Hawai‘i Family-Friendly Hike: Judd Trail

This shady, short-but-sweet Honolulu hike with a reward at the end is a hit with kids, as long as parents don’t mind a little mud. Or a lot of it.


Judd Trail Stream Crossing Photo Laura Dornbush

Photo: Laura Dornbush



HONOLULU Family only writes about trails sanctioned by the state and listed on the state Department of Land and Natural Resources website, hawaiitrails.hawaii.gov/trails. Remember, hiking can be dangerous and not every trail is a good idea for every person or every age. Keep your and your child’s personal fitness and skill levels in mind, begin early in the day so you can finish before sunset and always take proper precautions. Heed “no trespassing” and other warning signs.


What: A 1-mile loop trail with a swimming hole and 10-foot waterfall

Who: Two moms and their muddy musketeers ages 4, 6 and 8

Where: In Nu‘uanu, off of Nu‘uanu Pali Drive

When: A Tuesday at 4 p.m.


My 4-year-old son, Duke, and I joined up with our friends for an outdoorsy playdate at Judd Trail. Although he prefers screen time to nature, Duke loves tagging along with his older friends—siblings Austin and Ella—so I was able to convince him to shut off his iPad for the afternoon and head into the rainforest.


Driving Nu‘uanu Pali Road is an adventure in itself with lush vegetation flanking the winding road, vines suspended overhead, and Spanish moss hanging romantically. We pulled off the road and parked as soon as we saw the yellow trailhead sign and markers. After dousing ourselves with insect repellent and tucking some snacks in my backpack, we set out on the trail. The first challenge was stepping on rocks to cross Nu‘uanu Stream. Duke tested the water, “Ooo…cold!” Once across the other side, we entered a bamboo forest and veered left at the fork in the path.


Judd Trail Bamboo Forest Photo Laura Dornbush

Photo: Laura Dornbush


The kids excitedly ran ahead, so the moms had to hustle to keep up. After a gradual increase in elevation, we left the bamboo jungle and found ourselves in a pine tree forest. We spotted little red berries and a fallen tree which the kids hopped onto. The trail led back down into a tropical environment with Monstera plants and mud. Lots of mud. At first the kids found paths around the mud puddles, but soon they were enthusiastically jumping right into them.


Before long, our trio started asking when we were going to reach the waterfall and pool we had promised. We squelched their whines with snacks and a water break. The rest of the way, Austin, Ella and Duke played hide-and-seek behind trees along the trail to keep themselves entertained and distracted. Except for passing a group of four millennials who, judging from their wet clothing, must have already been at the swimming pool, we had the whole trail to ourselves.


Judd Trail Waterfall Photo Laura Dornbush

Photo: Laura Dornbush


We rounded the final bend and heard the rushing of the waterfall and whooping calls from bathers jumping into the water. The most challenging part of the trail was the steep drop to the pool. Our 6- and 8-year-olds had no problem, but Duke needed a hand to keep from slipping.


We had made it to Jackass Ginger pool! We weren’t planning on swimming, but the kids waded in until Duke slipped on a rock and found himself in water up to his waist. I guess he wanted to go swimming after all!  We watched the handful of other adult hikers jump from the top of the 10-foot waterfall into the pool below. The water seemed about 8 feet deep from what I could tell, but it does depend on rainfall. Another couple sliding along a smooth rock face that perfectly slopes into the pool.


It was approaching dinner time, so we sloshed back with wet shoes to our cars, dried off and headed home for warm baths. The whole adventure took us 1 hour and 15 minutes which included the stop at Jackass Ginger pool. It’s a quick enough hike for an after-school outing, but adventurous enough to ensure the kids will be tired out at bedtime.


Judd Trail Fallen Tree Photo Laura Dornbush

Photo: Laura Dornbush


Our Tips

  1. Wear water shoes. Whether you plan to dip in the swimming hole or not, you’ll be crossing a stream and encountering mud. Plus, water shoes are easier to hose-off and clean than athletic shoes.
  2. Secure your car. There have been reports about car break-ins at this spot, evidenced by the broken glass we spotted alongside the road. Make sure to take all valuables with you and not leave any belongings visible in your car.
  3. Go left first. The trail is a loop, so you could go in either direction, but by heading left first, you save the waterfall and swimming hole for the end which makes for a cool reward.
  4. Find a bamboo walking stick. As you walk through the bamboo forest at the beginning of the hike, look out for loose bamboo sticks which make fun walking sticks for keiki. Make sure to leave them behind.
  5. Set your pool rules in advance. Use your discretion and judgment to decide whether swimming is OK for your family, but make sure to communicate those boundaries in advance. Heads-up: once your kids spot the smooth rock people use to slide into the pool, they are going to want to try it out!


Judd Trail is located off Nu‘uanu Pali Road. Parking is along the side of the road. hawaiitrails.hawaii.gov