Summary: Poamoho Ridge Trail is a 3.5 or so mile ascent up the ridge to the top of the Koʻolau Range, after a 6.5 mile trip up the Poamoho Hele Loa Road. The trip requires a special permit from the State, as the route crosses land belonging to the Dole Plantation, the US Military, and the State itself. The road itself is very well suited for running, and two-thirds of the ridge trail can easily be run as well; the last portion of the ridge trail is unmaintained, and is better suited for walking / hiking, but it still well worth it. With the permit requirement (and limit to five permits per weekend day), this is not just a wonderful route, it’s also one that is quiet and a place to go with a small group knowing you won’t see many (if any) others. From the trail-head, the route is about 18 miles round trip and rises from 1100 feet elevation to 2600 feet.
Background (me and this trail): I first started toying with the idea of running this route when I first started to spend some time on the Na Ala Hele website, which is about the State trail system. It’s listed as a state hiking trail, but a few things caught my attention. Like the need for a permit. That it goes through the forest. That it’s only periodically maintained. That the Poamoho Hele Loa is 4×4 only. I knew that those were just sirens calling to me, but that to others, they’d be a turn off — you have to plan ahead to go run this? You can’t just get up and go on a whim? Just running the ridge trail would be a 10km run (or maybe hike), but running the whole thing would be about 20 miles — who does that? Well, I do, I thought. I knew I should not run the route alone (few others on it, isolated, ridges with cliffs, unmaintained, etc), but I wasn’t sure I could talk others into doing this with me. I hope this post is ammunition for others to talk their friends into doing this with them.
The Good: This 20 mile run has three parts: road, 2 miles of lower trail, and 1 mile of upper trail. The road is great running. It’s a good ascent, with the road taking you up about half the elevation of the ridge, and it’s well maintained, making it easy to run. It’s not good, it’s great. No one is going to try and run any real length of Maunawili while three-across; you can do that here. The ridge trail is 3 miles long, and the first two aren’t good, they’re great, too — nice and wide, solid shoulders, great views, plenty of trees providing shade. Even running on a day of sprinkles after a night of rail, we didn’t have slippage issues during those first 2+ miles of the lower trail. And yes, it is as isolated as I had expected, and hoped; we saw one set of hunters just once (there were two sets out), and one group of hikers (they drove up the road to hike the last part), but other than that, we had the mountain and trail to ourselves. And probably the nicest surprise was, as a military member, parking at the gym on the Helemano Military Reservation, and having a great gym at which to clean up after the run. And one last thing — the permit. It’s free, and can be done by mail or fax — which is awesome.
The Bad: Cows loose on the trail. I have cow and bull issues, I know, but there were some (4) that were out and about, and giving us the stink-eye. We paused and waited, and they moved on. Also bad for running is the last mile or so of the trail; it’s not suitable for running, for the most part. After 9 miles to get there, though, it’s totally worth it to hoof it up that last mile, both to get to the top and to take in the views. Oh, and you’re going to get dirty. There’s no two ways about that – running or hiking. For me, that’s fine — par for the course, really — but if you’re not expecting it, you’ll be surprised.
The Ugly: If the sun is out in full force, this’d be a cooker of a run. On a cloudy day, we all drained our camelbaks; I can only imagine what it’d be like on a hot, sunny day.
Type of route: Dirt road and trail
Good to run in the rain? Yes, if you’re already comfortable with that.
Length: about 18.5 from trailhead to the top and back; it’s 20, from the gym.
Options for the route: Nope.
Elevation change on the run: 1100 feet to 2600 feet. Mostly gradual, not too many steep areas.
Water used: The full 3 liters.
Where to start: When you get your permit, they’ll tell you that.
Where to park: You can park near the trail head, or near the gym (like we did). Or, you can drive the road and just run the trail.
Point your car’s GPS towards: Wait and see.
Medical care? Nope. Cell phone coverage all the way up, though.
Ranger / park folks? Nope.
Picnic areas? Nope
A place to change afterwards? We did, at the gym.
You’d run this route when…. you love running on this island, and you have friends just are as crazy as you. When you’ve already run most all of the other Na Ala Hele trails, and decide that, really, you need to try and run them all. When you need a run that will push you a little farther than normal.
My rating: 10. I would run this again today.
Music: None. Won’t need it, probably won’t want it.