Wednesday, February 2, 2011


February 1, 2011
Lanihuli via the Kapalama Loop and Na Pueo Bypass

Lanihuli from Pauoa Flats
Ever had an itch you needed to scratch?  Well I'd been itching to get to the top of Lanihuli for months.  My ill fated trip up Kamanaiki Ridge back in November was when the itch started and today I scratched it.  If you read last week's blog entry about Honolulu Mauka you know that my regular hiking partner's knee has been acting up.  His doctor advised he take it easy for two weeks so I pretended that my intentions today were to go scout the Lanihuli Trail so we could do it when he's back in action.  Deep down I knew there was no way that was going to happen and that there was a 99.9% chance I'd be going all the way to the top.  Lanihuli from the Kapalama Loop trail requires that you either jump a fence at the end of Alewa Heights Rd, get access from Kamehameha School, or take the Na Pueo Park Bypass trail.  Kamehameha doesn't grant access and I hate bothering neighborhood homeowners so I opted for the bypass.

Honolulu Waking Up
The morning started with a drive to Na Pueo Park at Alewa Heights.  I parked up the street a way and tried to quietly get my gear together under the watchful eye of a lady walking here dog.  I walked down to the park and sat down to finish my 7/11 coffee and banana.  I soaked in the view of downtown Honolulu and noted the vog in the air.  Hopefully it wouldn't ruin all my pictures for the day when the sun came up.  It was a little breezy and cool as I dumped my empty cup and banana peel in the garbage can and set off to find the bypass trail which was behind a water tank according to the article I'd read online

Bishop Estate Land
I followed what looked like a trail at the mauka end of the chain link fence behind the water tank into some bamboo.  A short time later the "trail" began to close in and I began searching for a trail to follow.  I contoured the hillside below the houses left and right up and down for a while and  soon found another trail.  Too bad it went to someones house and that someone had a dog with exceptionally good hearing!  Feeling bad about setting off the barking, I tried to quietly sneak back down the hill and after thrashing about for a while I finally found the bypass trail. Once I found it it was pretty much unmistakable.  A series of pink ribbons guided me along until a large grove of ironwood trees.  The trail became obscured so I back tracked and saw a pink ribbon uphill.  I wrapped some ribbon with an arrow pointing towards the trail to try and save someone else some time and effort.

Once established on the bypass trail I picked up speed and soon arrived at the intersection with the Kapalama Loop Trail at a chain link fence.  I followed the fence up the ridge until hitting the camp site I'd read about.  Continuing past the campsite the trail took several gentle rolling climbs and descents through Norfolk pines, Ironwood trees, and Christmas Berry trees.  I spotted a red ohia flower and checked it out to see if it was a rarer style of Ohia, Metrosideros Macropus, that normally flowers in yellow but in this area was known to be red.  I'd read about this on Nathan Yuen's Hawaiian Forest and it another reason I'd been wanting to do this trail.  The leaves didn't seem right on this particular tree so I continued onwards.  The trail opened up into a clearing of uluhe ferns and great views of Nu'uanu valley and down town.  
Uluhe clearing (shot on the way down)
Nice Big Ohia Tree
I watched the clouds boiling above me and enjoyed something that you don't get much of on O'ahu- silence.  As I climbed the view just kept getting better and I entered a stand of larger Ohia where two apapanes flew by me and landed in the Ohia trees.  They bounced back and forth between limbs before disappearing from sight.  I didn't even bother trying to get a picture.  As I continued, the ridge off to my right kept getting closer.  I had to be getting close to the end of the loop trail.  Working my way up the ridge I spotted an alternate trail coming up another ridge from Nu'uanu.  It was marked with an old glove and some ribbons.  Probably this trail?  Next was another down hill section and another red Ohia.  Still inconclusive.  Then I spotted it- a fairly large Ohia with many red blooms on it.  

Yellow M. macropus
Red M. Macropus
Checking the leaves the petioles, the stalk of a leaf, attaching the blade to the stem, were far too long to be any other kind and the overall weepy appearance of the tree were all fitting with the description of m. macropus.  The tree branched from it's blooms after they died- another indication I was looking at a red macropus tree.  So conveniently located across the trail was a yellow macropus.  How handy is that for comparison?  A short time later I rounded a corner and at the base of a gnarled Koa tree the trail forked.  To the left was the loop and the right Lanihuli.  I sat down on the Koa for a break.

