The quest to clean out my draft folder continues…
I’ve only done this trail once in its entirety so you can guess it’s not my favorite by any means. Yet there are some things of note that make it worth doing – at least once.
The good points:
- When you go after some hard rains there is a decent size waterfall, which my picture taken from the top completely fails to convey.
- Lots of old Board of Water Supply pipes and structures for the engineering fans. I try to avoid stepping on the oldest pipes since I know at least one person broke through a pipe and got a nasty gash in his leg.
- Judging by the tracks and other signs there are more pigs in the back of Pauoa Valley than any other area near Honolulu. If you are quiet and go in cloudier, rainy weather there’s a good chance you’ll see one.
- Some nice views of Nuuanu Valley as you go down the ridge toward Pacific Heights.
- A number of changes in vegetation and terrain.
- Once you get on the loop trail itself you are very unlikely to see anyone else on the trail. Depending on your view of fellow travelers, this may be a plus or a minus.
The bad points:
- Burrs, burrs, and more burrs. The Woman’s entire lower body was covered with them at one point on the trail. I didn’t have as much trouble due to a lucky clothing choice but it was still a nuisance, especially since they are generally nonexistent in the Koolaus.
- The trail comes and goes at a number of points in Pauoa Valley, often indistinguishable from a pig trail, so it’s a bit of a guessing game to find the right one. If you have no sense of direction or little hiking experience on unimproved trails this is not the one for you.
- Unlike many hikes in Hawaii where there are great views every 10 feet, once you leave the ridge above Pacific Heights the drama is limited to the waterfall and wondering if you took a wrong turn.
The counter-clockwise route – which I would recommend – goes from the Kalawahine Trail at the top of Tantalus Drive after crossing the bridge (next to the little telephone road), then to Pauoa Flats Trail, before handing a left on Nuuanu Trail. Rather than taking the popular route from the top of the ridge down to Nuuanu Valley, continue along the ridge toward Pacific Heights. The trail down into Pauoa Valley is pretty obvious, and the waterfall isn’t too far after the trail turns back into the valley. Not long after the waterfall the guessing games begin, before eventually climbing back out of the valley to Kalawahine trail, not far from the Tantalus Drive trailhead.
Here’s a tip for poorly marked trails: Pig trails can be so heavily used they look like the trail you should be on, but pigs are short. If you find a lot of branches hitting you in the face and torso it’s generally a good bet you are on a pig trail and it’s time to turn around and try again. Humans won’t put up with that for long.
Lastly, a note about ribbons: Ribbons in the woods near Honolulu are most often left by evil ribbon fairies, and are therefore as likely to mislead you as help you. Humans no longer have to worry much about being tracked by predators and it shows in the trails they leave. Keep your eyes open and try not to rely on ribbons to tell you where to go.