Moanalua Valley is a tropical valley that extends from a residential area in Honolulu to the base of some of the most treacherous mountain peaks that the Ko’olau mountain range has to offer. It is popular primarily for it’s population of feral pigs, massive waterfall, and as being the starting point for some of Oahu’s most popular and dangerous trails. Please enjoy my first excursion into this beautiful valley.
After braving Honolulu’s rush hour traffic, I arrived at Moanalua Valley Park at approximately 08:30. The park had very few parking spots, but fortunately, it was not that crowded when I went. The only folks that were there were some Chinese tourists who had just finished their morning walk through the forest.
Just outside the park was the start of my journey.
Fortunately, this area is now “legally” opened to hikers. Previously, it was on land owned by the Damon Estates and could only be hiked with their permission, today, it contains an official state trail (Kamananui Trail) so it is opened to all.
Actually, before Damon, this land was originally owned by Kamehameha the Great. Supposedly, there is a stone along the way with Hawaiian markings. I missed it this time, but will look again the next time I go….
Some things to note if you plan to hike Moanalua Valley’s trails. The whole area is based around rivers, so when it rains it is very susceptible to flash floods from all the water from the mountains. Do not hike this trail when it is raining!
Even though I said that, I went when there was a good chance of rain (in the morning). It was supposed to clear up later in the day though….
The “downside” to Moanalua’s trail is that you must hike down an 3 mile long dirt road to reach them. ^^; Personally, I didn’t mind that much as I thought the dirt road went through some very pretty locations as it made it’s way to the Ko’olau mountain peaks.
The beginning of the dirt road runs along areas that could only be called a “jungle”. I’ve never seen anything like it. I wanted to walk some more in the jungle but I hurried on ahead. I had ambitions plans that would take up the entire day (and I had work tomorrow). ^^;
The river is crossed many times by these concrete bridges as you make you way to the valley’s many trailheads…
I believe this ridge was the Tripler Ridge that I hiked up earlier. My progress towards the Ko’olau summits went much faster on level ground….
In case you are wondering, my big plan was to hike the legal way to the top of the Haiku Stairs this day. I had already climbed to the top of the “Stairway to Heaven” the illegal way, but that involved climbing in the middle of the night (and in dangerous conditions). The view at the top was non-existent and I was too worried to spend much time outside of the old US Navy satellite due to the extremely high winds.
I was hoping that this time, I could legally walk up to the satellite and take in a crystal clear view of the city of Kaneohe and to perhaps hike down the stairs to just the first platform, taking in the view the entire way.
Even though I wanted to hike the stairs legally, I looked out to the intimidating Ko’olau Mountain Range and remembered how the steep (and dizzy) inclines of the Tripler Ridge made me turn back before making the final climb to the summit and ultimately to the stairs. Still, I pressed on. At the very minimum, I wanted to explore Moanalua Valley itself because it too had some beautiful views to offer….
Maybe most people come to Hawaii to relax on it’s beaches. Personally, I am drawn inland to it’s more rugged and non-commercialized side. I love hiking in Hawaii (if only more of it’s trails were actually legal though). ^^;
Like Tripler Ridge, Moanalua Valley had many beautiful plants and wildlife that I had never seen before. Much of it was completely different then the kinds I had encountered on that earlier trail.
These purple flowers were gorgeous and only appeared when I reached the deepest parts of the valley (near the waterfall).
This far out into the wilderness, it felt incredibly peaceful. There was no person within miles in any direction (and no cellphone coverage). ^^;
In fact, the only life I encountered was the numerous wild pigs that roam the area. For the most part, they just ran away when they saw me. I was only growled at one time (when I tried to point a camera at them). Their growl is very loud and deep sounding, despite their small size…
The Kamananui Trail officially ends before you get to see the massive Moanalua Waterfall. To actually see the falls, you must continue up a very steep and slippery cliff just beyond this sign…
As I climbed the unmaintained trail, I looked back to see just how far I had walked. My car was about 6 miles away from this point and I still had to walk back…unless I made it to the stairs, in which case I would take a bus or taxi back to my car…
The Moanalua Waterfall was enormous but there was only a trickle of water at the time. During periods following a heavy rain, this waterfall must look much more beautiful….
After viewing the waterfall, I was determined to get over the ridge this time! The last time, I was spooked by the heights and the sheer drops to complete Tripler Ridge. I did not want to fail again. The stairs were calling me (again). ^^;
The path became steeper and had me “bear walking”, even so I pressed on. The view to my right was absolutely insane. I mean, I wanted to climb on that massive mountain with that 200+ foot waterfall coming out of it. It looked just menacing.
If you look to the left side of the picture, you can just make out the US Navy satellite (the top of the Stairway to Heaven) on the summit of Puʻukeahiakahoe…..
The trail went steeper still to the point of being almost vertical. Dejavus came to me, it was near a steep ridge like this one that I had turned around on Tripler Ridge. The wind howled and the trail narrowed but I was almost there…..
Nearly to the top, I got to a part of the trail with no foot holds and nothing to hold on to at all. I tried to crawl up it to no avail. Thinking of giving up, once again, I looked out to my right…
There it was! The Haiku Stairs summit or “Stairway to Heaven” US WWII satellite. It was here that I took a nap at 2 am in the morning when I did my earlier climb. The skies were clear today, so the view must be incredible up there….
I looked back at the trail and tried just about everything to get up the trail but there was no solid footing at all. With every step, sand would go over the cliff and into the valley below…. The rock was rotten and crumbled with the slightest touch. After about 10 minutes of trying, my DSLR camera lens cap also fell over the ledge and into the valley below. I was also slipping…..so in the end, I decided to “leave it alone” even if it meant failing once again….. ^^;
I ended up having a seat in a more stable spot and just admired the quiet and majestic beauty of the Puʻukeahiakahoe mountain side as I had lunch. It was a long way down and although I did not get to see Kaneohe from 2,800 feet in the clouds today, I walked away learning something from this.
When you are hiking, it is OKAY to walk away from something that you do not feel comfortable with. If you think “I probably shouldn’t be doing this”, you are probably right. Trust that feeling or you may be the next thing to fall into the valley below.
*Disclaimer time (this might be long)
1.) The legal ways to the Haiku Stairs are all along extremely narrow ridges where many people have had to be rescued. On the exact ridge that I was on, in 2010, two hikers had to be airlifted from the ridge just above where I made it, en-route from the Haiku Stairs when they had reached a point where they could no longer proceed.
2.) If you descend the Haiku Stairs all the way, your legal climb just became illegal trespassing. The Honolulu Police are now giving out citations with court dates (instead of just fines) to anyone found at the area at the bottom of the Haiku Stairs. I imagine that they will not care what direction you came from, only that you are there now….
3.) All hiking in Hawaii is done at your own risk. People have died hiking Oahu’s unique trails which favor trails on ridges versus switchbacks. Many of the rock is rotten and not stable and the weather can change quickly (especially in the Ko’olaus). Any of the hikes you see on this site are dangerous and even perilous, especially if you go beyond the points where I turned around.
4.) Dangerousness aside, I do recommend bear climbing up the ridge I did (just not to the top), to take in the view of the waterfall and satellite. It really was a majestic sight. But again, do so at your own risk!
5.) The part where I tried to push my limit, that was the wrong thing to do. Something could have happened…. Do not attempt (professional hikers or guys with wings only). ^^;
Google Map to Moanalua Valley Park