Directions:: The trail starts at the posted Na Ala Hele trailhead signs, to the left side of the Hawaii Loa (Board of Water Supply) water tank, at the top end of Paka Nahele. Paka Nahele is the exclusive-use park at the top end of Puu Ikena Drive above the private Hawaii Loa Ridge residential subdivision.
Accessing the Trail:
Since you need to cross through the private, luxury community to get to the trailhead, you need to gain permission from the Hawaii Loa Resident Association at the security check point along Puu Ikena Drive. All that is required is a form of Hawaii State identification (i.e. Hawaii driver's license) and each person in your party signing the association's waiver of liability. Only one person is required to have and present the Hawaii ID - the others in the party do not need to be residents of Hawaii. In other words: someone in your party must be a Hawaii resident to hike this trail.
A heads-up for first-timers in the area: if approaching from Honolulu, you need to make a right turn (toward the beach, not toward the mountains) to get onto the Puu Ikena Drive turnabout. There is no left turn onto Puu Ikena Drive from Kalanianaole Hwy.
Trail Information:: Description:
This ungraded trail rollercoasters Hawaii Loa Ridge to the crest of the Koolaus. While the vegetation is relatively unimpressive compared to other Koolau ridges, there are a few native trees and birds which call this section of forest home. As a compromise, the vegetation isn't thick enough to hinder either navigating the ridge or hiking the trail.
What to Expect:
The first 25% of the trail travels along a relatively wide, hill-like terrain over a path which ranges from dry, sandy dirt to sturdy rock.
The ridge's rollercoastering is not too bad and there are no drastic hand-over-hand climbs during the first 80% of the trail. While there aren't sharp-angled ascents during this section, there are a few short climbs/descents which will give novices a run for their money (e.g. heavy breathing, pounding heartbeats).
While the vegetation on this trail is not sparse, there is a lack of tall, overhead canopy. Thus, much of this trail is exposed to the sun save a small stand of pine trees toward the beginning and a respectable, dark section of tall guavas on the "mossy knob". Expect to be sunburn-prone during sunny days but don't be surprised how quickly the trail can get slippery during rainy days.
The final climb, or last 20% of the trail, is very eroded and you can see this exposed-mud (reddish in color) portion of the trail from as far away as the trailhead. The good news, however, is that there are multiple sections of steps built into mountainside. In fact, Na Ala Hele did a fabulous job installing the countless number of steps to stabilize this steep, eroded section. Despite the steps, the occasional rope, and the fact that this section is not very narrow, the steepness and exposed feel of this final climb/return-descent may make those who are scared of heights a bit nervous.