Took a leap of faith this weekend, packed up the camelback and laced up the boots to conquer one of the most visually appealing hikes on the island of Oahu. The difficulty associated with the trail was a lure as well. TL;DR version at the very bottom, just scroll down 🙂
Parking for the trail is going to be at least a 10 minute walk from the trail head if you’re lucky. There is parking across from the bus stop at the intersection of Kalanianaole Hwy & Auloa Rd. If you’re not lucky, a 5 min walk further south on Auloa Rd should yield some parking spots. From there, walk east on Loop Rd past the Royal Hawaiian Golf Course gate guard and you’ll find the trail head approximately 400m past the guard shack on the left side of the road marked by a white sign. No pets are allowed and you wouldn’t want to bring them anyways. Some websites mention that mountain biking is possible, but some of the roots and under-growth on the trail are knee high. Follow the dirt path until you see a concrete structure, make a quick left and right and the canopy will open up to a four-way trail. General rule: always head to higher ground so make a right. After that, the trail is a straight ascent up towards the first giant rock structure that has thick ropes to assist in the climb up a rock face. Make sure you test the ropes out as they are tied by fellow hikers and are subject to tremendous wear and the elements. The ropes can be compromising if it has rained recently. I would recommend bringing gloves for the ropes as some of them are made of extremely rough material. Once past that point there are a few more ropes along the way until the top of the first peak. Total ascent time is anywhere between 1 – 2 hours.
From the first peak, there is a small trail down towards the second peak. Just follow the ridge line and after another rope climb you’ll be on top of the second peak. Part of the descent is dirt trail and the other part is pure rock. There wasn’t much of a view from the second peak and I saw it more of a temporary breather before the rappel down towards the third peak. Total ascent time is a mere 10-30 minutes.
The trail to the third peak is what makes this hike extremely exhilarating in my opinion. This part of the hike is the most technical as there are numerous rope descents and ascents, rock obstacles and narrow footing. Halfway between the 2nd and 3rd peak is the Puka, Hawaiian for “hole”. There is a raised rock structure that somehow has a man-sized hole in the middle which is really cool and great for that next Instagram photo! The initial descent from the 2nd peak is a 3-rope rappel down the saddle and on the next ascent is the Puka. There are now two ropes around the Puka, one is an old paracord rope and the other is a blue/yellow rope that was tied the day that I went as of 9 October 2016. I highly recommend using both ropes in hand as you work your way around the rock structure since a misstep will send you 1200 feet down into the tree canopy below. The footing is about only 12-16 inches with not much room for error. It misted slightly when we went and the rocks were slippery during that time. As soon as we hit the bottom of the Puka, we turned right around and made a rope ascent up the next rock face. The rope here is anchored on a metal spike dug into the dirt unlike the other ropes so far that were tied around tree trunks. Definitely test the rope here before ascending. From here, it’s only 2 more rope climbs until we reached the 3rd peak. Once on the third peak, there is a small trail down through the brush that opens out onto a small landing great for pictures. Total ascent time from the 2nd to 3rd peak is approximately 1 hour.
Along the entire way from the top of the 1st peak to the 3rd peak you have a 360 view of the surrounding mountains and windward coast. At intermittent times throughout the hike the clouds came over the trail leaving light misting but shortly after the sun dried it all up. When the clouds were gone, you could see the entire coastline and it made this hike definitely an experience to cross off the bucket list.
Trail Difficulty: 4/5. Need a mix of hiking, rock climbing and rappelling experience for the 1st and 3rd peak.
Trail Length: Less than 2 miles. It’s the ups and downs that make this hike difficult. Highest altitude ~1,600ft. Round trip is approximately 1.5-3 hours depending on how many breaks you take and how congested the trail is.
Recommended Equipment: Sturdy boots with ankle support and crampons in the bag in case you’re caught out in the rain and need to make it back. I wore Merrell’s Men Moabs for this hike (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B000LOYWQI/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_x_00S.xb1JEE81J via @amazon) and they performed superb. At least 3L of water which I carried in my camelback and durable gloves for thick and thin ropes found on the trail. Sunglasses are preferred.
Best Views: Found on the 1st and 3rd peak.
Parking for Trail Head: On the dirt opposite the bus stop if you’re lucky, otherwise a few minutes further down the road, Olomana Trail Parking on GoogleMaps