OK let’s just start by being honest. This is a one time only trail. Yes, we have done 100 milers and multiple Ultra distance runs and hikes, this trail made a few of those pleasurable. It’s not the terrain; it’s a slow steady climb to the Koolau Summit trail. It’s not the distance by any means. 6 .5 miles to the trailhead, 6 miles of trail to the summit and 8 miles of nicer trail across the summit and down to Laiea. So 20 miles give or take isn’t very far all things considered……but this beast is a mental grinder. We read about the overgrown nature of the trail. Only a handful of people have done this one over the last decade and the trail shows this lack of attention. We took along machete’s based on the warnings and were ever so happy we did. We spent about 5 hours once on the actual trail hacking Elephant Grass and ferns. I’ve done some remote trails that require some work to travel, but this on took the cake. Marc and I had to take turns in the front just to give the other person time to recover. The grass and ferns were 5-6 foot tall. A true beast of a trail that took 9 hours and left me beat down.
We started at the Boy Scout Camp at Pupukea at 7am. The sun was just rising and the air was crisp and cool. I had run the military road over to Helemano before so I knew it would be a roller coaster but nothing new. We started a bit fast to try and hit the trailhead in cool weather. I guess we should have read a bit more because we missed the trailhead and did an extra mile each way before even setting foot on the trail. The trail starts on the old military jeep road. We started out saying how easy it was. Too funny since we later ended the hike saying it was a blankity blank. No joking this trail is a bear. The portion on the old road is easy to follow, you never feel you could get lost. That said you have 8 foot tall elephant grass to chop or push through. Wear long pant or high socks, long sleeve shirts and have gloves. It will save you a lot of pain. We had two machete so we made quick work of the brush but it whips your butt to never have time to recover . The trail is also a haven for pigs . We saw several sows with piglets. CUTE yes but the damage they cause is terrible. Once you are in about 2-3 miles you will see where the single track trail cuts off to the left. It is quite clear and marked with ribbons. Now your real fun begins. The nice single track turns into a wall of ferns and overgrowth. We chopped our way for the next 3-4 miles. Follow this one piece of advice and always take the left side of ridge. The pigs have made trails that look like the main trail everywhere but the real trail is almost always the outside left trail. Follow the ribbons and stay left and after a few hours you will find the Koolau Summit Trail when you see the metal platforms that blew off the top at the old helicopter landing site on the summit.
From the summit make sure you cross the little valley and bear left up the hill to head towards Laie and the continuation oft he Koolau Summit Trail. The trail will contour the summit with great views of Laie. Just proceed until you hit a junction about 20-30 minutes in. It has a sign that reads “Laie”. Take this right and stay on the trail all the way down. From the summit you also hit an open trail and it soooooooo nice to be able to move fast and even run again.
The Laie Falls sign marks the falls about 2 miles down the trail. Stop and enjoy then head down to the road and Laie. It’s about 4 more miles of trail and old jeep roads to the finish. Have fun and be safe. For a nice hike go soon while it is open from our efforts in clearing the trail. Hike on!