Dangerous and Treacherous: Thrill-Seeking in Oahu, Hawaii
These two words kept popping up as I searched for hikes on a last-minute trip to Oahu.
News was popping up about people of all hiking abilities dying on ridges when they slipped, the lava rock crumbling in their hand or the wind blowing them over the edge.
The warnings didn't stop me.
Here are five ridges worth doing to test your island mettle:
1. Olamana Three Peaks
If you’re determined and the weather is wet, consider starting this one by 5:30 a.m. to bypass a guard who may close off the trail-head. The first half mile kept us on flat, muddy ground until gradually sloping up a hill and over two vertical sections of class 2/3 rock. There were fixed ropes to help but the slick mud was a hindrance.
It’s a mile and a half to the top of the first peak. The 360 degree views of the Windward side will leave you breathless.
Next up is a 15-minute jaunt to the second peak, which is unimpressive in light of its neighbouring peaks, and resembles more of a hump than a mountain.
It's a steep climb down on the back of peak 2 but it’s assisted by three sections of ropes, so fear not. The ridge narrows considerably here and it’s easy to miss the sheer drop-offs on either side because they’re obscured by foliage.
Traversing a rock pillar and climbing one last section of vertical rock will deposit you atop the third peak.
2. Pali Notches
This trail starts behind a sign insisting it’s not a trail just before the Pali Lookout. If you’re OK with that, trudge up a slick, muddy hill and then wind your way through shrubbery – use the branches to help haul yourself up.
The first manmade notch arrives soon and it’s an easy climb down and short walk to the second notch. The views are best here so if you’re already testing your comfort level, stop.
If you want to keep going, use the fixed rope leading down the back of the notch but be warned - it doesn’t reach the ground and there is a serious drop-off below.
Be sure to look behind and see the shorter, more frequented Pali Puka trail. If you venture further, the ridge narrows but will take you to Konauhanui.
3. Crouching Lion
Killer views of Kahana Bay come immediately but don’t stop at the overlook or rock formation. Keep going until you reach the summit of Pu’u Manamana. The hike leads straight up the hill and then stretches across the ridge. There are a few sections of rock scrambling but it shouldn’t be a problem for most hikers.
4. Ka’au Crater
Although the views were beautiful, the journey makes this hike worth it. It goes through a forest, crosses a stream several times and passes two waterfalls before forcing you to scramble up a third waterfall. Once you’ve done that, turn right and begin the loop across the crater’s rim.
The climb can be steep in places but fixed ropes are in place to give your legs a breather. The Jurassic Park-style hills and a birds-eye view into the meadow-filled crater should be enough to distract you. Follow the trail until you see a pink ribbon and then head down the ridge and out a different forest trail. You’ll end up near your starting point at the stream.
5. Kuli’ou’ou Ridge
This made our list because it involved zero risk during a downpour. The trail follows the ridge but it’s well-maintained and even includes a series of stairs leading to the summit. From there, you can see Waimanalo, Koko Head Crater and the Mokuluas.
Written by Stacia Glenn