Kapalama Loop Junction with Lanihuli Trail
After the short rest I headed up the Lanihuli Trail.  I noted some pig tracks, more red M. Macropus and mostly native vegetation.  I came to the first rope section of the day which was a fairly easy climb anyway.  The trail flattened out after that and it was like walking through a Ohia exposition.  All the species were here, polymopha (ohia lehua) , rugosa (lehua papa) , tremuloides (ahihi), and macropus (unknown Hawaiian name).  The view back towards town now included all of Nu'uanu Valley to the east and Kalihi Valley to the west.  I was also given my first full view of Lanihuli and it was a bit intimidating.
An imposing look at Lanihulii.
First Rope Section
Next was a large descent aided with a rope and what looked like a very long printer cable.   That lead down to a narrow ridge with another rope to help with balance. Then a hump in the trail with a broken rope section (picture later in the story) that masked another hump before the final assault on Lanihuli.  I spotted what I think is an Alani tree and took a picture of a seed that I've never seen on one before.  I stood at the base of Lanihuli looking at was appeared to be a serious uphill battle.  I figured I might as well get on with it so I started upwards.  It's steep and I found myself crawling in some spots because the ground was sometimes slippery and crumbled under my weight.  No wind, getting hot, take a break!  Then, a final push and I was there.  It ended a whole lot sooner than I though it would and I appreciated that! 

Alani Seeds
The final climb topped out into a typical Ko'olau summit cloud forest of moss coated trees and mud.  Initially there was no view at all which is always a bit disappointing after you've worked so hard but I didn't mind.  I sat down dangling my feet over the edge of the steep cliffs and enjoyed my lunch.  Eventually breaks in the clouds gave me some decent views of windward O'ahu.  I explored the summit a little but didn't go far.  I snapped a couple of pics and even did a rare self portrait.  

Lanihuli Summit- H-3 and Kaneohe
I look unhappy... I'm not.
Lanihuli Summit- Looking down
Lanihuli Summit- View towards town

Somebody got a surprise

Going down I made pretty good progress. This time I paused to take a picture of the rope section that had broken under someone's weight.  What a great example of why you shouldn't ever put all your weight on a rope or cable even if you've tested it.  Some of these are very old or have been tied to trees or roots that have since been weakened.

At this point I realized I was getting sick.  My nose was running and my ears stuffy.  Great, just what I needed!

Nu'uanu Valley and Honolulu in the afternoon sun.
Bizarre Coors Light Shrine
It took an hour and forty minutes to return to the Kapalama Loop Trail fork.  I felt like I had a fever now... fantastic!  I took a quick break and checked my water- one liter left.  The trail began to seem endless at this point.  Back in the introduced forest of Ironwood, Norfolk, and Christmas Berry.  I missed the trail near the end and ended up on the wrong side of the water tank at the top of Alewa Heights.  Had to back track and jump a fence to get back to the Na Pueo Bypass.  Began tying ribbons to the trees to mark the bypass trail for the next time I come.  Passed some views of O'ahu Country Club, a weird shine to Coors Light, the chain retaining wall, a centipede hiding under a branch with most of his body hanging out, a tree that had some how grown out of a bottle, took a shot of down town, and sighted the water tank.  Climbed up to the tank and took my last shot of the day.  Walked back up to the car and after stowing my gear enjoyed some air conditioning before heading back home.
You can't see me!

This trail was fairly long.  I'm not sure if it was because I was under the weather or what but the initial sections of the Kapalama Loop Trail felt like they lasted forever both going up and down.  The Lanihuli Trail itself is great so maybe next time I need to use another route.  I may see about that HMTC route up from Nu'uanu Valley or maybe I'll get crazy and do Kamanaiki Ridge!  

Must have grown up through a broken bottle?
Last shot of the day- Na Pueo Park
I'd like to add that hiking alone is never a good practice.  Please don't follow my bad example and always have a partner, leave a schedule of where you're going and when you'll be back, always have more water than you think you'll need and a flash light.  Please see my Really Great Hiking Tips Section on my Not So Great Hiking Blog for other akamai hiking tips.

More pictures of this trail and others I've done are can be viewed  Flickr.  Aloha and mahalo for reading!


