Summary: Wai`anae is home to the Wai`anae Kai Forest Preserve, that stretches from near Poka`i Bay all the way up to Mount Kaʻala, the islands highest point. While a number of trails will take hikers up to Mount Ka’ala, leg-strong runners can make a good dent in running Wai`anae Kai – a history and ancient trail that heads up to a saddle just below Mount Ka’ala.
The Good: You will be alone on this trip. Unlike other trails down near Honolulu or even over near Kailua, few seem to venture up these trails. It’s not that they’re bad trails, they’re just off the beaten path. All the better, I say. If you head out there in the morning, you’ll likely get some shade from the mountains themselves. Being leeward, the odds of getting soaked are much lower, too. Oh, and the views. My goodness — the views. Splendid views — you’ll want to stop from time to time, just to soak up the views. Lastly, the trails are well marked; painted bottle caps (Gatorade, from the looks of them) adorn the route, color coded to keep the various routes straight.
The Bad: Bring your thighs. From the parking area, it’s up. Parking is at about 600 feet of elevation, and the power lines in the saddle are at about 2800 feet of elevation. 2200 feet of ascent, in about 2.25 miles. If you’ve got legs, you can probably run the first 2 miles, and hike / hot air balloon up the last quarter mile. How steep? The paved road at the bottom has markings from what appears to be tracked vehicles — you know, the types of tracks yo see on tanks, snow cats, etc. Crazy steep. But it does have splendid views — you’ll likely need to stop from time to time, just to soak up the views and to keep your thigh muscles from actually exiting the skin. I don’t really see this as a bad thing, but it merits mentioning — yes, it’s a hunting area. So, yes, you may encounter hunters and dogs (though in all my encounters around the island, I’ve never had an issue with hunters or dogs).
The Ugly: Cattle. Granted, I have cattle issues already, but they are sometimes out there in small numbers. Yes, bulls, too. No water, no restrooms, no rangers wandering about. It’ll be just you and a steep run.
Type of route: Steep trail. It starts paved, becomes a dirt road for just a little bit, and then becomes trail.
Good to run in the rain? Wow. I’m going to say no. You’d likely slip and slide all over the place.
Length: 4.5 miles, round trip.
Options for the route: For running? Maybe start at Poka`i Bay and run up instead of driving up. Running higher up on the ridgeline just isn’t possible, though there is great hiking to be had there.
Elevation change on the run: From 600 feet to 2800 feet .
Water used: 2 liters going up, almost none coming down.
Where to start: At the end of Wai`anae Valley Road.
Where to park: Same
Point your car’s GPS towards: Waianae Valley Rd, Waianae, Honolulu, HI 96792
Medical care? Nope.
Ranger / park folks? Nope.
Picnic areas? Yes, actually. Here.
A place to change afterwards? Nope.
Rewards in the area: Poka`i Bay, of course. Stop in for a dip, maybe something to drink. It’s a great beach for just sitting.
You’d run this route when…. you’re training for the TransRockies Run. When your thighs need a good reminded of who’s the boss. When just running 4.5 miles is enough.
My rating: 7. It’s good, but it’s a lot.
Music: Stuff from the late 70’s. Black Sabbath. Iron Maiden. When I ran into the bulls, I had Johnny Rotten piping into my ears, and that was followed by some classic Rolling Stones.
Weather / Trail warnings (no) / Permits (not required)