Kuliouou Ridge Trail (1996)

Kuliouou Ridge Trail (1996)

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If you have about three hours to spare and would like a chance to hike to the Koolau summit and back and be treated to world-class views, try the Kuliouou Ridge hike. The trail begins at the back of Kuliouou Valley, the one just town-side of Hawaii Kai. The hike begins with switchbacks, which--if you're in a hurry--can be avoided for the most part by taking a series of shortcuts up the ridge. If you opt for the shortcut route, be prepared for some heavy duty sweating and heavy breathing. I'd recommend against taking shortcuts, for doing so contributes to erosion--an ever-increasing problem on our trail system.

Whatever route you choose, you can reach an eroded hill at the Koolau summit in an hour and a half with little difficulty. Absolutely wonderful views of the Waimanalo coast and of the coastline from Hawaii Kai to Diamond Head are your rewards.

For the brave at heart, a half-mile ridge-walking balancing act to Pu'u O Kona can be attempted. To do this, head left along a crumbly, thin ridgeline once you reach the eroded hill. Satisfied with the view we had and not wanting to risk life and limb, I opted against the Pu'u O Kona ascent. My reward? I'm here to write this for you.

January 1998 update: Since posting the preceding write-up, I have hiked along the crest to Pu'u o Kona several times without mishap. Yes, the footing is loose and tricky is some spots and, yes, the ridge narrows quite a bit in places, but if careful and diligent, one can make the traverse safely.

Options for this hike are to hike to Pu'u o Kona and return to descend the switchbacks or continue on along the crest to a distinct hump on the crest about 20 to 30 minutes beyond o Kona. Once at that hump, it is possible to follow a trail makai and follow it until bottoming out at a vacant lot near the end of Papahehi Place in Kuliouou Valley. The descent from the summit hump to Papahehi Place takes about 1.5 hours and includes a narrow dike section and two steep slopes where cables are affixed. We call this route, Kuliouou middle ridge.

Find out about native flora on Kuliouou Ridge.
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