O‘ahu Hike We Like: Keālia Trail
Watch breaching whales, see a steady stream of planes, gliders and parachutes and enjoy fantastic ocean views as you make your way up this easy trail.
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: Keālia trail
LENGTH: 1.5 miles one way, about an hour (3 miles round trip)
WHERE: Dillingham Airfield
DISCLAIMER: Beware of falling rocks and military exercises. Dillingham Airfield is an active airfield. Do not stop on the access road at the end of the runway and be aware of the glider cable towed behind landing aircraft.
If you didn’t get out of bed early enough to beat the heat-stroke-inducing sun on Koko Crater head the other way, all the way, nearly to the end of the road. With no crowds, parking is easy next to Dillingham Airfield. Feel the burn in your muscles but not on your skin as you work your way up the mostly shaded path of 19 switchbacks, home to fearless grey francolin and delicate ‘ilima. Stop for a moment to catch your breath, and it is gone again as you are shocked by how high you’ve climbed to see distant whale spouts and eye-level propeller planes.
It takes about an hour, whale- and skydiver-watching breaks dependent, to get to the Boy Scouts-constructed covered picnic table at the official end to the trail, making Keālia Trail a manageable workout alternative to the crowds or punishing sun of more popular spots. The view of the ocean is fantastic and a steady stream of planes, gliders and parachutes provides a unique spectacle.
The trail continues beyond the picnic table to become Kuaokala Trail, but that is a story for another time …
MAP & DIRECTIONS
Take Farrington Highway west until you reach Dillingham Airfield on your left. Turn left into the last gate at the end of the runway, labeled “West Gate,” which is open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Park in the lot next to the squat control tower and head toward the cliff where, you’ll find a path leading to the trailhead through gates in the fences.
It takes a little under an hour to get to the picnic table, and less to get back down, but budget enough time avoid coming down in the dark to a closed gate.
While the route is shaded most hours of the day, bring at least a couple of quarts/liters of water and some sunscreen.
Trivia: The huge pond visible from the trail was once the rock quarry used to build the airfield.
Keālia means “salt encrusted.” Ponder that as you plan where you’re going to eat after your hike.