Olomana Trail

The Olomana Trail, also known as the Three Peaks Trail, is one of the most popular and challenging hikes in the Koolau Mountains. The trail is about 4.5 miles round trip and is known for its steep and rugged terrain. Hikers are rewarded with stunning views of the Windward Coast and the surrounding valleys.

The trail begins with a steep ascent through a forested area, leading to the first peak, Mount Olomana. The climb is strenuous and requires good physical fitness. Once you reach the first peak, you’ll be greeted with panoramic views that make the effort worthwhile. The second and third peaks are even more challenging, with narrow ridges and steep drops. Only experienced hikers should attempt these sections.

Safety is paramount on the Olomana Trail. Due to the steep and exposed nature of the hike, it’s important to be cautious and aware of your surroundings. Wear sturdy hiking shoes, bring plenty of water, and start early to avoid the midday heat. Despite the difficulties, the Olomana Trail offers an unforgettable experience for those up to the challenge.

Maunawili Falls Trail

The Maunawili Falls Trail is a favorite among locals and visitors alike. This 3-mile round trip hike takes you through lush tropical forests, across streams, and ultimately to the beautiful Maunawili Falls. The trail is relatively moderate, making it suitable for hikers of all skill levels.

The hike begins with a gradual ascent along a well-marked path. Along the way, you’ll be surrounded by dense vegetation, including bamboo groves and tropical flowers. The sound of chirping birds and rustling leaves adds to the serene atmosphere. The trail can be muddy, especially after rain, so wearing appropriate footwear is recommended.

As you approach the falls, you’ll need to cross a few streams. These crossings can be slippery, so take your time and watch your step. The reward at the end is a picturesque waterfall with a refreshing pool at its base. Many hikers enjoy taking a dip in the cool water before heading back. The Maunawili Falls Trail offers a perfect combination of adventure and relaxation.

Lanikai Pillboxes (Kaiwa Ridge Trail)

The Lanikai Pillboxes hike, also known as the Kaiwa Ridge Trail, is famous for its breathtaking sunrise views and historical World War II pillboxes. This 1.5-mile round trip hike is relatively short but steep, making it accessible to most hikers.

The trail starts with a steep incline, quickly gaining elevation. As you ascend, you’ll be treated to sweeping views of the Lanikai Beach and the Mokulua Islands. The two pillboxes at the top of the ridge provide a great spot to rest and take in the scenery. The graffiti-covered structures add a unique touch to the landscape.

This hike is especially popular for sunrise. Arriving early allows you to witness the sun rising over the ocean, casting a golden glow on the landscape. The trail can get crowded, so starting early not only ensures a prime viewing spot but also helps you avoid the heat of the day. The Lanikai Pillboxes hike is a must-do for anyone visiting Oahu.

Manoa Falls Trail

The Manoa Falls Trail is one of the most accessible and family-friendly hikes in the Koolau Mountains. This 1.6-mile round trip hike leads to the stunning Manoa Falls, a 150-foot waterfall surrounded by lush rainforest. The trail is well-maintained and suitable for hikers of all ages.

The hike begins with a gentle ascent through a tropical rainforest. You’ll walk under a canopy of towering trees, ferns, and bamboo. The path is relatively wide and easy to follow, making it ideal for families with children. Keep an eye out for native birds and other wildlife along the way.

As you near the falls, the sound of rushing water grows louder, building anticipation. The waterfall itself is a magnificent sight, cascading down a sheer rock face into a small pool. Swimming is not allowed due to potential hazards, but the view alone is worth the hike. The Manoa Falls Trail offers a peaceful and scenic escape from the city.

Kuliouou Ridge Trail

The Kuliouou Ridge Trail is a challenging but rewarding hike that offers some of the best views in the Koolau Mountains. This 5-mile round trip trail takes you through diverse terrain, from forested areas to open ridges with panoramic vistas.

The trail begins with a series of switchbacks through a forest of ironwood and guava trees. As you gain elevation, the trees thin out, revealing expansive views of the coastline and surrounding valleys. The final push to the summit involves a steep climb up a rocky ridge, requiring good physical fitness and endurance.

At the top, you’ll be rewarded with sweeping views of the Windward Coast, including landmarks like Koko Head and Diamond Head in the distance. On clear days, you can even see the neighboring islands of Molokai and Lanai. The Kuliouou Ridge Trail is a favorite among experienced hikers looking for a challenging and scenic adventure.

