Youʻll end up on a gravelled road that runs all the way to the highway. There is a side shoot that veers off to the interior park road which lands just above Thurstonʻs parking lot.
At whatever point you reach, turn around and enjoy a very flowing fun descent!