Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Halawa Ridge

Back on June 14, 2011 we made the long journey up Halawa Ridge as part of our continuing plans to work our way westward down the Ko'olaus.  A good part of the selection of this trail was to familiarize ourselves with it for our planned crossing from Aiea Ridge to Halawa Ridge which we completed yesterday.  It's a darn good thing we'd done so as it turns out but I'll get to that after I've caught everything up.  

Halawa is a graded trail built back in the 1930's by the Civilian Conservation Corps.  Once you get onto the trail you can see for yourself just how much labor was involved in cutting this very well laid out path to the Ko'olau summit.

We started out by meeting at the Honolulu Board of Water Supply's Xeriscape garden on Iwaena Street in Halawa Valley around 6am.  Based on my reading I knew we had to get to a stream gauging station behind the garden but a security guard shooed us away from the gardens.  She did however give us a tip that we could follow a chain link fence on the Ewa side of the garden driveway.

Into the 6 foot cane grass we plunged.  There's nothing like starting your day in sharp, scratchy, itch, and wet cane grass.  Eventually we arrived at a bunch of large rocks and scampered around them trying to find the trail.  Eventually, wet and angry, we arrived at the stream gauging station where we crossed Halawa Stream.  There are a couple of ribbons here to help you find your way but even without them the path is pretty obvious.

Geodetic marker
Eventually the path leads to H-3 and after crossing under it and fighting a little more cane grass we emerged on Halawa Valley Access Road.  Here there are two options.  Right at the very first bridge on the Diamond Head side there's a steep trail with a number of ropes up the hillside or a little after bridge four there's another older path up the hillside.  We opted for the bridge four trail to start.  There wasn't much of a trail but guessing our way through the bushes we found a giant blue baggie ribbon.  Being rather gullible and far too optimistic, we were encouraged to travel deep into a Christmas Berry Tree patch.  The trail did become a lot more recognizable but the termite infested Christmas Berry Trees meant I got many termite poo showers as we made our way up through the tangle.

We eventually reached a section in a ravine where we lost the trail and after back tracking a few times just bushwhacked our way up to the power line road that would take us to the trail.  Once on the road things were easy.  We arrived at the trail head and after photographing the geodetic markers set off down the Halawa Trail.

At first glance I'd have sworn I was on the Aiea Loop Trail accross the valley.  A wide graded path contoured through an introduced forest with a very gentle incline.  As we progressed the introduced forest gave way to a more and more native forest filled with ohia, koa, ili'ahi, uluhe, and others.  For the most part the trail was clear although a few larger fallen trees meant a scramble over or under them a couple times.
Beautiful trail construction
Large ili'ahi tree
Pua'a tracks
You'd think that the trail would be noisy because of H-3 in the valley below but the trail is cut into the Diamond Head side of the ridge so most of the noise is blocked out.

Snaking our way up the ridge we were occasionally treated to a view of H-3 but wasn't until we were almost abeam the tunnels that we switched to the Halawa Valley side of the ridge.  Shortly thereafter, there's a section that was taken out in a landslide some years ago.

I was a little surprised by the number of pig tracks along the trail.  I guess they appreciate the hard work of the CCC builders too!  This must be the pua'a version of H-3.  Luckily they seem to root around off trail so their destructive behavior hasn't damaged the trail too much over the years.

On the way up I got a great view of an area I've been curious about on my commute to work where someone had been clearing a section of the upper valley.  I paused to take a couple shots of it.  I was told by local botanical celebrities Forest and Kim Starr via Flickr that this is:

"A HDOT project to clear all nonnative competing vegetation from a 4 acre Wilt Resistant Koa forest that grew from a former H-3 construction staging area.

Recently planted 1100 koa seedlings and 200 hibiscus arnottianus. All were collected from Halawa Valley. The work was done by Hui Ku Maoli Ola. Future work is planned to plant more native species collected from Halawa."

One of my shots was picked up by Green Magazine Hawaii and is supposed to be included in the Sept/Oct issue which is kind of cool.
H-3 Tunnels Halawa side
Looking back at the contouring final section of the trail
A small bypass trail is well marked to get you safely around it.  By now despite the tender grade, we were getting a little sick of walking.  The trail contoured in and out with each corner holding the promise of being the end.  My partner threatened to quit if we didn't get to the end soon because he was sick of it.  Finally, we emerged at the top of the Ko'olau Summit to a fantastic view of Haiku Valley and Kaneohe Town. Taking a well deserved break, we watched a C-17 doing touch and goes at Kaneohe MCAS
Halawa Ridge Trail Terminus
C-17 at Kaneohe MCAS
While I was tempted to take a left and head for the other Haiku Stairs or a right to the Godek summit, we decided to just head back down the way we came.  Going down was pleasant enough without a knee jarring descent like on so many other steeper trails we made great time and were back at bottom of the trail and on the power line road in good time. 

 We decided to take a different route out headed towards the Bridge One trail.  After locating it I was irritated to find it was chocked with more guinea grass that made following it down the steep cliffs much more unpleasant.  There are a couple rope sections to help out in the steeper parts but I think the termite poo shower route was actually more pleasant!  Emerging out on the Halawa Valley Access Road, we crossed under H-3, the Halawa Stream, and were back at the Xeriscape gardens.  Tired, itchy from the guinea grass, and irritated we elected to go through the garden which would save us both more grass misery and a lot of time.  The security guard was nowhere to be found on the way out! 
Overall I'd say Halawa is long but easy.  It also opens the door to a lot of Ko'olau Summit territory like the Haiku Hidden Stairs and can be combined with other trails like Aiea and Moanalua.  More photos from this trail and others I've done can be viewed at Flickr.  Aloha and mahalo for reading.


  1. how long did it take you?

  2. Tour of Halawa valley and ridge would be a great tour. Like during their way they explore multiple places crossing Halawa stream, is really great.
    long stay parking gatwick