Aiea Loop Trail

The Aiea Loop Trail is a relatively easy 4.8-mile loop that offers hikers a chance to experience the lush beauty of the Koolau Mountains without too much strenuous effort. This trail is perfect for families, beginners, and those looking for a leisurely hike.

The trail meanders through a beautiful forest of native koa and ohia trees. Along the way, you’ll encounter scenic overlooks that provide stunning views of the H-3 freeway and the lush Halawa Valley. The path is well-maintained, making it a pleasant walk even after rain. Look out for wildflowers and the occasional native bird as you hike.

One of the highlights of the Aiea Loop Trail is the remnants of a B-24 bomber that crashed in the area during World War II. This historical site adds an intriguing element to the hike. Overall, the Aiea Loop Trail offers a peaceful escape with plenty of natural beauty and historical interest.

Waimea Falls Trail

The Waimea Falls Trail, located in the Waimea Valley, is an easy and family-friendly hike that combines natural beauty with cultural experiences. The trail is about 1.5 miles round trip and is accessible for hikers of all ages and abilities.

The path is well-paved and winds through botanical gardens featuring a wide variety of tropical plants and flowers. Along the way, informational signs provide insights into the native Hawaiian flora and fauna, as well as the cultural significance of the area. This makes the hike both educational and enjoyable.

At the end of the trail, you’ll reach Waimea Falls, a picturesque waterfall that cascades into a large pool. Swimming is allowed in the pool, and lifeguards are often on duty to ensure safety. The combination of a scenic hike and a refreshing swim makes the Waimea Falls Trail a popular destination for families and tourists.

Puu Maelieli Trail

The Puu Maelieli Trail, also known as the Maelieli Pillbox Hike, is a moderate 2.5-mile round trip hike that offers spectacular views of Kaneohe Bay and the Koolau Mountains. This trail is perfect for those looking for a shorter hike with rewarding views.

The trail starts with a gradual ascent through a forested area. As you climb higher, the trees open up to reveal stunning vistas of the bay and surrounding mountains. The trail can be muddy and slippery after rain, so it’s a good idea to wear sturdy hiking shoes.

At the top, you’ll find two old military pillboxes from World War II. These structures provide a great vantage point for taking in the panoramic views. The Puu Maelieli Trail is less crowded than some of the more popular hikes, making it a peaceful option for those seeking a bit of solitude in nature.

Kaau Crater Trail

The Kaau Crater Trail is a challenging and adventurous 5-mile loop that takes you through diverse landscapes, including a crater, waterfalls, and ridges. This hike is best suited for experienced hikers due to its rugged terrain and significant elevation changes.

The trail begins with a climb through a lush forest, leading to a series of waterfalls. These falls provide opportunities for photos and a cool splash during the hike. After the waterfalls, the trail becomes steeper and more challenging as you ascend the ridge to the crater.

Reaching the rim of Kaau Crater offers breathtaking views of the Koolau Range and the crater itself. The path around the crater rim is narrow and can be treacherous, so caution is necessary. The Kaau Crater Trail is an exciting hike that rewards adventurers with stunning scenery and a sense of accomplishment.

Mount Olympus (Awaawaloa) Trail

The Mount Olympus Trail, also known as the Awaawaloa Trail, is a strenuous 6-mile round trip hike that offers some of the most expansive views on Oahu. This trail is perfect for experienced hikers looking for a challenging ascent with rewarding vistas.

The hike starts with a steep climb through a dense forest. The trail is well-marked but can be muddy and slippery, especially after rain. As you gain elevation, the forest gives way to more open terrain, providing sweeping views of the island.

The final ascent to the summit involves scrambling up rocky sections and navigating narrow ridges. The summit of Mount Olympus offers panoramic views of the entire island, including Waikiki, Diamond Head, and the Windward Coast. On a clear day, you can see for miles in every direction. The Mount Olympus Trail is a demanding hike, but the incredible views make it well worth the effort.

By backyardoahu

Christopher A. Martin is an avid outdoorsman and dedicated writer who specializes in providing informative content for Backyard Oahu! With a passion for exploration and a deep appreciation for nature, Christopher is committed to offering comprehensive information on hiking and backpacking adventures across Oahu's stunning landscapes.

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