Thursday, December 20, 2012

Palehua-Palikea Trail

December 19, 2012 

Palihua-Palikea used to be an easy trail to get to but when the Nature Conservancy abandoned the Honouliuli Preserve in 2009 and the residual company that was formed from the James Campbell Estate sold the land effectively to the State of Hawaii access to the area became difficult.  A friend of ours had attempted to get access about a year ago but her emails had gone unanswered.  However, last month she received a reply and the forms we'd need to fill out to gain access to the trail head.

After some more email exchanges a date was set and I learned that fellow blogger Andrew of Punyari's Island Adventures was also trying to get access.  He ended up joining our group for this hard to get to but easy trail.

We met at lower gate to the winding road up into the Waianae Mountains at 8:30 and waited for our guide for the day to arrive.  He and an associate appeared and we began the long drive up towards the dark, rainy looking mountains.

The road up to the trail head is an experience in itself.  The land here is mostly lease hold and many of the families that call the area home have been here for years.  The views from the road of the Ewa Plain, Pearl Harbor, and Kahe Point are gorgeous.

After about 20 minutes of driving we reached the antenna farm where the trail begins and parked the cars.  The initial portion of the trail descends and climbs a few times through a mostly introduced forest of eucalyptus and ironwood trees.  The wind, rain, and cold kept me from taking many pictures until we started to enter the more native forest.

 We walked the boulder lined trail buffeted by the strong winds and passed through the iconic rock passageway.  Of course I got a shot of everyone in the rocks on the way back!

Beyond the the cave like passage way we passed a wider open area.

 Beyond is a small contour section cut into the rock face with a steep drop to the valley below.

 Beyond the contour is the fenced area of the preserve.  We crossed a gate and continued along the trail.  There are hidden treasures to be found but today we weren't going to be searching for them.  Initially the trail passes through a large stand of mixed Cook and Sugi Pines.

 As we moved quickly up the trail we noted the dead rat hanging from a very well built trap.  While the pigs seem to get a lot of attention these rats are just as harmful chewing up fruit and stems killing endemic plants and their offspring.  In many cases, just eliminating rodents is all it needed for many species to recover.

 Perhaps my favorite spot of the day was the stairway up through the small ohia forest lined with moss.

Some of the Ohia found in the Waianae Range seem so different from those of the Ko'oalu.  For example this particular tree that featured disorganized blossoms with a far lower number of individual flowers.

There were several examples of this type of Ohia but I wont' bore you with all the details.  The Honouliuli Perserve is home to some extremely rare and endangered land snails.  With the weather and our time constraints we didn't have an opportunity to look for them though.  However, we did run across several Succinea species.  The poor little guys are the famous "Snot-in-a-hat" snails that get their unfortunate name from their shells that are too small for their body.    This one cruising along a Kanawao leaf had a nice red pigmentation I've not seen before.

A bit further up the trail we ran across another hanging out on an 'ie'ie leaf.

A short time later we topped out to the summit of Palikea.  There was no view as the clouds continued to blanket everything. 

We had a quick snack and headed back the way we came.

Along the way back I managed to jump off the trail for a second to take a few shots of this Pānaunau, an endemic Lobelia yuccoides.  There were a bunch of these along the way but none in bloom.

After reaching the cars back at the antenna farm we gathered for a quick group photo.

Ali, Marian, II, XJ, Mrs. XJ, Thomas, and Andrew
 Despite the clouds, rain, and cold wind and our lack of time to search for all the other hidden plants and animals tucked away in the preserve it was still a fantastic day on the trail!  I will be coming back to this one again when I can take the time to see all the other treasures tucked away here.

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


  1. Great write up! I was wondering if I could get the email address to gain access to this area? My email is


  2. Love your blog & would like to "follow" it, but can't find the "follow this blog" button :( Have bookmarked it anyhow - wish I could find a blog like this for Kauai - that's where we spend most of our time! (But lots of Ohana on Oahu!)

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