Kulepiamoa Ridge
Hawai'iloa Ridge
Mauna'ohi Ridge

Mon, Jan 2, 2017
Story Photos / Slideshow Map GPXs: 1 2 Profiles: 1 2


With another day forecasted to have good weather, I headed back again to the Ko'olau Range to tackle a couple of ridges that had escaped my attention so far. Ryan wanted to be dropped off around Diamond Head so he could go fishing, get a run in and do other beach stuff. A few days ago he was fishing on the North Shore and got his line stuck in the rocks, so he swam out to unhook it. He got the line off the rocks and returned to shore, catching a small fish a few minutes later. He reached into his pocket for his phone with which to take a picture ... it was then that he realized he'd swum out with the phone and it was kaput. He spent a few days getting it checked out at a few of the island shops only to learn it had sent its last text. Without a phone it was going to be a little more difficult for us to coordinate schedules. The best I could do was offer to come back at a fixed time to pick him up, guessing it would take me about six hours to complete the hike I had in mind. I left him at the Amelia Earhart Marker on the South Side of Diamond Head and told him I'd be back at 3:30p.

Kulepiamoa Ridge / Hawai'iloa Ridge

These adjacent ridges both rise up from Honolulu neighborhoods, reaching to the Ko'olau Summit in 2-2.5mi. In my online search I found there is a trail starting from Pia Valley between the two ridge with side trails leading up to the ridges. This seemed a good way to combine the two ridges on the same outing. I had little idea how good or bad the various trails were to connect this route up which is why I gave Ryan the longish 6hr estimate. It turns out that the trails were in wonderful shape and I finished in a little over half that time. I had some trouble initially, trying to locate the start of the Pia Valley trail at the end of Anolani St. The road ends at a lonely cul-de-sac with what looks a private drive with a chain across it continuing up the valley. Some orange flagging along the side of the road distracted me and I went on a short goose chase down the embankment on the right side, wallowed in some reeds by a flood-mitigation dam at the edge of the neighborhood before scrambling back up to the road heading up-valley. It turns out the road leads to a pair of city water tanks as well as a private residence. Between the two is the unsigned start of the trail threading its way between the properties. It was a fine trail, almost dry from two days of no rain, well-maintained, too. The trail is quite shady in the stream channel under cover of moderately heavy forest. The first side trail happens in about 2/3mi from the start. I had the point marked on my GPSr, but it was an educated guess since I didn't have an actual GPX track to download. When I was close to the junction I started looking for a trail to my right, taking the first one I spotted about 300ft short of the GPSr waypoint. It led up a short ways before petering out, but with a little sidehilling/bushwhacking I shortly came across the actual trail. It was wide and recently groomed and in great shape (on the way back I found the correct junction is not all that obvious - where the main trail climbs out of the drainage a short distance there's a swath of brown, eroded hillside, the trail going up to the ridge found at the top of the brown patch). The side trail climbs 700ft in short order, providing views of Pia Valley on the way up and then Kupaua Valley on the other side once the ridge is reached. I turned north to follow the ridge trail up towards Ko'olau Summit about 1.5mi away. The LoJ point identified as Kulepiamoa Ridge is only a quarter mile from where I landed on the ridge, a local highpoint but nothing special, really. Again, I found the trail in excellent condition, almost all the way to the summit. There was some mud in a few places, but nothing compared to what I'd found the past few weeks on these ridges. The steepest part before the summit was helped with some handlines, one of them a thin electrical cable. As they say in Hawaii hiking - "Whatever works!"

Upon reaching the summit I was disappointed to find the clouds had not cleared away, leaving marginal views. I turned left onto the Ko'olau Summit Trail, the first time I'd found the trail along the crest not a saturated mess. It was overgrown as usual, but drier and my boots would not end a sopping mess. The top of Hawai'iloa Ridge is only 1/3mi along the crest, taking about 15min to traverse between the two. I found a Dad with 3-4 kids taking in the limited views from the crest there, a little surprised to see me show up from a different direction. The Hawai'iloa Ridge Trail is maintained by Na Ala Hele Trail & Access Program, one of the official trails recognized by the State of Hawaii Division of Forestry and Wildlife. These are usually well-signed at the trailheads and maintained to better standards than the more unofficial trails throughout the islands. At the top of the trail at Ko'olau Summit are the usual End of Trail signs. Steps have been installed in the steepest sections of the trail rising up to the ridge, far easier than the usual eroded ridges with questionable safety ropes for handlines. Even with the steps, there are several such handlines on Hawai'iloa Ridge. The trail was fairly busy with about 3-4 other parties this afternoon on my way down. I paused at the LoJ designated highpoint to record its non-interesting summit, found just off the trail. I had no trouble locating the flagged junction with my side trail heading back down to Pia Valley. It goes steeply down the slope through forest with plenty of small trees to grab onto to slow one's decent. So much so that my shoulders were a bit sore by the time I got to the bottom from having my arms jerked backwards each time I grabbed onto one. The route is well-flagged, perhaps excessively so, but I wasn't going to complain any more than I was going to get lost. I had a lovely walk back along the stream, the trail crossing it several times before eventually emerging from the shadows back at the water tanks.

Maunaohi Ridge

With a few unexpected hours before I was scheduled to pick up my son, I headed further east to a Hawaii Kai neighborhood at the end of Hahaione St. This trail is not so official, unsigned except for the No Trespassing sign nailed to a tree at the start of the trail. I saw a guy emerge from the forest as I was starting out and ran into a nice couple on my way up, so it seems the sign is regularly ignored. I've also heard that No Trespassing and Kapu signs are regularly put by locals to keep the tourists away from their favorite spots, though I have no real idea of this particular one was legit or not. Maunaohi Ridge (also called Mauna O Ahi Ridge) lies between Ka'alakei Valley and Haha'lone Valley, lower than most ridges, dry and fairly gentle. The trail rises to the ridge in a wide arc, first passing through koa and ironwood forest before reaching the ridge in a stand of pines. The Loj-designated highpoint is about 1/5mi south along the ridge from the junction, a grassy overlook that takes in much of Hawaii Kai, Koko Crater and Koko Head, and a stretch of the southern coast. Buried in the forest is a bench next to a campfire ring and a Webber grill that hasn't been used in a while. The trail beyond the bench to the highpoint is overgorwn and less well-defined. One can follow the ridge south another mile to its terminus at Hawaii Kai Drive. While the trail appears to grow thinner, the cross-country is not all that difficult on this drier terrain. I didn't have time to hike the length of the ridge so I turned around and headed back to the car the way I'd come. Now to find a Starbucks before picking up Ryan...


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