Haleakala National Park
Haleakala National Park on the island of Maui is one of the most diverse national parks for riding. It's also on my list of top extreme rides. Where else can you ride into the crater of a volcano?
During two days, I rode through two separate sides of Haleakala, the lush rainforest out of Kipahulu, and into the dramatic caldera of Haleakala's dormant volcano on the Sliding Sands Trail.
I rode into the crater with Doug Smith, who owns Pony Express Tours with his wife, Kathryn. His horses are fit for the challenging trails here. It's a walk-only ride, but as you slide a bit on the volcanoes cinders and steep inclines, you'll understand why running is neither possible nor desirable. The environment is fragile here, with a variety of rare insects right off the trails.
The summit to Haleakala Crater, at more than 10,000 feet above sea level, provides arresting views of this colorful environment.The vibrant greens and reds of the crater contrast with the prickly, rare Haleakala Silversword, a plant found only here. This plant endures hot days, freezing nights, and little rain. Its tiny, silver hairs reflect the sun's rays and protect it from freezing temperatures inside the crater.
Inside this massive crater, you can view cinder cones, a reminder of Haleakala's volcanic past.
In Haleakala, you can also ride in the rainforest of Kipahulu, located along the Hana Highway, a scenic roadway on Maui's northeastern coast. Although it's only 52 miles long, driving this road takes about three hours, because there are more than 600 curves.
Contact: Haleakala National Park, (808) 572-4400, www.nps.gov/hale;Maui Stables, (808) 248-7799, www.mauistables.com; Pony Express Tours, (808) 667-2200, www.ponyexpresstours.com.
For more on riding in our country's national parks, see "Great National Parks," The Trail Rider, April '12.
Darley Newman is the host, writer, and producer of the Emmy-winning PBS travel TV series, Equitrekking, which takes viewers on riding adventures around the world. She's also the managing editor of the popular companion website Equitrekking.com, and founder of EquitrekkingTravel.com, which features exceptional equestrian vacations, including horseback riding vacations in America's national parks.
Click here to preview Equitrekking's special on Great National Parks.