Fortunately a friend was visiting from out of town. She was skeptical that a solid hike exists in Honolulu. In the city’s defense I quickly pointed out you just need to head up. Up a hill, that is.
That’s where you will find the Waahila Ridge Trail: a scenic footpath that separates the Manoa and Palolo Valleys.
Getting there is a bit of a challenge—you must navigate along the winding streets of St. Louis Heights. Once you arrive, though, it’s an abrupt departure from the crowded residential area you had go through to get there.
Another plus is the state recreation area that sits at the trail’s base. It comes with all the amenities of a state park: covered patios, bathrooms, water fountains and ample parking.
The most difficult leg of the hike comes at the beginning. As we traversed through a forest of ironwood trees, the path frequently alternated up and down. A recent rainfall left the forest bed damp and slick.
We went from the ironwood jungle to a lush section of fruiting trees and fiddlehead ferns. Here the trail quickly narrows, some spots no wider than a couple feet across. For those who may not want to go further, this section is prime for photo ops of the adjacent valleys.
From here the trail climbs steadily, sometimes steeply. Your persistence will be rewarded with views of Manoa Valley that extend out toward downtown Honolulu and the ocean beyond.
Keep hiking and you’ll reach a junction with a sign. If you take the path to your left and you will descend the Kolowalu trail into the lush interior of Manoa Valley. Consider having someone pick you up at the end of the trail as backtracking through Waahila can take you the better part of a day.
Or go right to continue your ascent. Eventually you will reach the summit of Mount Olympus where you will be treated to breathtaking views of Waimanalo and East Oahu.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have to time to do either, so I will be going back for more.
Photos: Kenna Miller