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Pali Notches

#1

There are a few hikes on Oahu that I had on my “not going to attempt” list. Up until a week ago the Pali Notches was one of them as it has a reputation for being very dangerous. If you’re driving up the Pali Highway from town you can see two notches cut in the narrow ridgeline. The notches are man-made. They were created by warriors of ancient Oahu to house cannons when defending attacks from Nu’uanu Valley. In 1795, King Kamehameha’s warriors disabled these cannons in the Battle of Nu’uanu which helped him conquer Oahu.

So, if the ancient Hawaiian warriors were able to hike the notches then at least it’s possible. But, a Hawaiian warrior I am not. Nevertheless, some friends were hiking this trail last weekend and I decided to give it a shot. The trail is short yet intense. It’s known as one of the most dangerous trails on the island because of the descent down the second notch. It’s a vertical down-climb and there’s no rope to assist you. And, even if you bring your own rope, there’s nothing to attach it to.

It was a difficult hike indeed yet we made it.

DISCLAIMER:  The trail and activity descriptions are given to showcase the beauty of the Hawaii outdoors. This information is not intended to give specific advice on any trail or activity nor is it a recommendation to attempt the trail or activity.  The writer and/or publisher of this website is not responsible for any accidents, injuries, rescues, inconvenience, or loss of life by anyone attempting any of the hikes or activities on this website. It is the responsibility of the reader to use common sense and good judgment by interpreting and using the information to safely enjoy any outdoor activities. Hiking and any outdoor activity can be dangerous and has many potential hazards. It is up to each individual to know their limits, abilities and level of expertise before attempting any outdoor activity.

#2

This is the bamboo forest just before the parking lot.

#3

The Pali Notches trailhead is unmarked. You make your way up a steep slope through the forest and through a mesh of tangled hau trees.

#4

You gain elevation fast and get an awesome view.

#5

We took tons of pictures.

#6

The first notch comes up right away. If you didn’t take any breaks to soak in the view, you could probably reach the first notch withing 25 minutes.

#7

As the trail continues there are some narrow sections but luckily for us, there was very little wind on this day. I’m not sure if this hike would have been possible if the winds were gusting as they normally do at the Pali Lookout.

#8

And this is the infamous second notch. You’ll see it right after you come out of the first one. This is where things get real.

#9

We sent Jenelyn down first to check out (she’s a fearless trailblazer). The tricky thing about climbing down this notch is that it’s a vertical wall made up of crumbly rock. There is a way to get down it if you know the specific hand and foot holds to use. But since this was our first time, Jenelyn had to figure it all out on her own.

#10

This is what she had to climb down. This is truly dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. It probably took around an hour to get the whole team down the notch. We had to figure out the safest route and then guide each other down slowly.

#11

Getting out of the second notch is a different story. Just climb up this short wall and you’re out.

#12

The base of each notch is a fairly level floor. Perfect for a cannon to be placed in.

#13

Once you’re past the second notch you can continue on down the ridge until you reach the Chimney.

#14

The ridge gets narrow at parts.

#15

And of course, the view is incredible.

#16

To get to the Chimney you can either scale this bump in the ridge (above Troy’s head) or take the low road on the side of the ridge. We took the low road.

#17

You’ll a faint path that will lead you up to the base of the Chimney.

#18

This is the Chimney. People climb up this to get to a ridge called Konahuanui. It’s nuts. For us, it served as a end point where we rested and ate our snacks.

#19

Now, you simply turn around and go back the same way you came.

 

#20

Climbing up the second notch, while still dangerous, is easier than climbing down.

#21

It helped tremendously to have a rope we could use to hoist all our gear up.

#22

Climbing this with a backpack full of water and camera gear would change everything.

#23

And now the first notch.

#24

From here you can see the Pali Lookout parking lot and you’re 20 minutes from your car.

DISCLAIMER:  The trail and activity descriptions are given to showcase the beauty of the Hawaii outdoors. This information is not intended to give specific advice on any trail or activity nor is it a recommendation to attempt the trail or activity.  The writer and/or publisher of this website is not responsible for any accidents, injuries, rescues, inconvenience, or loss of life by anyone attempting any of the hikes or activities on this website. It is the responsibility of the reader to use common sense and good judgment by interpreting and using the information to safely enjoy any outdoor activities. Hiking and any outdoor activity can be dangerous and has many potential hazards. It is up to each individual to know their limits, abilities and level of expertise before attempting any outdoor activity.

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This story was last modified on March 30, 2015. (Originally published in March 2011.)

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