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Diamond Head is one of the most recognizable features in Hawaii. One of the most popular ways of visiting the crater is the hiking trail, which will close afternoons beginning November 8 for an improvement project. The project is expected to take about two months; contractors will repair sections of the summit trail that have deteriorated due to heavy visitor traffic and erosion.
The summit trail was built around 1906 as part of Oahu’s coastal defense system. I have not hiked the trail, but it is described on the state website as “very steep and strenuous.” The 0.8 mile hike gains 560 feet from the trailhead on the crater floor to the summit. For the first two-tenths of a mile, there is a concrete walkway. From then on, it is a trail with many switchbacks that is uneven in some areas. The last part of it is all stairs and is especially steep. It leads through a lighted tunnel to a Fire Control Station (built in 1911) and lighthouse (built in 1917) on the summit.
The Hawaii Division of State Parks estimates that an average of 2,100 visitors hike parts of the trail every day. They are drawn by the view from the summit, which stretches from Koko Head to Waianae and may include humpback whales in winter. Previous improvements to the trail have been on the summit lookout, lighting the tunnel and the spiral staircase along the upper portion of the summit trail, and rockfall mitigation. This current project will also include repairs to the vertical rock faces above and below portions of the trail to help ensure the safety of park visitors.
The trail itself will remain open mornings until noon and regular hours on weekends (6 am – 6 pm). The parking lot and crater floor area will remain open to the public throughout the project. There is an entrance fee of $5.00 per car or $1 per person for pedestrians.