  1. Great blog post. I've been in the middle of backpacking treks when I've become ill, and it's miserable. It sounds like you covered some serious ground. Jen and I got a good laugh from the beer bottle tree.


  2. You'll notice I left out the part I posted on Facebook. ;)

  3. XJ - I actually asked about this on this FB hiking group page. Are you on it? If you're not, here's the link (anyone can be added):

    I live at the base of Alewa Heights so this would be a convenient trail for me. How long does it take from the park to the Kapalama loop-Lanihuli junction? And then how long from there to the top?

    Your hiking skills and abilities seem about the same as mine (I bet your cardio is better though). I have a few friends about the same a well -- the ones we've done recently - Makapuu Tom Tom (just to the launch pad), Likeke/Waihee Falls, Kamiloiki, Koko Head Crater ridge hike from the botanical garden, Pali Puka, etc.

    That Kooalu Summit hike sounds really cool too. We may do Pu`u Hapapa on Memorial Day. One day Pu`u Manamana but I think I need to get more nerve for that one.

    Shoot me an email:

  4. Directions to the Na Pueo Trail are pretty simple. Google maps will get you there. The bypass trail is mainly to avoid annoying the neighbors at the top of the ridge by jumping the fence at the end of Alewa Heights Rd. The bypass trail is a little tricky to find and someone tore down the ribbons I'd placed at the edge of the park. Basically, you head to the town side edge of the park about 10-15 yards makai of the water tank and head downwards. Look for pink ribbons with an "XJ" on them a little way down and follow them mauka. About 20 minutes later you'll pop out on the Kapalama Loop trail. From there I'd guess it's about an hour and a half to the junction of the Lanihuli trail and another hour and a half to Lanihuli. I'd consider this the longest trail from Kalihi Valley east in the Ko'olaus so give yourself some time to get up to the top and back and enjoy it. It's also the reason I've worked so hard on the Mo'ole Valley trail. I'd rather take a little tougher trail and shave off the mileage.

    The summit hikes are all fantastic- I don't think there's another place on earth like it. I'd recommend Wiliwilinui to Hawaii Loa to get your feet wet.

    Thanks for the tip on the FB page, I'll join that. Safe trails, XJ

  5. Love your blog. Do you have any more info on just the Kapalama Loop portion? I live near there as well and would like to try that part of the trail. I don't think I'm in good enough shape to try to reach the Lanihuli ridge part.
    If you do have any info, could you email me at ?

  6. I've only done the portion associated with the Lanihuli Trail. Scott did a great write up about the Na Pueo Bypass and Kapalama Loop on his blog just a couple weeks ago. Here's the link:

    Doing the Loop will give you a great chance to get an idea of what lays beyond on the Lanihuli Trail as well. There are some great views and plant life along the trail so even if you don't go to the summit it may still be worth checking out. Best of luck to you and let me know if I can be of any further help.



  7. XJ, we did the Kapalama Loop trail via Na Pueo Park Bypass and saw several of your trail markers. My oldest son (13) wanted to tell you that he thinks you are a superhero for marking the trail ! It was a great hike and took us 9 hours round trip just to the junction point. We had 3 adults and 4 children (13, 11, 2, 2 - 2 year old were carried in backpacking carriers) so more breaks for the little ones. Great hike though! Thanks for posting about it.

  8. You can check out my trail on search for my name nicoleehouse. for the Kapalama Loop via Na Pueo Park. I have others out there as well. Just to help my fellow hiker and help me to get home! 8)

  9. Aloha Nicole,

    Sorry it's taken me a while to get back to you, it's been crazy around here. I'm so happy you guys enjoyed the trail. With four keiki I can see why it took nine hours!!!

    Tell your son "thank you" but the real heroes are the man who created the Na Pueo Bypass Trail, Dick Schmidt, and the man who found it after it had fallen into disuse, Thomas Yoza. Without them both the Kapalama Loop and the Lanihui Trail would be far more difficult to access. I'm just following in their footsteps but I'm glad the ribbons helped.

    Mahalo for the comment and for the GPS track.

    Aloha, XJ

    Here's the link to Nicoleehouse's track:

  10. Thanks for the great write-up. Summited Lanihuli today and took the bypass trail. Your description of the bypass was spot on. Much appreciated. Beautiful day on Lanihuli today. Mahalo.