Poamoho Hele Loa and the Poamoho Ridge Trail

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.

My Google Earth file: here
My Garmin file: here

Facilities
Water? Nope
Toilets? Nope
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.

Rewards in the area:  3 taco plate at Just Tacos in Mililani (map).  It was about $50 for the three of us to each have this, but man did it hit the spot.

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.

Weather / Trail warnings (no) / Permits (required)

More reading: here and here and here Flickr: here More photos: here and here Videos: here and here Na Ala Hele site: here

Running the Ridges of Hau`ula

Summary:  Up the windward side, just south of the Polynesian Cultural Center and the mo’o of Lāʻie, is the town of Hau`ula.  It’s home to two great ridges with state trails, and they’re both well worth the drive.  The Papali Trail on the Ma`akua Ridge features great trail running, lots of ascent and descent, and great places to see the sun rise, while the  Hau`ula Loop Trail skirts across from the Kipapau Valley and have some great ironwood forest.  There’s lots of shade, and cool temperatures prevail in large part to the gentle breezes.

The Good:  The trails are empty;  Hau`ula is definitely off the beaten path, and few venture out that far up the windward coast just to go hiking.  The trails are both in good shape right now; the Na Ala Hele volunteer crew has been out on the Papali Trail recently and touched up some spots.  At less than 3 miles, each loop is a pretty decent length and when strung together, they make a nice ~7 mile run.  The elevation change makes these loops a challenge, but not some insane punishment session; the loop trailheads are at about 100 feet of elevation, and each loop crosses two ridges and peak somewhere around 750 feet of elevation.  Access to the state beach, just down the road from the access road, is an incredible plus; not only is it stunningly beautiful itself, it has clean bathrooms, good parking, nice outdoor showers (that were cool but not cold), and conveniently just down from a 7-11.

The Bad:  This is trail running, so, no, it’s not smooth.  I busted up an ankle pretty good on a rock on the Hau`ula Loop Trail, not long after I’d caught a toe on a loop of tree root that almost sent me over the edge and down into the ravine.  For a trail run, these are good, good trails — they’re just not the bike path on the North Shore.

The Ugly:  Nothing.  It’s a great running area, with great support nearby and awesome places to go to watch the sun come up.  Nothing ugly about it.

Type of route:  Trail.  Oh, and hills.
Good to run in the rain? Yes.  Though the trails are cut into the side slope, they’re pretty wide — wide enough to make me comfortable enough to say go run them in the rain — just take someone with you.

Length: I did both loops and went up the gulch, to where the road is blocked.  All told, that and back out to the beach was 7 miles.

Options for the route: You could hop the fence and run the old & CLOSED gulch trail, but don’t do it.  They closed that trail in 1999, due to the flash flood danger, and it’s not been maintained since.  Cough cough.

Elevation change on the run: Beach to about 750 feet.  Twice
Water used: 2 liters.

Where to start: Hau‘ula Beach Park.  From there, it’s up Hau`ula Homestead Road and straight into the access road (just keep going straight, when Hau`ula Homestead Road bends left)
Where to park: Same
Point your car’s GPS towards:  Hau‘ula Beach Park, Hauula, HI 96717

My Google Earth file: here
My Garmin file: here

Facilities
Water? At Hau‘ula Beach Park.
Toilets? At Hau‘ula Beach Park.
Medical care? No.
Ranger / park folks? No.
Picnic areas? Yes — at Hau‘ula Beach Park and up on Papali Trail.
A place to change afterwards? At Hau‘ula Beach Park.

Rewards in the area:  I’d recommend you pack some breakfast, and take your reward at sunrise.

You’d run this route when….  you want some strength training.  When you have enough time to drive out there.  When you want to run longer, but need a way to cut it shorter just in case.

My rating:  8.  It’d score higher with me if there were options for going longer.

Music: I told my iPod that I thought Keali`i Reichel would be most appropriate to play.  It said no, and gave me a lot of Green Day.  I still think Keali`i Reichel would have been better.

