Hiking the Nakoa Trail | March 2020
It’s been a while since we’ve hiked a completely new-to-us trail. With such limited free time, we’ve been sticking with places we know we enjoy on weekends together. But as Curtis’ days off while stationed on the island are falling into the single digits, we’re making a better effort to cross a few more hikes off our list. Not just so we can say we’ve done it all, but to experience the feeling of excitement and new-ness that we haven’t felt for a while here. In a few months, everything we’ve grown accustomed to will become another memory, another place where we once lived. So despite the stress of moving off the island building up, I’m making a point to seek out everything I enjoy about Oahu and hold onto the happiness those things bring.
Last Sunday, we drove up the Windward coast to Kahana Bay on a gorgeous clear day. Every peak and ridge in the Ko’olau Mountains was so clear and crisp. My eyes watered as I wondered if this could be the last time we’d make this drive. Curtis pointed out where he’d read about old historic roads that used to exist as a way up to the summit, and we pondered all the areas of the island that we’ve never laid eyes on. Despite it being so small, there are still plenty of places we haven’t seen, and will never see.
We drove to Ahupua’a ‘O Kahana State Park and took the valley road to the last parking area. From here, we walked through the neighborhood to the start of the trail, an abandoned road into the valley. We love hiking these roads that are being reclaimed by nature, they are consistently stable and not as muddy as a regular trail would be in this area.
The road from the parking lot to the trail junction is a half-mile long. Here we were given three choices: Start the loop trail either clockwise or counterclockwise, or take the road to the reservoir which would eventually meet up with the loop trail and provided an alternative to the counter-clockwise route. We took the road, knowing it wouldn’t be muddy and it would avoid two river crossings. We actually hiked this road almost two years ago, but only went as far as the pavement before turning around because it was a rainy day and muddy trails didn’t appeal to us back then either. The paved stretch went by quickly, the road covered with palm fronds and a shama bird singing in the trees nearby.
Kahana Valley is known as being the wettest area on Oahu, so some mud was inevitable even after a mostly dry week. We encountered most of this on the connecting trail between the paved road and the intersection of the loop. The trail is well-signed so we knew exactly where we were when we met up with the loop trail.
From here, we had the option to extend the loop by 2 miles by walking an unsanctioned trail. Because the sign didn’t explicitly say “Don’t do it,” we decided to try it out for a bit. We came across some old concrete bunkers, followed by another fork in the trail. First we went right, walking through a bamboo forest until it became a narrow trail on the side of the hill with a steep drop off. Down below we could see the river with rushing rapids and a small waterfall, but we decided to turn around here not seeing an obvious (or safe) continuation of the trail. Next we took the left trail, again through bamboo but this time going straight down to the river. It looked as though the trail crossed the river here, but we opted out and instead just enjoyed walking along the rocks on the side as far as we could.
Back on the loop trail, we continued walking counter-clockwise through the valley. There were a few small lookouts, but it was mostly just walking in the woods. The trail was easy for the most part, aside from some downed trees where we had to make our way through the branches. We enjoyed seeing wildflowers we haven’t seen before along the path.
Since we bypassed the first half of the loop trail, we avoided two river crossings, but we still had to deal with two others. The first one we came to offered nothing in terms of support or staying dry — just a good old crossing through shin-deep rushing water. I suggested we use the piggy-back method so only one of us would get wet, and Curtis obliged under the condition that I provide the ride next time.
The second crossing was longer, but came with a rope and concrete barriers. Parts of those were still under water, but it was still more secure than the last crossing. We each crossed on our own this time.
Shortly after this, we met back up with the initial intersection and began the final stroll back to our car. Here we saw the first other hikers of the day, followed by a second group. Solitude in the wilderness on a new trail was exactly what we wanted, and we were happy with our decision to give this one a try. On our way home, we stopped to try out a newer Leonard’s Bakery truck near the Kaneohe mall and are pleased to report that it is just as good as the others. We highly recommend ending a hike with malsadas.