Mokulēia Loop

Summary: Mokulēia Loop is a loop that ascends the Mokulēia Forest Reserve Access Road, crosses Mokulēia and Kuaokala Firebreak Roads before coming back down to Dillingham Airfield via the Kealia Trail.  It’s an 11 or 14 mile trek, ascends as high as 2000′, and is paved or dirt road for all but one mile of the route.

The Good: The paved road is good for running.  So is the dirt road.  that might not sound that thrilling, but with the temps that you’ll encounter on the North Shore and on this little corner of the island, it’s nice to find places that can be run under a full moon or more easily if you’re just using a light.  And for skirting the edge of Makua Valley, it’s a safe route with excellent glimpses into an often unseen part of the island.  It’s also pretty damn hard to get lost; stay on the main road, keep the Makua Valley to your left and the ocean to your right, and all will be OK.  And while the Mokulēia Forest Reserve Access Road features a lot of open, unshaded terrain, once you hit the ~4 mile mark and the Peacock Flats Campground, you’ll be treated to long stretches of shade, cooler temperatures, and an often gentle breeze.  And if you time it right, you’ll be treated to a nice sunrise at the 3 mile marker on the Mokulēia Forest Reserve Access Road (it’s where the building is), looking back over the North Shore.

The Bad: If you’re running this unsupported, there’s no way to avoid the three miles from the access road to Kealia — or Kealia back to your car at the access road.  It’s insult to injury; either you’re starting or (worse) ending with a run down a hardball road that is booooooring.  There’s ample room on the side of the road, so at least it’s relatively safe, but still — it’s the opposite of what this route is all about.  And holy smokes — the run down the length of the airfield seems to never end.  It goes on, and on, and on, and on – like the knight approaching the castle in Monty Python’s The Holy Grail.  The right way to do it is to run with someone else, and park a car at each of the trailheads.

The Ugly: The only time your life is in danger is when you are hoofing it down the Kealia trail.  There’s no escaping that it’s a mile of single track, narrow, rock infested trail cut into the side of a cliff.  Not that you’ll fall off the cliff, mind you — it’s that you’ll catch a foot or some toes or a heel and pitch forward for a faceplant.  Also, there’s no easy way down; you commit to the running the whole thing when you’re at Peacock Flats Campground or at the Makua Valley overlook

Type of route: Paved road; dirt road; dirt trail.

Good to run in the rain? Light rain, yes.  Heavy rain might make Kealia interesting.

Length: 14 miles.

Options for the route: Yes.Part one car at the Mokulēia Forest Reserve Access Road entrance, and another at the Kealia Trailhead; this shaves 3 miles off of the run, but requires two cars.

Elevation change on the run: 50′ to 2000′.

Water used: 2 liters.  Expect to use more if the sun is up too early.  There’s no escaping the climb on this one, and there’s no water along the way.

Where to start: Here. The Mokulēia Forest Reserve Access Road entrance is on the South side of the Farrington Highway, just past a bunch of streets that have no street signs.  As you head west, I look for the patch of dense palm trees; parking is just before that.

Where to park: Same.

Point your car’s GPS towards: Farrington Highway, Waialua, HI 96791.  And then drive until you see it.

My Google Earth file: here

My Garmin file: None

Facilities

Water?  Only at Dillingham.

Toilets?   Only at Dillingham.

Medical care?   Only at Dillingham.  Good cell phone coverage through this route, though.

Ranger / park folks?  In theory, maybe.  You run a greater risk of encountering military / government types if you wander too far off the trail.

Picnic areas?  Two.  At the top of Kealia, and then at Peacock Flats campground.

A place to change afterwards?    Only at Dillingham.

Rewards in the area:  Waialua Bakery, 66-200 Kamehameha Highway, Haleiwa, HI 96712

You’d run this route when…. your legs are feeling uppity.  When your friend says that he needs more hills in his life.  When someone agrees to go along and you’ve got two cars for the point-to-point.  When you realize it’s just 11 miles and just 2000 feet.  When it dawns on you that, once you make the 2000′ climb, it’s rolling dirt roads in the shade.

My rating: 9.  One of the best runs I’ve done on the island, easily.

Music:  Be careful.  No buzzkills on this one.  I went with a heavy 70s influenced set, and it worked well with me.

Weather / Trail warnings / Permits (not required) – permit is an issue only if you turned at Peacock Flats Campground and head to the Mokulēia Trail down the ridge.

More reading: here and here and here. Flickr: here and here.  State Park Info: here and here and here.   Color Map: here