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Waiau Ridge to Waimalu Middle Ridge

Oahu's Koolua Summit

We’re in central Oahu here looking at the Koolau summit. Our first objective is that peak in the middle. It’s the Waiau summit and it’s 6 miles away.

Hiking on Hawaii's Koolau Summit

At the Waiau summit we turn right and hike along the Koolau crest (sometimes called the Koolau summit trail) to the summit of Waimalu Middle Ridge. It’s that peak you see at the top of the photo.

Hiking in Hawaii on the Waimalu summit, Oahu, Hawaii

At the top of Waimalu there’s a wide open meadow.

Hiking down Waimalu Middle Ridge, Oahu, Hawaii

A long hike in Hawaii connecting two central Oahu ridges.

Finally, we descend Waimalu Middle Ridge down into the valley (back towards central Oahu) and hike to civilization via the Waimalu Ditch Trail. We completed this 10 mile hike in just under 12 hours.

This hike happened back in June. Kaleo Lancaster (Island Trails) coordinated a hike with a bunch of other folks and I ended up tagging along. The plan was to have a bunch of people start at different places and then meet up at the top of Waimalu.

Kaleo put in a lot of research and planning into this one. You can’t just show up to the trailhead and do this one. It’s important to read up on all the trails and make sure you know the way. He and Ryan Chang also stashed some water along the trail a few weeks earlier so we could refill our hydration packs. (Other hikers have refilled using treated stream water.)

This hike is long and grueling. When we were done I was exhausted and my legs were in shambles. Was it worth it? Absolutely.

The trailhead for Waiau is in a neighborhood in Pearl City off of Ka’ahumanu Street. Our group: Keoni Napoleon, Lei Yamasaki, Kaleo Lancaster and myself. We would meet up a bunch of other people at the top of Waimalu though.

The Waiau Ridge Trail was recently reopened by the Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club (HTMC) last year. It had been overgrown and unhikable for 3 years until the HTMC took it upon themselves to clear a path. You can read about the trail clearing here.

The HTMC brings weed whackers out to clear trail and they are certainly effective.

Enjoy the wide open trail while you can.

The trail soon becomes less defined and follows the ridgeline up and down and down and up.

We tried to move at a fast pace since we knew this hike would take all day. Waiau Ridge is difficult but good fun. Later sections of the trail are overgrown though and you do get scratched up.

Towards the end of Waiau Ridge be prepared for some steep inclines. In some sections, your not really hiking. You’re climbing straight up using branches and roots to pull yourself up the side of the hill. At this point two other hikers joined the group. Well, actually they just blew right past us. They were Laredo Muredo (pictured above) and Pat Rorie.

Looking back toward central Oahu we could see that we’ve come a long way.

But the summit was still far off.

When we finally reached the summit we found Pat and Laredo waiting for us. The wind was whipping hard.

The view from the Koolau summit wakes you up and reminds you why you put on your hiking shoes that morning.

You get a full on panoramic view of the windward side.

After a quick break and taking massive amounts of photos, it was time to make our way to the Waimalu summit. Pat and Laredo led the way. These guys hike so damn fast.

The trail is just the spine you see there. It’s mostly vegetation your walking on. This is extremely dangerous hiking by the way. (Notice Pat and Laredo are visible in the photo above.)

One must watch one’s step.

One thing that helps though is that the wind pushes you away from the sheer drop offs on your left.

We’re almost at that huge meadow.

This is the huge meadow. The ground is spongy here.

At the summit we found some friends. Pete Clines, Chase Norton and August Smith had hiked there from Aiea Ridge. We ate lunch and talked story for a bit.

The clouds opened up for a few minutes giving us a peak at the view of the windward side of the island.

Looking toward central Oahu, we could still only see clouds. We would begin our descent down Waimalu Middle Ridge into the mist.

The clouds made this narrow ridge look mysterious and beautiful really.

The crew had grown.

It had been a rainy morning and with all the clouds in the sky, we all brought rain jackets on the hike. Not a normal necessity in Hawaii.

We could see the ridge better once we had descended below the cloud line.

Now, whereas Waiau Ridge was mostly clear, Waimalu Ridge was a different story. There was a lot more over growth to push through as we descended into the valley.

At the bottom of the valley we crossed a few stream beds. Kaleo told that when he had come out here to stash water just a few weeks ago, the streams were flowing strong.

This stream had some standing water.

Green algae is nice to look at, but looked funky to swim in.

After resting our weary knees (the first thing to go when hiking downhill) we proceeded to hike out of the valley via the Waimalu Ditch Trail.

One should note that this part of the trail is long. From this point on, to get out of the valley takes roughly, forever.

This tiny switchback was a sight for sore eyes.

We were finally exiting the trail. Up there is a street called Onikiniki Place. We had placed a car there in the morning before driving to the starting trailhead.

In that car was something that I had been craving for the last hour. Something that would bring me great joy. In that car was a pair of slippers.

More info on this hike:

This story was last modified on October 13, 2013. (Originally published in August 2012.)

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