Club Rules Preserve Access for Hawaiʻi's Oldest Hiking Group

Jun 26, 2017

The Hawaiian Trail & Mountain Club was established in 1910 by Alexander Hume Ford to encourage recreation opportunities in Hawai'i.
Credit Hawaiian Trail & Mountain Club

Some of the best – and often restricted – hiking trails in Hawaiʻi can only be accessed by members of Hawaiʻi's oldest hiking club. The Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club has been around since 1910 and has developed quite a system for preserving access to island trails. HPR Reporter Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi hit the trail with the club.

ALGIERS: The hike today is Kamananui in Moanalua Valley. It's gonna be my hike in two weeks, so we're gonna do a really good job.

Hike Coordinator Mike Algiers (far left, in yellow) gives hikers the safety briefing for today's hike.
Credit Ku'uwehi Hiraishi

Mike Algiers is the coordinator for today’s hike with the Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club. Most hike coordinators are trail veterans.

ALGIERS: If it starts to rain heavy today, turn around and head out because flash flood is always a possibility in this valley.

As hike coordinator, Algiers is tasked with collecting liability waivers, giving the pre-hike safety briefing, and enforcing the club’s rules on the trail.

BRUNO: It's hard to be 100 percent compliant but we really try incredibly hard cause we realize our access depends on this.

Barbara Bruno is spokeswoman for the club. The Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club hikes every week mostly on Oʻahu, with two-thirds of those hikes open to the public. The club’s rules and rapport with landowners allow them access to trails not even the bloggers know about, and they want to keep it that way.

Credit Ku'uwehi Hiraishi

BRUNO: These hikes are sensitive for one reason or another – it could be because of landowner access or it could be they are just very pristine – and those hikes are on a Do Not Post list.

Social media stipulations have also found their way into formal agreements like right-of-entry permits the club secures with private landowners.

BRUNO:  If we put anything up there that is easily recognizable then hikers who don't have permission might hike that land.

BALL: We've always prided our relationship with landowners. We try to follow all the rules. Get all the paperwork done. Sometimes we restrict the numbers. Sometimes they are members-only.

Renowned Hawaii trail writer and club member Stuart Ball has coordinated access with landowners for decades.

BALL: You know they were ok with a few people going across their land. They were still trespassing, but they were ok because it was just a few. Now its hordes of people and they cannot ignore that.

BRUNO: We're losing access very quickly. State trails are being closed down. Private trails. Even landowners who genuinely want to support hikers.

It comes down to liability and safety, says Bruno.

BRUNO: We don't want to be closing down hiking trails because trails like beaches have some natural hazard associated with them. Instead we want to instill a sense of we're all responsible for ourselves. Think before you hike. Just do a little research. It might take five minutes. And hike within your limits.

For more information on the Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club, visit htmc.org