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Best Hikes On Oahu: The Kamananui Valley Trail

Basic Information

  • What: Kamananui Valley Trail
  • Where: Moanalua Valley, Oahu
  • Distance: 8.5 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1,093 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • More Information: HawaiiTrails.com

Picture from the Kamananui Valley, Oahu

Topographic Map of the Kamananui Valley Trail

Picture from the Kamananui Valley, Oahu

Google Earth Image of the Kamananui Valley Trail

Kamananui Valley Trail Google Earth Map

Narrative

Being new to Hawaii I decided I wanted to hike a trail with a well defined path in order to get a better feel for hiking in the islands.  The trail I settled on was the Kamananui Valley Trail because of its a well defined trail, which is actually a dirt road and the fact it is still a long challenging hike of 8.5 miles.  The trailhead for this hike is located at the end of the Moanalua Valley.  This valley is accessed off of the H1 at the Moanalua Valley exit 19B.  Once off the highway follow the signs up Moanalua Valley to where the road ends at the Community Park:

The park is open from 7AM to 7PM.  The day I hiked the trail a lady had already opened the gate to the park at 6:30AM.  If the gate is not open you can park in the neighborhood and just walk into the park. It was dark when I began the hike, but here is a picture of what the park looks like during the day:

Picture from the Kamananui Valley, Oahu

At the back of the park the gate to the trail is easily spotted:

Picture from the Kamananui Valley, Oahu

The trail is a wide dirt road that is used by utility workers to access powerlines that travel across the Ko’olau Mountains via this valley:

Picture from the Kamananui Valley, Oahu

Along the trail there are some really good signs that explain both the human and natural history of the valley:

Picture from the Kamananui Valley, Oahu

According to the sign, Moanalua is said to be named for two encampments at taro patches where travelers rested near a spring.  The kalo leaves grown there were huge and kept for the chiefs.  The ahupua’a was rich,with five fishponds, four heiau, and many acres of lo’i in the lowland areas of Moanalua Stream.  Research done by the Bishop Museum discovered evidence that even the upper portions of the valley were populated at one time due to the discovery of agricultural terraces.  It is believed that the ravages of disease and warfare on Oahu in the early 1800’s caused the population in the valley to decline and eventually abandon their farms.  Of interest is that near the start of valley there are the remains to the home once owned by a man named Douglas Damon.  It was dark when I went by the side trail leading to the home, but a made a mental note to check it out on my way back. However, the evidence of a home in this valley can be seen by the few old bridges that are still visible that cross the stream:

Picture from the Kamananui Valley, Oahu

Further up the trail I came to an interesting sign that explained how a rock with ancient Hawaiian petroglyphs on it named the Pohakukaluahine Stone prevented this valley from having the H-3 Interstate built through it:

Picture from the Kamananui Valley, Oahu

It is amazing to think that this beautiful valley was almost a highway, but the H-3 had to be built somewhere and that somewhere ended up not being Moanalua Valley because of a rock:

Picture of the Pohakukaluahine

Here is a close up look at one of the petroglyphs on the rock:

Picture of the Pohakukaluahine

You can read more about the Pohakukaluahine Stone at the below link:

Places on Oahu: The Pohakukaluahine Stone

At the two mile mark the trail comes to a clearing that provides views of the mountains surrounding the valley:

Picture from the Kamananui Valley, Oahu

This is where most people hike to and turn around at to make this a nice 4-mile hike.  However, I wanted to hike to the very end of the road and see what was back there.  So I continued up the road and not long after the clearing it became very muddy:

Picture from the Kamananui Valley, Oahu

I was very happy that I had my Danner Crater Rims on to help walk through all the mud.  As I continued up the trail I did enjoy seeing the sunrise through the trees when I could:

Picture from the Kamananui Valley, Oahu

At about the 2.5 mile mark of the hike I came to the traihead for the Kulana’ahane Trail:

Picture from the Kamananui Valley, Oahu

The Kulana’ahane Trail leads to the Moanalua Saddle on the Ko’olau Mountains which provides sweeping views of the east coast of Oahu.  You can read about this hike at the below link:

Best Hikes on Oahu: The Kulana’ahane Trail

Today my goal was just to hike to the end of the valley on the dirt road:

Picture from the Kamananui Valley, Oahu

As I continued up the dirt road it seemed I crossed over countless little streams that flow down the Moanalua Valley:

Picture from the Kamananui Valley, Oahu

As I continued deeper into the upper reaches of the valley the trail began to become overgrown in some areas:

Picture from the Kamananui Valley, Oahu

The overgrowth eventually went away, but the trail was definitely becoming less defined:

Picture from the Kamananui Valley, Oahu

Eventually the dirt road that was the trail just stops.  This appears to be where utility workers park and then hike to reach the various power poles in the upper portion of the valley because there was now small trails leading in multiple directions.  I decided to follow one of the primitive trails that had some orange flagging:

