If you start an internet earch for “hiking trails in Hawaii,” you can expect to be bombarded with hundreds of posts about some of the most beautiful summits or vistas in the islands. But, if you look close enough, you may also notice something else: words like “illegal” or “off-limits” attached to some of these trails.

You would think this would keep many adventure-seekers away, but many hikers Still, many hikers continue to trek these trails, despite locked gates, security guards, and several “no trespassing” signs to deter them.

Three years ago, the state of Hawaii closed the hiking trail up Mariner’s Ridge in East Oahu (but many hikers still trespass here) And, Hawaii News Now is reporting that the state is removing a concrete plank (made popular on social media) at the top of Kamehame Ridge in Hawaii Kai in order to keep illegal hikers out:

It’s a responsibility that shouldn’t be left to the state. Instead, hikers should obey the law and stay away. But, in case you need more convincing, here are 5 reasons to avoid illegal hiking trails in Hawaii:

1. Illegal Hikes Can Be Dangerous: Illegal hiking trails are notoriously dangerous (a fatality in June of 2013 was one of the many reasons the state closed the Mariner’s Ridge Trail). Dedicated professionals are in charge of assessing hiking trail safey, and if they say the trail is too dangerous, you should believe them. Instead of trusting the word of someone who posts on social media, check-in with the Hawaii Department of Landand Natural Resources’ website, Na Ala Hele to learn more about the hiking trails in Hawaii.

two people hiking, with dust

Photo: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson

Too many hikers on a trail can lead to erosion, which can be destructive to the environment.

2. Illegal Hikes Can Be In Someone’s Backyard: Would YOU want someone making noise outside your window at 5 a.m. on a Saturday? How would you feel if a hiker left his dog’s poop in your yard? Unfortunately, many illegal hiking trails in Hawaii are on private property, and some are even in residential neighborhoods. “I’ve seen a lot of hikers who have come down after hiking and they’ve really just mistreated the property of the homeowners here,” Conor Malis, who lives next to the Mariner’s Ridge Trail, told Hawaii News Now. Kamehame Ridge resident Lori Hiraki agrees and told Hawaii News Now, “When things like the trash and the parking, sometimes they block driveways, so that kind of thing. So if people were respectful then I really don’t think it would come to that.”

3. It’s…Well…Illegal: I suppose, for some illegal hikers, the idea of hiking an illegal trail is enticing. But, the glamour fades quickly when they learn that trespassing in Hawaii can carry a $2,500 fine. Trespassing is against the law. Period. And, police can give you a ticket and fine you if you’re caught.

two people taking a picture with the sunrise in the background

Photo: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson

The good news? There are lots of amazing hikes in Hawaii that are LEGAL, such as the hike leading to the summit of Haleakala on Maui.

4. Respect the AinaHere in Hawaii, we’re taught to respect the aina (land), and that goes for hikers, too. Although most hikers take precautions to maintain the islands’ hiking trails, too many hikers in one area can make-way for erosion, which can make the trail unsafe. Add damaging weather to the equation, and a once-safe hiking trail can become damaged to the point of no-repair. By booking a hiking tour with a reputable company like Hawaii Aloha Travel, you can avoid trails that pose safety hazards, and you can also be assured your hike is fully legal.

5. Stranded Hikers = $: When hikers trespass on private property and get in trouble, it can cost thousands of taxpayer dollars to retrieve them. Of course, stranded hikers are hardly limited to illegal trails, but some hikers are less likely to call for help if they’re trespassing. And, that means a delay in getting help, which could lead to even more injury or illness. If you choose to trespass and hike a trail illegally, consider the police, fire, and rescue operations that may be needed if you should get into trouble. These operations are costly and time-consuming.

If you’re reading this blog, you must be one smart cookie! Which means you know better than to be tempted into hiking an illegal trail just because someone posts a picture on the internet. So, here’s our gentle reminder: don’t hike illegal hiking trails in Hawaii. It’s not worth it.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for your information Britt. One more thing, the Ka’Iwi Trail (a.k.a. Lanikai Pillbox Trail) transverses over private property with public easements until the very top, where DLNR owns the 4 acres which holds the 2 pillboxes. We have the same problem as other “illegal” trails even though this one is “legal”. They arrive at 5 AM, park (using fobs to lock car), talk (waking people up), and then when they get to the top, they forget they are in a residential neighborhood in the early dawn. Lanikai residents are fed up with this plus those people going to the beach for sunrise down our beach accesses (which we chose to keep public access) with no clue they are walking right by people’s bedrooms. It would be nice if people had more respect for each other!
    There is a webpage http://www.lanikaipillbox.com which has information on the pillbox trail asking people to respect the neighbors. We are trying to ban drones from the pillbox too for safety, privacy and noise concerns.

    • Thanks so much for the information. Recently, a news station did another story about this very hike–people are fed up! And, I don’t blame you–here in East Oahu, the same thing was happening on Mariners Ridge, and they finally had to close it off. Good luck to you!

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