Old Pali Highway

Summary: The Pali Lookout rests on the only easily traversable point along the Koʻolau Range between Honolulu and the Windward side of the island, which gave it an important role in the history and development of the island.  What started as a chancy journey became a jeopardous path, and eventually a flat-out scary road.  As Oahu grew, the road became Highway 61, which still closely followed the original route down the windward side of the Koʻolau Range.  With the last major upgrades to the highway, around 1960, the old, original route was abandoned in favor of a tunnels and a new and faster descent, leaving the Old Pali Highway intact and as a great and underutilized place to run.

The Good:   Running the Old Pali Highway can be broken down into three parts.  The upper section leads from the lookout, down to where the route crosses under (yes, under) the new Highway 61.  Though it isn’t very wide, the road surface is still in very good shape.  And the mass amounts of foliage that crowd the road do just that — crowd it, but don’t block it.  Once you pass under Highway 61, there’s the Old Pali Highway, and what I think of as the new-Old Pali Highway — the easily discernible difference is in the road surface and material (and thus the road condition — the older road has held up much better).  Either way, the lower half is mostly covered with a nice canopy, providing shade for much of the run.  And it certainly is pretty — running the old road is definitely a trip through history, and a wonderful chance to away from people (I’ve only ever encountered people on the upper portion) and through some very pretty foliage.  Lastly, the grade is good; for as steep as the Koʻolau Range is, running up this won’t kill you.

The Bad:  The new-Old Pali Highway section is in meh condition.  I think that is in part due to more modern (and less durable) construction, but also in part to the large sections that are covered in moss.  I’d not want to run that part in a heavy rain; it probably gets a bit slick.

The UglyThey’ve started to charge $3 to park at the Pali Lookout.  For a place with no restrooms and no water, that seems a bit much.

Type of route: Mostly old road.  There’s one stretch, under the new Pali Highway, that is dirt.
Good to run in the rain? Fantastic to run in the rain.

Length: ~5 miles

Options for the route:  Three or more.  One is to run the new Old Pali Highway; it’s a short leg that adds just a little bit to the overall run.  Another choice, after running down the new Old Pali Highway, is to keep going on Auloa Road and rejoin Pali Highway; from there, continue on to Kailua Beach State Park before turning around (this will make it closer to a 12 mile run).  The third option is to start at Ala Moana Mall and run up to the Pali Lookout, before running the old road.  Round trip, that’s be about 15 (I think).

Elevation change on the run:  I dunno (I’ve been running it without my GPS lately).
Water used: Usually around 60 ounces.

Where to start: Pali Lookout
Where to park: Pali Lookout
Point your car’s GPS towards:  Pali Lookout

My Google Earth file: (none yet)
My Garmin file: (none yet)

Facilities
Water? Nope.
Toilets? Nope.
Medical care? Nope.
Ranger / park folks? Nope.  Early morning, though, you’ll often find HPD in the parking lot, feeding the chickens.  Really — not making that up.
Picnic areas? Nope.
A place to change afterwards? Nope.

Rewards in the area: Nope.

You’d run this route when….you’ve had enough miles for the week, but not enough hills.  When your ankle is on the mend from too much trail running, but you don’t want to be stuck on sidewals.

My rating:  7

Music:   Guns N Roses.   And loud.

Weather / Trail warnings (no) / Permits (not required)

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

4 thoughts on “Old Pali Highway”

  1. Pingback: Old Pali Road
  2. These pictures are great. It’s hard to believe that we used to drive that route back in the 50s. I was a kid and it was so scary and yet so beautiful. I have not been back to Hawaii since then. I can’t image the tunnel. Heck, I can’t imagine all those hotels on Waikiki. Back in the 50s it was not a big destination but we sure loved the 5 years we spent on Oahu (Manoa Uplands and then Hickam.) : )

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