Wing has written a nice description of this trail on Dayle's hiking website. Here are some more details on going up the fabled Waimalu Middle Ridge/Waimalu Uka/Wing's Ridge (choose one name). First, drive up Kaonohi Street to the very top and park on 'Onikiniki Street. It's OK to park on the grassy area on the left side by the plastic garbage can. The Nahalekeha condo association cleaned up this area and provides the garbage can for people coming back from using the trail. Hunters like to park in this area, so you'll see their trucks if they're on the trail.
The trail starts off with a short, steep, slippery downhill section. HTMC folks put a cable here a few months ago, but somebody has recently chopped it to about half the original length. After the downhill, the trail goes right (mauka) and contours along the hillside, passing some caves and some tunnels for the McCandless ditch. After about half a mile, a small branch of the trail heads uphill, but the main trail goes down to "Little Waimalu" creek. Cross the creek, which is dry most of the year, and go left (makai) and the trail contours around a ridge to enter the main Waimalu valley.
There's a section of hala trees, with their fallen leaves padding the trail, just before you reach a great mountain apple grove. As of 7/17, they're ripe, there's lots of 'em, and they're falling on the trail for the pua'a to eat, if you don't go get them first. The trail then passes under a big mango tree and continues to contour along the valley wall. You'll pass two side tunnels for the ditch, go through a thick bamboo grove, then come out in a grassy, open area with lots of young, chest-high koa trees among the skeletons of older koa trees. This is the best place to look up the valley and admire the middle ridge straight ahead, the two side valleys, and Waiau ridge on the left (ewa) side. You can also check out the weather on the top of the ridge; hopefully, it will be clear, but it's usually not.
There's a short downhill to the first crossing of Waimalu stream. The name means "sheltered water," and as you go up the valley, you'll see why. The stream, which can get waist high after a rain, is lined by big trees and hau most of the way. You can't see the ridges very well, so it's very easy to lose your way if you're looking for the middle ridge. Fortunately, Wing and others have placed red tags along much of the trail. If you want to go to the middle ridge, you'll cross the stream 10 times. Memorize the following mantra:
What does this mean? Cross the stream twice and you reach a big mango tree with a "campsite" and a swimming hole. Cross the stream three more times and there's another mango tree with swimming areas. Cross the stream again and just before the seventh crossing you'll see the first tunnel of the McCandless ditch. Check out the rock work. Cross the stream three times after the tunnel, and scramble up a little hill on your left. This is important! If you keep going up the stream bed, you'll miss the start of the middle ridge trail unless you get lucky and happen to stumble upon some trail markers. After the short scramble, drop back down to the stream, cross for the last time, follow the trail markers through the forest, and get ready to climb.
6, tunnel, 7
10, and then climb.
The section of the trail just described will take about 1.5 to 2 hours, unless you're Pat and Laredo, who could do it in about 30-45 minutes, but won't, because there aren't any cliffy sections where a person might die. Those sections come later. (Just trying to keep you interested, Paka-lolo).
The next section of the trail is a fun, aerobic workout through lots of uluhe and some native forest. Views start to open up as you go from about 700' elevation to about 1600'. This takes you to a level about equal with Waiau ridge on your left (ewa) side. If it has been raining, there are two beautiful waterfalls that come down off Waiau ridge. There are long sections of 'ie'ie as you get higher, then 'ohi'a and koa take over. I saw two 'apapane or 'i'iwi (couldn't tell which because they flew away off an 'ohi'a tree too fast!) at about 1500' .This part of the trail is about a mile long and takes about an hour and a half.
The final section up to the Ko'olau summit is another mile, another 900' climb, and takes about 1.5 to 2 hours, depending on how you feel about heights. There's a cliffy section where the left side is really steep, and a cliffy section where the right side is really steep, just for balance. None of these are really bad, though, because you can hang on to a lot of stuff. There's a small waterfall on your left near the summit. You'll hear it long before you'll see it. I have been told that the views at the summit are spectacular; when I was there in June, it was socked in and blowing so hard I had to crawl on my belly at times. When I stood up, I felt like a spinnaker. The top is very exposed and covered with soft, spongy grass. There are a few ancient trail markers along the last section of the trail, but be careful on the way back down; there are two side ridges that are easy to wander off on, and will deposit you in the upper side valleys, a long way from home.
Total round trip time for the summit hike is about nine hours. If you want to link up with the Waiau trail, this can theoretically be done along the summit trail (one of Dayle's super hikes, #14) or turn left (ewa) just before stream crossing 4 and make your way up a side ridge to Waiau. Watch out at the top! It's easy to follow a side ridge to the left (makai), and if you go too far to the right, I believe you may enter Wing's Bermuda Triangle, the infamous Dip.
So who wants to do Super Hike #14 now?
Seven long weeks ago, my hiking buddies and I were hiking up the Waimano Ridge trail. True to Stuart Ball's description, the miles were "flying by." Unfortunately, the miles flew by even faster for our hike leader when he fell off a smooth twenty foot cliff. We ran down the trail and switched back to where he fell. We found him quietly taking inventory of his body parts. He declared himself OK, except for a sore foot. We immediately stripped him of his "expert" rating for falling off such an easy trail, and bantered him mercilessly on the way out.
Yesterday was "Limpy's" first hike after the fall. We decided to do the Waimalu trail-- a good first test for his foot. His foot held up fine-- much better than I did. Seven weeks of being a couch potato/urban hiker did not do me any good. Actually, the three of us were joking about how out of shape we were. The last hikes we did were Halawa Ridge and Konahuanui -- and now, we were huffing and puffing on Waimalu. Sigh. Pathetic. We turned back after five stream crossings.
See Gene Robinson's most excellent narrative on this trail. Thanks Gene--you saved me from a write-up! :-) Also much thanks to the Nahalekeha Condo Association and Wing Ng for the trail clean up!! BTW I'm the short one w/the green/pink t-shirt.