Weather / Trail warnings (generic) / Permits (not required)

More reading: here and here and here. Flickr: here and here. More photos: here and hereState Park Info: here and here

Manana Trail

Summary: The Manana Trail is a state / country trail in the Pearl Ridge area, that heads mauka (towards the mountains) up the Koʻolau Range.  While it’s close to six miles to hike all the way to the ridge, the lower first few miles of the trail make for some great running.  It offers easy access, great views, rolling ascent and wide, safe paths.

The Good:  The first three miles of this trail is good.   It’s a nice, rolling climb from about 1000 feet of elevation, up to about 1600 feet of elevation.  Nice wide trails, the route is well marked and easy to follow.  It mixes lots of shade with open areas of panoramic views.  And on a nice and sunny day, this is a beautiful place to go run.  Mid way up, there’s even a camping area — a nice place to stop for a sit, though there’s no water or anything other than the clearing.

The Bad:  There are a few stretches of the trail that are narrow, with a drop off on both sides.  Not that this is necessarily a bad thing – it’s probably just not for everyone.  Also, parking is at the end of a residential street — I always feel guilty, parking in front of someone’s house when I head out running (though I do try and police up the trash in the area, and leave it better than I found it).  Did I mention dog poop?  Yep — some of them, unfortunately. Did I mention pig hunting? I don’t see it as a problem — I’ve never had a bad experience with hunters on the trails. But it is a hunting area.

The Ugly:  Have you noticed that I’ve been talking about the first three miles of this trail?  Well, after the three mile  mark is stops being running and turns into hiking.  Or mountain climbing.  If you’re wanting a run longer than 6 miles round trip, this isn’t it.  If you want to run to the top, this isn’t the trail for you.

Type of route: Trail run
Good to run in the rain? Yes, for the first 3 miles.  After that, no.

Length: 6 to 12 miles; I recommend just the 6.

Options for the route:  Yes — one.  There’s a split off, to go down to the Waimano Pool.  Take caution, though — it’s a steep hike down, and a mean hike back up.  If it’s raining, or been raining, it’ll be slick.  More info, here.

Elevation change on the run: Three miles will be about 600 feet of elevation gain.
Water used: A solid two liters.

Where to start:  At the end of Komo Mai Drive
Where to park:  Same.  be sure not to block the circle at the end — emergency vehicle access, so you’ll get a ticket / towed.
Point your car’s GPS towards:  Komo Mai Drive, Pearl City, HI 96782 (here)

My Google Earth file: here
My Garmin file: here

Facilities
Water? No
Toilets? No
Medical care? No
Ranger / park folks? No.
Picnic areas? Yes (via).  Mid way up, at the camp site.
A place to change afterwards? No.  Which is a bit awkward — doing a deck change outside someone’s house is, well, awkward.

Rewards in the area:Try Miki’s (1001 Lehua Avenue, Pearl City, HI 96782-3334) for some grinds.

You’d run this route when….it’s a sunny, sunny day with some clouds that are mauka.

My rating:  8.  I look forward to running this one a few more times.

Music:  It needs to be something older, like the Squeeze (try this).

Weather / Trail warnings (yes) / Permits (not required)

More reading: here and here and here (great website).  Flickr: hereMore photos: here State Park Info: here

Keaiwa Heiau Loop Trail (aka Aiea Loop)

Summary: The Aiea Loop is a very nice, 4.5ish mile loop on the ridge up above the H3.  It’s certainly not flat, but it does run through a well-shaded area.  It’s a bit off the beaten path, and seems to only get the regular morning walking crowd, though hikers do show up from time to time.  This is definitely a hiking and running train; it’s not bike friendly in any way, shape or form.  You’ll pass the heiau on your way in; it’s worth a stop on the way out, both for the signs to read and a chance to see it (it’s a good shape).

