Hawaii March 04, 2016
Take A Drive On The Most Dangerous Road In Hawaii… If You Dare
Hawaii Route 200, also known as Saddle Road, traverses Hawaii Island for 52.7 miles from downtown Hilo to its junction with Highway 190 near Waimea. The road is notoriously dangerous, and was featured by Conde Nast Traveler as being one of the
“10 Scariest Highways For White-Knuckle Road Trips.” At Only in Hawaii, we certainly agree with this designation, and here’s why.
Also known as the Daniel K. Inouye Highway, Route 200 reaches a maximum elevation of more than 6,600 feet and provides access to the volcano observatories that branch off the road. The highway received its nickname for being the “saddle” in between the Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea volcanoes.
Combine vision-obscuring fog, rough roads, narrow lanes, marginally maintained pavement and several one-lane bridges and you’ve got the old Saddle Road. The highway was considered to be so dangerous that some rental car companies would forbid their customers to drive on the road.
The highway dates back to 1849, when Minister of Finance Gerrit P. Judd proposed the construction of a road directly between the two population centers on Hawaii Island. The project was started using prison labor, but was abandoned after ten years and only 12 miles when the 1859 eruption of Mauna Loa blocked its path. The road can be seen on maps as Judd Trail.
In 1943, the United States Army built an access road for military vehicles in order to better defend the island in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Following the end of World War II, the Army gave jurisdiction to the Territory of Hawaii, and it became State Route 20. The territory, however, had little funds to maintain the road, and for several years, minimal maintenance was provided for the road.
This minimal maintenance lead to poor road conditions and the source of the road’s notoriously dangerous reputation.
Since the early 1990s, attention to the road has increased and most of the road has been repaved, and major sections of the highway have been re-aligned in order to meet modern standards.
The road is completely void of any gas stations, stores, or anywhere manned to get help. Thus, it is advised to make sure you have the number of an island tow company before you begin your journey. But be careful – because there are portions of the road with no cell service, though call boxes have been placed along the highway.
Fun fact: Saddle Road is also considered to be haunted. Like Oahu’s “pork over the Pali story,” legend has it that if you carry pork over Saddle Road, your car may break down or experience something supernatural.
Have you ever experienced any danger while driving on Hawaii’s Saddle Road? Share your experiences with us in the comments below!