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Hiking On O’ahu

man hiking in o'ahu

By Dan Scroggins

I have never lived in an area with so many amazing hikes only a short distance away. O’ahu, at it’s greatest, is only forty-four miles long and thirty miles across and there are hundreds of hikes on this island. To date (should change next week, regardless of when you read this) I have hiked 64 different trails that O’ahu has to offer. Hiking is popular here but at times can be a hot topic. I would classify the hiking trails on O’ahu into four different categories:

  • 1- Legal, state maintained trails
  • 2- Legal, non-state maintained trails
  • 3- Illegal but no one really cares trails
  • 4- Illegal trails (for real, their illegal)

An example of the first category would be the popular Manoa Falls trail which is a beautiful, short hike through the jungle to a nice waterfall. Another example is Kuliouou Ridge trail which takes you to the top of the Ko’olau range and offers stunning views of east O’ahu. These are both nice hikes that are legal and state maintained.

The second category is composed of hikes that do not require trespassing but are also not maintained trails. Koko Crater comes to mind. Koko Head, as everyone calls it, is a VERY popular hike up 1,043 railroad ties, even president Obama got in on the action during his vacation here. The summit offers great views but hiking is at your own risk.  You are not trespassing but the trail is not state maintained.

Now for the third category, illegal hikes but no one really cares. I recently watched a news story on people illegally hiking the Hanauma Bay rim trail. As is common there are numerous signs on this hike which state “no trespassing” and/or “no hiking” but people just breeze right past them without giving them a second thought. At the end of the news segment the anchors chuckled about how they had all hiked this trail and were not even aware that it was illegal. Hawaii 5-0 never showed up on the news set to arrest these pranksters.

On to the fourth category, illegal trails (for real, their illegal). Probably the two most popular are Stairway to Heaven and Sacred Falls. It is not uncommon to hear of citations begin handed out for both trails because even though everyone knows these hikes are illegal they are still hiked on a daily basis.

Every couple months I will read on article or watch a news story about illegal hiking on O’ahu and almost always social media/blogs are to blame for the increasing popularity of illegal and/or dangerous hikes. I am an avid hiker and always thirst for new hikes and adventures but I also understand problems with increased numbers of people on dangerous hiking trails. So what is the solution? That is a good question that I do not have the answer to. Aloha \m/

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