Hiking the Kolekole Pass • March 31, 2018
Most of the hikes that we’ve done recently have been what we call “expeditionary hikes.” With limited free time to hike and bad weather for hiking, we’ve been forced to look beyond the hikes that are on our must-do list. We’d love to do more Ko’olau ridge hikes, but it’s been so overcast that we can rarely see the ridge, and we would rather save those for days when we could actually have views. Therefore, we’ve been doing a lot of “plan B” hikes, and typically those are ones that we have little to no information about. Instead of asking around for details about said hikes, we decided we’d rather just go do them and see what we find.
Such was the case for this hazy and overcast Saturday morning. It was shaping up to be a rainy Easter weekend, so we rose early in the morning and drove to Mililani in the center of Oahu. There’s a trail on the Schofield base that is only open on select weekends, so when we saw it would be open to the public that day we went for it. We had only done one peak hike in the Wai’anae mountain range (Ka’ala, the highest peak on Oahu) so even though we didn’t have a plan, we were excited to just see this range again from a different perspective.
We drove through the base, all the way back to where the road started heading over the pass. We parked at the small trailhead on the left and began hiking on the marked trail. It starts off easy, with a wide and very established path. We heard unfamiliar bird cries in the distance which we are positive were peacocks as they are sometimes seen in this area. It was either that or a Snipe, like Kevin in the movie Up — that’s exactly what it sounded like! No colorful birds were spotted today though.
We came upon two great vistas, one facing Northeast and the other facing West. The visibility was poor, but we were still able to see the Wai’anae range from different angles and the valley right below. At first we even had clear views of Ka’ala, but as the clouds moved in it disappeared. When we were able to see over the ridge to the West, we could hardly even see the ocean because of the vog (volcanic fog).
After the initial vista to the West, the trail became much more overgrown as it went between tall plants. But there was still clearly a trail marked occasionally with pink surveyors tape. We snaked our way on the valley side of the Wai’anae’s following a contour. At one bend in the trail, there was an obvious fork and a trail veered off steeply up an incline through a grove of eucalyptus.
The trail eventually cleared a ridge with clear vistas looking westward over a valley. We could clearly make out the continuation of the Kolekole road winding down towards the coast. In the distance we made out Pu’u O Hulu. We climbed down into a notch and saw the continuation of the trail on the other side. It seemed too steep for us that day so we retraced our steps back to the fork in the trail. More research showed us later that the trail climbed to the peak of Pu’uhapapa. A goal for another day when we are more prepared and the weather is in our favor.
We retraced our steps back to the fork and continued to follow the contour trail around and to the South. There weren’t any more views and the trail was in a continuous state of overgrowth but we pushed on for at least a mile before calling our expedition over. Based on further research we found that the trail continues for quite a distance eventually connecting with some back roads.
We made our way back the way we came, and when we were about a quarter-mile away, the rain finally started. We were prepared with an umbrella so we made it back to the car just fine. We had only hiked about 3 miles today, but were content with what we had been able to do during the small window of favorable weather. We finished our little outing with shave ice cream from the Snow Factory in Mililani — one of our favorite treats on the island.