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