Closer to Home: Kamiloiki Ridge Trail

Mother’s Day 2016 began with breakfast in bed with the family and the lovely promise of a full day and 4 willing participants in whatever adventure my heart desired. With our Glacier/North Cascades/Olympic backpacking trip less than 8 weeks away (more on this soon!), hiking seemed a natural training choice. Hydration bladders were prepped; sunscreen was duly applied.

Kamiloiki Ridge Trail is not part of the state sanctioned Na Ala Hele trail system, and as a result, fewer are people are familiar with its existence. A 3.7 mile roundtrip hike that begins in Hawaii Kai and ends at the summit of the Koolaus, Kamiloiki Ridge Trail may not be as famous as other summit ridge trails on the eastern side of Oahu, but it’s every bit as beautiful. Running parallel to Mariner’s Ridge and Hawaii Loa Ridge trails, it offers similar views with far fewer crowds.

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Kamiloiki Ridge Trail, Oahu, Hawaii

The trail begins at the end of a dead end street in a suburban Hawaii Kai neighborhood. It doesn’t seem possible that a summit trail could begin in such a populated area, but that makes the surprise all the sweeter. After finding street parking, we made our way to Pahua Heiau, a sacred and protected ancient Hawaiian site at the end of the street.

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Pahua Heiau, Oahu, Hawaii

We offered a quiet prayer and respectfully requested permission to pass. Be aware that the trail is not at all obvious here; instead of heading toward the ridge, you skirt the left edge of the heiau through thick brush, eventually coming to the foot of Kamiloiki Ridge. Keep an eye out for the colored ribbons to stay on track.

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In search of colored ribbons, ascending Kamiloiki Ridge Trail

It was drizzling at this point, and the ascent up the ridge was a little precarious, both muddy and slick. The kids did well in spite of several long drops and sketchy footing in certain areas.

The rain stopped by the time we reached the top, thank goodness, and we were left with gray, overcast skies–ideal conditions, since 2/3 of this trail stretches across an exposed ridge.

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Along the ridge; Kamiloiki Ridge Trail

If you plan to do this hike, I would strongly recommend pants and a long-sleeved shirt. The prickly, overgrown brush that started out as a slight nuisance progressed quickly to complete aggravation; we all sustained some pretty nasty scrapes. Still, in spite of the brush, we had so much fun scrambling over waist-high rocks and testing our footing on the steep ups and downs. This hike is challenging but do-able for families with young children. Our 8-year-old doesn’t love flat multi-mile walks but tends to be amenable to hikes like this one with elevations gains and climbing challenges. There are natural resting areas along the ridge, though truth be told, I needed these rest stops (and oxygen!) far more than the kids did.

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Natural chair at the beginning of the trail; Kamiloiki Ridge
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Stopping for a breather, Kamiloiki Ridge Trail. Koko Head in the background.
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The view below; Kamiloiki Ridge Trail

The last 1/3 of the trail climbs through an ironwood forest. It’s noticeably cooler in the forest with soft iron wood needles carpeting the forest floor.

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Ironwood forest, Kamiloiki Ridge Trail

The ironwood forest is another area where it is easy to go astray, so be sure to follow the colored ribbons. Towards the end, there is a fun rope section where generous hikers left rope to assist with the final scramble up and down a muddy hill.

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Rope section, Kamiloiki Ridge Trail
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Descending the rope, Kamiloiki Ridge Trail

The wind was tremendous at the summit, exacerbated by the overcast skies and earlier rain. We quickly devoured a bag of well-earned gummy bears, enjoying our hard-won views of Waimanalo, Olomana, and beyond. Kamiloiki connects with other ridges along the Koolau Summit Trail (KST). Along with Kamehame and Mariner’s Ridge, Kamiloiki marks the third ridge the kids have summited in the east. The KST is sketchier and more exposed than its perpendicular cross trails, but we hope to be able to hike portions of the KST when the kids are a little older.

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View of Waimanalo, Kamiloiki Ridge Trail
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Too close to the edge for Mom’s comfort; Kamiloiki Ridge Trail

Tell me: what’s your favorite hike in Hawaii?

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7 thoughts on “Closer to Home: Kamiloiki Ridge Trail”

  1. Thank you so much for sharing your hike. So far I have only hiked Diamond Head on Oahu, which has beautiful views but lots of people. I will definitely do this one next time we visit that area.

    Looking forward to hearing about your future trip to Glacier/North Cascades/Olympic. We are visiting Glacier National Park at the end of May. I will be sure to post about it quickly with any good tips we learn so it is available to you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Tiffany! I’m very much looking forward to reading about your Glacier trip and would be grateful for any advice/tips you might have to offer. It will be our first time there, and though I’ve read guidebooks, nothing compares to firsthand accounts like yours.
      Diamond Head is an iconic Hawaii hike for sure! I hear you, though–the crowds can be unrelenting. I will try to post about other fun Hawaii hikes soon.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’d also love to hear your advice about Hawaii. I’m going to go back through my photos and gps to remember all of our favorite hikes there. We were in Glacier last year and ended up spending two nights on one side of the park then two on the other so it made our day on the road to the sun also a travel day. We loved the park.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d love to hear more about your Hawaii hikes. We’re “training” for our trip, so I’ll be writing more about local hikes soon. The one thing I’m not so keen on locally (at least on Oahu; Big Island trails are different) is that civilization is always in sight. The views are beautiful but not true wilderness, unfortunately. Love your Glacier itinerary! We’ll be doing something similar…1 night in West Glacier and 3 on the east side, with 1 day to travel GTSR (fingers crossed that it’ll be open). It’s been on our bucket list forever–can’t wait!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I just looked at our Glacier dates and we were there right at the start of July so the road was open. I’m starting a draft of Glacier since I didn’t write it up last summer. If your kids can hike Hawaii, then they’ll be fine in Glacier.

        Liked by 1 person

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