The Good: Trail.  It’s all trail.  No pavement, no steps, no hand rails, nothing.  Quiet and peaceful, this is a nice area away from the world, perfect for running.  You’ll likely see a few people out on your run, but really, it’s solitude; even the groups of pig hunters and their dogs have been both isolated encounters, and pleasant ones (everyone, even the hunters, seem willing to say hello and stop to chat).  The coolness of the morning seems to linger a bit longer on the trail, making it a pretty good place to run later in the morning, too.  And the length is about right — at 4.5ish miles, it’s not hard (I would think) for most to get through this in an hour.  The route itself is also pretty self-evident; there are no markers, but I really don’t think any are needed.  I think you’d be hard-pressed to get lost.  Lastly, the facilities there are indeed good enough to support running; there’s no shower or anything, but there are well kept, clean bathrooms in which to change afterward, as well as water fountains.

The Bad: It’s not flat, by any means.  And I’m not referring to elevation change — I’m talking about the trail itself.  This is no city bike path; there are some places where the trail have a pretty decent angle, heading off the side and down the ravine.  For the sure footed, this isn’t a problem; lose your footing, though, and you’d be in for a spill down the side.  can you lose your footing?  Yep — the trail is littered with roots.  Zoning out and running does not mean taking an eye off of where you’re putting down your feet.  Also, there are obstacles — there are a few places where fallen trees, well, have been left, with notches cut into them to facilitated getting over them.  On a good day, they can be a bit hairy; on a bad day, they can be rather ugly.

The Ugly:  The rain and the mud.  That uneven trail can get a bit slick in spots when it rains, and I’ve seen one guy come close to sliding right off the side and down the ravine, due to the slick mud.  Now, being part Labrador, I happen to love running trails in the rain, stomping through puddles and mud, the mud here might seem like the perfect thing.  Not so.  The closest I have come to dying on this trail was trying to get over a fallen tree, on a rainy and slick day; the approach to the tree was slick, the tree itself was slick, and the footing on the other side was slick as well.  Good runs, I think, should leave you with a fresh review of your life’s history, of what you did right and what you did wrong; I had that that day.  Good runs shouldn’t mean slowing your pace, to keep from falling to your death.


Type of route: trail
Good to run in the rain? Only if your life insurance is up to date and you’re really, really into trail running

Length: Around 4.5 miles.  The park sign says 4.8, but I find that suspect.

Options for the route:  Nope, though I did spent one fine Sunday out there running back and forth, from one parking lot to the other, for about 3 hours .

Elevation change on the run:  It drops down to about 800′ elevation, and tops out at about 1600′ at the highest point .
Water used: 1.5 liters .

Where to start: Keaiwa Heiau State Recreation Area (here)
Where to park:  At the parking lot all the way at the end of the road.  There’s a good fountain there, a nice and clean bathroom, and a nice picnic area that’s perfect for a cool-down.
Point your car’s GPS towards:  99-1849 Aiea Heights Dr, Aiea, HI 96701.  The cross-street is Uluaau Drive.

My Google Earth file: here
My Garmin file: here

Facilities
Water? Yes
Toilets? Yes
Medical care? Nope
Ranger / park folks? Yes, at the entrance (often).
Picnic areas? Yes, and even camping areas.
A place to change afterward? Yes, in the good & clean bathrooms

Rewards in the area:  Plate lunch at the Aiea Bowl.

You’d run this route when….it’s August, and hot, and you’re getting a late start to the morning after having slept in.  Or, when you want a nice, quiet, away-from-people trail run, some place where you can turn up the music and tune out the people.

My rating:  8

Music:  George Thorogood.  This would also be the place to play Whitesnake, or the Go-Go’s, because you just won’t run into someone who will ask, What are you listening to?

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

More reading: here and here and hereHere‘s some info on the crash.   Flickr: here and hereMore photos: here and here.   State Park Info: here and here.

Upper Waimano Trail

The Waimano Trail is one of the Na Ala Hele trails maintained by the city / county of Honolulu.  There is an upper and a lower Waimano Trail; the lower is on the floor of a valley, and heds in the direction of a waterfall, and the upper trail mostly stays up on the ridges and heads farther up towards the Ko`olau ridgeline.  The lower trail does link back to and connect with the upper trail, forming a loop and allowing access in the direction of the Ko`olau ridgeline.

