Malaekahana/Laie Loop

Malaekahana/Laie Loop

by Wing Ng

Malaekahana trail is the trail parallel to the better known Laie trail, and both go from Laie up to the Koolau summit. There is yet another trail, Kahuku, that is also parallel to them, but the Kahuku trailhead is located in forbidden territory. Prior to the mid-90s, Malaekahana and Kahuku have not been hiked by clubs for at least 30 years.

In 1995, the Boy Scouts started clearing the lower section of Malaekahana, and the Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club took over the middle and upper sections. Eventually, we made one big push and got to the top.

Start in the same place as the Laie trail. Just before Laie trail turns left to go fairly steeply uphill, turn right on the jeep road and keep going. There are some forks, and the ribbon should be followed. After half an hour, the trail veers off from the road to go uphill, and there is a ribbon there.

It soon goes through a wide eroded slope. After half an hour or so of hot, dry hiking, we come to a wide turn-around spot for vehicles. The foot-trail continues to the right.

Soon it goes through a guava forest, which we hacked through by brute force. It seems on the map that the original trail goes on the hillside rather than on the ridge top, but it turned out to be easier to hack through the forest on the ridge top than to hunt for the old trail further down. In maybe an hour it comes to an intersection with a trail that goes down on the right, which goes down to the valley, a stream, and a waterfall. I never went down and don't know about this interlude.

Continue on the ridge to get to the Koolau summit. Again, our hacked out trail always stays on the ridge top, while the map shows some detours lower down along the hillside, which are too difficult to find and clear. After another hour we come to a high point, and the correct trail goes to the left and fairly steeply down to a saddle. Some of us explored to the right, but it does not seem to lead anywhere. Go down and then go back up again, many, many times. It takes about two and half hours to get to the top. Near the top, the vegetation gets sparser, and one can identify the original trail better, here and there.

There is a final hill to climb and then we go down the hill on the other side, and suddenly we come upon the summit trail. This is a truly desolate spot, for it is on a plateau, and we look around and cannot see anything but ridges, valleys and the ocean. We cannot see any houses in all directions.

We turned left on the Koolau Summit Trail towards Laie trail. The summit trail is mostly passable in this section. It takes an hour to get to a flat muddy hollow, and a steep climb from the hollow to get to the top of the Laie trail. It is easy to remember, for this is the only place where there is a steep climb on the Summit Trail.

The top of Laie is a hole in the ground, where shelter from high winds can be sought if there are high winds. From there it is some 3 hours down to your cars below. You will find Laie to be wide open and very easy walking by comparison after going through Malaekahana on the way up.

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