This hike is a long and continuous uphill treck with excellent views of the valleys on either side of Tripler ridge ending in a spectacular view of the windward side of the island. The gradual inclination tends to make for a fairly easy ascent to the Koolau summit, but the length of the hike can make it very tiring. That, more than anything else, makes this an advanced hike.
The early portion of the hike is through heavily forested guava sections but the last third is mostly native flora with little overhead canopy. As a result you can expect a warm hike expecially on a hot summer day, hence the need to stay well hydrated.
As you begin the climb to the summit you will see on the left powerline poles coming up from the floor of Moanalua Valley. The power lines connect at the Koolau summit to triangular stanchions and plummet down to the windward side of Oahu. As you climb steeply up the mountain, you will eventually come to an open grassy area above the powerlines, where a trail comes in from below. This “powerline” trail leaves the valley floor from the dirt road you walked in on and is an alternative and much more difficult route to the summit.
After heart-breaking climbs to the top of two false summits, you see the true summit just ahead. After the final climb, you will reach a large open grassy area at the Koolau summit! If the sky is clear, you will have a commanding view of Kaneohe Bay and the windward coast with Haiku Valley and H-3 Highway directly beneath. Look around to see great views of Honolulu to the south and the Waianaae Mountains to the west.
For those who wish to make this arduous trek even more challenging, you may hike along the spine of the Koolau summit to connect with other trails. A left turn from Tripler ridge onto the Koolau summit trail will lead to the middle ridge of Moanalua Valley, Pu’u Keahi a Kahoe, and continues on to the top of Haiku Stairs. A right turn from Tripler ridge to the Koolau summit trail will take you to the summit of Bowman trail above Kalihi Valley.
But for those who have had enough, turn around and descend Tripler ridge the way you came. There are, however, several alternative routes back into Moanalua Valley including the previously mentioned “powerline trail”. However, the easiest way back is to return the way you came–through the spur you orginally ascended (the number 12 marker). The other routes bring you to down further into into Moanalua Valley and makes for a much longer
- Sections of this hike require short but steep and often muddy climbs.
- Hiking to the summit and back can take from four to six hours.
- On a hot day you must have sufficient food and water (suggest a minimum of 2-3 liters).