Hiking the Kamiloiki Ridge Trail

2015-12-07 11.05.15
Windward Oahu

Was going to hit the Makapuu Summit trail and look through the puka (that’s hole to you haoles). But, sigh, the trail is now “No Trespassing” (people not treating the mountain with respect and getting hurt on a trail where nobody needs to get hurt). So, I decided to try the Kamiloiki Trail that starts in the Hawaii Kai area of Oahu. This trail  is similar to Kuli’ou’ou Ridge Trail and Wiliwiliniu Trail (both of which I’ve hiked), in that it starts low on the Honolulu side and ascends to the ridge of the Koolaus, offering breathtaking views of the entire windward side of Oahu.

Key facts and tips:

  • 4.0 hours round trip to the summit, for me, a 50+ guy who’s done a fair bit of hiking and is in ok shape. If your legs are younger you can probably do it faster. I hit the trailhead at 9am in December and was back by 1pm. But, I spent an hour fooling around at the summit walking the ridge, you can do it less time if you need to.
  • Find the trailhead off to the left of the Heiau on Makahuena Place in Hawaii Kai, right next to the fence between the Heiau and the house nextdoor.
  • Much of the hike is overgrown – you’ll be walking at times in grass over your head with spiderwebs and such from time to time. Consider long pants (I wore shorts and was fine, but your mileage may vary). If you’ve got a bug thing, consider Kuli’ou’ou or Wiliwilinui if you want to get to the summit. In fact, if you haven’t done those trails, those are better  to do first.
  • It’s hot with not much shade. I brought 2 liters of water and drank it all.
  • Watch your step. Much of the trail you are walking in tall grass and can’t always see your feet, especially if you are on the lookout for spiderwebs. It’s easy to trip. Sprain an ankle up there and it’s a helicopter ride for you. And when you get to the top, please don’t be an idiot and fool around. Pay attention. People fall off up here and die.

The trail starts near a Heiau (an ancient hawaiian rock structure that had religious purposes). The Heiau is nestled right at the end of a residential cul-de-sac on Makehuena Place. Just sitting right there. Very cool.

The trail is a little hard to find – when looking at the Heiau, walk to the fence that borders the house on the left. Keep walking along the fence and you will find the trail – it’s a bit overgrown as of this writing (Dec 2015), but still visible.

2015-12-07 10.15.12
The grass is as tall as I am.

In contrast to both Kuli’ou’ou and Wiliwilinui, this trail is not used much (I saw no other person on my hike), and the trail is pretty overgrown, especially near the bottom. Pay close attention to ribbons strung from the trees – but in spite of that you’ll feel like Indiana Jones bushwhacking through the forest for the first half mile or so.  Then you’re up on the ridge and trail is much easier to follow, as it runs right up the ridge. It’s still pretty overgrown though. From the ridge you’ll quickly have great views of Honolulu, the ocean, and the back side of Koko Head.

About 2/3 of the way up, you’ll come out of the scrub and tall grass and into 3 shaded groves of Ironwood and Pine with a carpet of pine needles.

Ironwood Grove
Ironwood Grove

The shade feels wonderful and it’s nice not to be wondering how many spiders I acquired in the last hundred yards (none, as it happens). These three glades are your warning for the final ascent. The trail is a little hard to follow here, I picked the trail up off to the left after the 3rd glade. From there, you scramble up some inclines and into what looks like a small creekbed or water run off. Up, up, up, no switchbacks to break it up. In 30 minutes or so you’ll see blue sky break through, and then you are onto the ridge.2015-12-07 12.06.01

From the ridge you have breathtaking views of Waimanalo and the entire windward side of Oahu. From the ridge if you follow the trail to your right, in about 50 or 100 yards you’ll come out on another peak, where you have an amazing view of Makapuu Beach, Makapuu Lighthouse, and various Civil Defense radio towers and the area where the infamous Dead Man’s Catwalk is located. Not wanting a brush with local law enforcement, I decided to skip that part of the tour.

2015-12-07 11.18.00A powerbar and some water, and then back down the trail. Down is easier than up. But then you knew that. Without time for pictures and such at the top, you can do it in 2 hours up and 1 hour down.

2015-12-07 11.42.25
Rabbit Island looking back towards Makapu’u.
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