O‘ahu Hike of the Month: Hawai‘i Loa Ridge Trail
This challenging trail includes varied terrain and ends with a steep climb to a rewarding view.
Editor’s Note: We love hiking! Fortunately, O‘ahu is full of great hikes. In this web series, we bring you our favorite O‘ahu trails once a month.
View of the ridge looking south.
Photos: Lorin Eleni Gill
TRAIL NAME: Hawai‘i Loa Ridge Trail
LENGTH: 3.9 miles roundtrip
WHERE: Hawai‘i Loa Ridge Trail Head, Pu‘uikena Drive
Hiking can be dangerous, and not every trail is a good idea for every person. Keep your personal fitness and skill level in mind, and always take proper precautions when venturing off road. Heed “no trespassing” and other warning signs.
Watch your step on the river of roots.
Before you escape into nature, you’ll get a taste of the luxe life. You must present a state ID and sign a waiver at the guard station, then proceed to drive the windy Pu‘uikena Drive for about 10 minutes. You’ll pass approximately 500 luxury homes and will notice their spectacular view of Hawai‘i Kai even before setting foot on the trail.
Certain parts are muddy.
The first half of the dirt trail is moderate, with walks up and down through groves of trees, including guava. There’s lots of shade and an encouraging breeze. However, it can get muddy as you trek farther up the ridge. Watch your step, especially on the rooted and rocky parts of the trail. Much of the initial trail is lined with invasive strawberry guava, but once you descend into the valley, you’ll come across more native plants including ‘ilima, ʻōhiʻa lehua and koa. There’s also a nice grassy area that’s perfect for a picnic about two-thirds of the way up.
You don’t have to go far to get a good view. There’s even a great view of Diamond Head from the parking lot. But with each elevated step, rewarding south-shore views abound.
To get to the peak where you can peer over a cliff into Kailua, there are about six steep inclines with ropes and tall stairs to overcome. Once you reach the top, you’ll be rewarded with a priceless view of the Windward Side.
It was cloudy, but we waited about 10 minutes and it cleared up.
MAP & DIRECTIONS
The trailhead is located at the top of Pu‘uikena Drive in the Hawai‘i Loa Ridge gated community. At the very top of the road, you’ll cross through a bougainvillea-covered gate labeled Pāka Nahele (literally, wilderness park). Continue past the Board of Water Supply’s water tank to park at one of the 10 stalls provided for hikers. Skip the private park that includes a rest house, picnic facilities and an exercise course, and head right to the state sign at the trailhead.
There are no public bathrooms, so be prepared.
Check the weather report beforehand. The last thing you want is to arrive at the summit and be engulfed in clouds with no view. The trail can also become muddy after rainfall.
Some avid trail runners scale the mountain in 45 minutes, while experienced hikers usually take about two and a half hours roundtrip. Beginning hikers and those who are not used to strenuous stairs may take more than five hours to hike in and out. If it’s your first time, allow yourself at least five hours.
Wear good hiking shoes to avoid slipping during the rooted and bumpy trail areas.
Go during nonpeak hours. If all 10 parking passes have been given out, you’ll be turned away (no parking in the neighborhood allowed).