This is trail running.  There’s not a lick of cement anywhere along this; no sidewalks, no bike paths, nothing but dirt and the wilds.  In fact, it’s hiking country — it’s not even very good running terrain.  As a hiking trail, it’s probably fair to decent; as a running trail, well, it’s slightly above average.

It’s good, in that it’s shady and features cool temperatures.  It’s good in that some stretches of it are nice and wide with long views of the trail ahead.  It’s good in that it’s a nice climb that it’s a killer. But it suffers for all the roots and rocks and uneven footing. It suffers for the overgrowth that now (JAN 2010) hide the trail itself out past the 3.3 mile mark; the grass and plants are so thing and high, you can make out the general direction of where to go but can’t see the ground well enough to know what your footing will be (it’s described by the country as only being “periodically maintained”).  And it suffers for the thin, thin sections that make swift footed movement a challenge, and it suffers for its mud and slippery surfaces.

This is a route for a Saturday morning 10km run, when all you’ve been able to do is run streets during the week.  It’s a place to go when it’s cloudy without a threat of actual rain.  It’s a place to go when summer is starting to settle in and the temperatures are rising, and you want / need someplace cool to go for sanctuary.  It’s a good 10km running route, and it’s a route that will let you run some as you hike the 15 or 16 miles up to the peak (much less running after the initial 3.3 mile mark). It is not one to run in the rain.

The 10km route — out 3.3 miles and back, all on the Upper Waimano Trail route, I’d give a 7.  Not hard, not in too bad of shape, not too dangerous.  The route I initially did — out and back 6 miles — is a straight up 5;  sure, I do it again, but if there was something better or something else I had not tried, I’d just as soon go do that.

A word of caution.  Not only does this route pose risks from the running surface — you’re very likely to fall off the trail, or trip on something, or encounter aliens — it’s also adjacent to a hunting area.  Between the Waimano Trail and the Manana Trail across the valley is a seasonal hunting area; it’s well worth checking not only the weather forcast for rain / flash flood chances, but also to see if the hunt is on.  A sprained ankle sure ruins a run, but a bullet to the gut would probably be worse.

Oh, and bring whatever you need; there’s no support for this route.  No toilets, no faucets, no nothing.  If you’ve got the trots, this isn’t the run for you.  In 12 miles, I went through my 100 ounces of water.

Here’s the Garmin file (here) and here’s the Google Earth file (here).  Parking is on Waimano Home Road, in Pearl City.  The path is to the left of the gate; you can’t miss it.  There are few signs for the trail along the way, but there’s ample ribbon / tape marking the way.  The Upper / Lower Waimano Trail split happens pretty early on, and the loop itself is not more than a couple of miles total.

Here’s where the trail splits.  Note the chain link fence; the initial part of the Upper trail is run right along the fence and the road.  No, there’s no way to cheat and run the road instead.

There are some stretches of the trail, like this little piece early on in the route, that are downright scary.  This is all of a foot or two wide, with drop offs on both sides — cliff on the right, and water canal on the left.  If you’re sure footed, sure, you can just haul ass right on through this part; those rocks, though, get pretty slick with any moisture.

These two stretches are considered good parts of the trail.  Easy enough to see where you’re going to spot your foot, visibility far enough ahead to keep moving at a decent speed.  This is good running.

And this is bad running trail.  Shoot, this isn’t even good hiking trail.  Any time you need to cling to a rope or wire — and there are several places on this route like that — it’s kind of hard to maintain your running form.  High adventure, sure, but less than stellar running.

And this is the stuff that just plain sucks. Yeah, you can generally see the direction you’re headed, but there’s no way to move at any speed and see where to put down a foot.  It was in sections like this — several times — that I found myself facedown on the ground, hugging the trail, after putting my foot down over the edge and onto nothing.

But mostly it was like this:

Yes, that’s about one meter across, from the wall of the cliff on the right, to where it drops off again on the left.  There’s some trail to see, but not a lot.  It’s not smooth, but instead has lots of rocks and roots and stuff.  You can run, but not at full throttle, not if you want to ensure you don’t go flying off that cliff on the left (those thin trees won’t stop your plummet).

Ko`olau summit