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.
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)