Picture from the Kamananui Valley, Oahu

As i hiked up the trail I noticed this sign that the US Army had for traps they installed to kill rodents:

Picture from the Kamananui Valley, Oahu

Sure enough I would see a few of these traps along the trail:

Picture from the Kamananui Valley, Oahu

The trail became more overgrown as I continued to hike up it:

Picture from the Kamananui Valley, Oahu

Eventually I hit this dry rock creek bed:

Picture from the Kamananui Valley, Oahu

From here it appeared that I would have to start scrambling up this rock creek bed.  I decided to try that some other day when I had a hiking partner because the rocks were wet and extremely slippery.  I did not want to slip and injure myself this deep into the mountains with no one around.  So I decided to turn around and head back to the trailhead.  On the way back down I made sure to take the time to appreciate some of the plants I saw along the way.  I think this is a ti plant:

Picture from the Kamananui Valley, Oahu

In the upper valley I also spotted a lot of kukui nuts:

Picture from the Kamananui Valley, Oahu

I found these nuts to be as hard as rocks, but they are actually very important to Hawaiian culture because the oil in them was used as a fuel to light torches.  It was often the responsibility of children to keep the torches lit with kukui nut oil while the elders “talked story” among themselves at night.  This allowed the children to over hear and learn the stories from their elders while they worked.  The kukui nut oil also has a number of medicinal properties as well that are still used in many products today such as a conditioner or shampoo.  Here is what the kukui tree looks like:

Picture from the Kamananui Valley, Oahu

Another tree I spotted was a coconut tree which I saw very few of on my hike:

Picture from the Kamananui Valley, Oahu

On closer inspection I could see the coconuts growing up in the tree:

Picture from the Kamananui Valley, Oahu

The hike back down the valley was very quick and soon enough I found myself back at the clearing with beautiful blue skies above me:

Picture from the Kamananui Valley, Oahu

As I hiked the last two miles back to the trailhead I noticed that some sections of the trail are composed of old cobblestone that was constructed by the Damon family:

Picture from the Kamananui Valley, Oahu

I also noticed some terraces along the side of the road that may have been where farm fields were once located at:

Picture from the Kamananui Valley, Oahu

Something else I noticed on the hike back was this small picnic area about a half mile from the trailhead:

Picture from the Kamananui Valley, Oahu

Towards the end of my hike I decided to take the side trail I saw earlier to check out Douglas Damon’s old house. Damon was the son of an early Hawaiian businessman Samuel Damon who accumulated a fortune of wealth in banking.  Of interest is that the Damon family is the one that the movie “The Descendants” is loosely based off of.  The Damon family to this day continues to battle over nearly $1 billion in assets.

Samuel Damon

Today all that can be seen of Damon’s old home is the foundation:

Picture from the Kamananui Valley, Oahu

On the front of the foundation the stairs into the home can still be walked up:

Picture from the Kamananui Valley, Oahu

On top of the foundation only two things can be seen with the first being this small pedestal:

Picture from the Kamananui Valley, Oahu

I have no idea what it was used for, but it is still there withstanding the test of time.  The other thing that can be seen is the remains of the old fire place:

Picture from the Kamananui Valley, Oahu

Yes a fireplace in Hawaii of all places. Towards the back of the home are some old stairs that led to what was once a pool, but now has been reclaimed by the forest:

Picture from the Kamananui Valley, Oahu

One final thing I noticed at the house was that they had planted some bamboo around the property:

Picture from the Kamananui Valley, Oahu

From the house it was then a short walk back to the trailhead.  When I returned to the park, the parking lot was completely full with kids playing on the playground and basketball courts.  I made my way over to my truck to drive home and immediately somebody spotted me and waited for me to pull out so they could take my parking spot.  So this appeared to be a fairly popular park.

Conclusion

Overall the hike up the Kamananui Valley Trail was not difficult, but still long enough to provide a good work out.  I climbed 1,093 feet over 8.5 miles round-trip.  I saw plenty of lush scenery and a few mountain view.  I was surprised to find that this trail is not packed with hikers.  I probably saw about 15 other people on the trail and they were all on my way back down.  So the seclusion on such an easily accessible and improved trail was surprising.  However, like I mentioned before this a popular park so parking is limited. So arrive early to ensure a good parking spot.  Finally I have to say that I am impressed by the care and signage along the trail provided by the Moanalua Gardens Foundation.  This non-profit which was instrumental in stopping the construction of the H-3 has continued to do a good job making this trail an exceptional one for everyone to enjoy.

YOU CAN FIND MORE GREAT HIKES AT THE OAHU REGIONAL TRAIL FINDER:

Note: Further information about the Kuli’ou’ou Ridge Trail can be found in the below book:

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