The hike up Kuliouou Ridge will surely kick your butt. It may be only 2.5-miles to the top, but it’s an intense climb that will no doubt get your heart racing just a couple minutes into the hike. It’s one of my favorite hikes on Oahu; one that meanders through several different terrains while rewarding hikers with a nice workout and, of course, a stunning view of the Windward side once you’re at the top.
The shaded part of the trail is welcomed by hikers.
The hike to the ridge starts about 0.2 miles in, on the valley trail; just be sure to veer right when you see the ridge sign. The valley trail is nice, too, but I prefer the ridge trail, which begins with several slightly-inclined switchbacks through dry shrubberies. However, it gets much breezier once you reach the ironwood and Norfolk pines.
About two-thirds up, hikers can rest or have lunch at a shaded picnic area. Be sure to fully digest your food, though, since the second half is where the hike really begins! The trail moderately inclines from there, with views of both valleys to each side, and just when you think you’re almost to the top, the hike surprises you with a quick climb of 250 steps to the Koolau summit.
We hike this a lot during the summer months when it’s clear and not as windy or rainy. No one likes to hike in muddy conditions! I’d imagine hiking this when it’s muddy would add an extra hour to the already 2.5-hour-long hike. Sometimes you’ll see mountain bikers and hunters, but for the most part, the trail is fairly empty.
The view of Waimanalo. In the far left corner, you’ll see the Mokulua Islands.
I just learned that hikers can camp on this trail, which I’m assuming most do near the sheltered picnic area. You’d have to apply for a permit first (camping.ehawaii.gov/camping), but it may be worth it if you’re looking for an escape from the city.
KULIOUOU RIDGE TRAIL • Directions: Kalaau Pl, Kuliouou HI 96825 • 5 miles roundtrip • Difficulty: Medium • Hike with a buddy, water, snacks, cell phone & flashlight • Amenities: Sheltered picnic tables • Park in neighborhood but please don’t block driveways or mailboxes