Tree Planting Road
This is an interesting trip if you have a 4WD vehicle and don’t care about scratches on the finish. It’s about 10 miles all together and goes through a range of plant communities and degrees of volcanic weathering.
I did the whole road in my 1999 Toyota SR5 4Runner 4WD using only the H4 gear in Drive 2 and sometimes Low. If you were going the other direction, 4WD would be necessary. When I went (mid-August, 2006) there were many puddles on the road but essentially no mud. There may be some effort put into removing trees which have fallen across the road but shrubs growing into the road are trimmed only by passing traffic. A new paint finish will definitely show the effects of this trimming process by the end of the trip.
The Stainback Highway side of the road is riddled with a grid of 4WD roads for hunters as shown on DOFAW map No.FW-0454 (p.48 of the 55 page “Rules Regulating Game Mammal Hunting (Summary) available from DOFAW in Hilo. The road is closed to vehicular traffic from January-June. I think that the first 2-3 miles of the Saddle Road side good for birding and general nature walking, with the January-June period being the recommended time period for hiking in and then back to Saddle Road.
The uphill entrance is just beyond the 16 mile marker on Saddle Road (and marked with a yellow sign). The downhill exit is about 10 1/2 miles up Stainback Highway (the road that goes past the Panaewa Zoo) from Highway 11. There’s a second road a few hundred yards before Tree Planting Road with no sign. I’ve marked the road with GPS coordinates ~every mile or so.
Tree Planting Road Topographic Map
Tree Planting Road GPS Data
Tree Planting Road Elevation Profile