O‘ahu Hike We Like: ‘Ualaka‘a Trail
This accessible fairy-tale hike is your introduction to the Honolulu Mauka Trail System.
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.
Photos: Taylor Ellis
TRAIL NAME: ‘Ualaka‘a Trail
LENGTH: 0.53 miles one way, 30 minutes to one hour depending on how long you stop to marvel at the banyan arches.
The gate closes at 7:45 p.m.
This is a great trail for dogs but keep them leashed and be aware of hunting dogs on Wednesdays and Sundays that will straight eat your pupper.
Take care when crossing Round Top Drive.
There are days to fill up a pack with water, stretch out and steel yourself for the physical and mental exertion of a hard trek through the mountains. Then there are days when you just want to walk in the woods for a bit. For the latter, ‘Ualaka‘a Trail offers a highly accessible path to magical forest adventures and lovely vistas.
SEE ALSO: 24 O‘ahu Hikes We Really Like
You already feel invigorated as you escape from the norm by driving up winding Round Top Drive. You park in the dirt parking at the first hairpin turn along the road leading up to Pu‘u ‘Ualaka‘a State Park.
The trailhead sign on the western side of the parking lot points you off into the deep woods, which can also be accessed through a vigorous climb via the Maunalaha spur of the Makiki Loop Trail. The grade is gentle and the path is well-defined with very few trip hazards, making it more accommodating for young children, pets and not-so-sure-footed hikers.
In true choose-your-own-adventure fashion, the path branches numerous times. You can choose a path that takes you across Round Top Drive or you can go left and be treated to the bizarre symmetry of Norfolk pines put in place for erosion control.
Don’t stress about getting lost. Either route will take you to a four-way trail junction with a place to rest and a convenient map to orient you on your journey deeper into the woods (via Moleka or Makiki Valley trails) or back to civilization.
The banyan trees that creep and tangle their way across the trail are magical natural arches that pathfinders have cut perfect tunnels through. Keep a lookout for the fairies and Menehune who most likely prefer to cross the path on these overpasses rather than risk running into a hiker.
For a morbid twist that’s sure to fascinate adults and children alike, look closer to see the decomposed remains of whatever trees were unfortunate enough to be overtaken by the trail’s many banyans.
SEE ALSO: Oʻahu Hike We Like: Mokoli‘i Island
Take Round Top Drive up to the gates to Pu‘u ‘Ualaka‘a State Park (Pu‘u ‘Ualaka‘a State Wayside on map apps), pass through the gates and park in the dirt lot at the first turn. If the lot is full there’s usually parking up at the nearby lookout.
Take some time to get familiarized with the map of the amazing trail network. For the dedicated and prepared, it’s possible to go from Nu‘uanu to Mānoa!
Don’t forget to check out the Tantalus view before you leave the mountain.
Read your favorite fairy tale before heading out so you’ll be more able to properly identify the telltale signs of a magical creature’s passing.