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Best Hikes on Oahu: The Moku’leia Access Road to Nike Missile Site

Basic Information

  • Name: Moku’leia Access Road to Nike Missile Site
  • Where: Moku’leia, Oahu
  • Distance: 10 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 2,207 feet
  • Time: 3-4 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • More Information: The Hikers Guide to O’ahu

Picture from Moku'leia Access Road

Moku’leia Access Road Topographic Map

Moku'leia Access Road Topographic Map

Moku’leia Access Road Google Earth Map

Moku'leia Access Road Google Earth Map

Narrative

One of my goals this year is to complete my first ever marathon.  In the past two years I have ran in three half marathons and I now feel ready to try a full marathon.  One of the problems with training for a marathon on Oahu is the lack of distance running locations that doesn’t involve dodging cars with their drivers often distracted by their smartphones or the scenery.  Fortunately I have finally found a place to train at that has no risk of being ran over by distracted drivers.  In The Hikers Guide to O’ahu I read about the Makua Rim hike.

This hike features a paved access road that leads to a campground.  At the campground their is a dirt road intersection that takes hikers to a lookout of the Makua Valley.  Instead of hiking to the lookout I planned to stay on the paved road and follow it to its end at an old US Army Nike Missile Battery.  To get to the trailhead I had to drive up to northwestern Oahu and drive west on the Farrington Highway to Moku’leia.  The trailhead is located on a road adjacent to the Dillingham Ranch:

The trailhead is not marked from the highway so the easiest way to spot it is to look for a grove of coconut trees on the left side of the highway:

Picture from Moku'leia Access Road

Parking is along the side of the highway which means the cars provides an additional landmark to spot this trailhead:

Picture from Moku'leia Access Road

At the entrance to the Moku’leia Access Road is a green gate that is normally locked to keep out motor vehicle traffic:

Picture from Moku'leia Access Road

A short walk from the gate is this large brown sign that explains that only hikers and bicycles are allowed on the road:

Picture from Moku'leia Access Road

This doesn’t mean there will not be vehicles on the road though.  During my hike I saw many Division of Forestry and Wildlife vehicles on the road.  I also saw some vehicles that appeared to be hunters who can apply for a permit to hunt in the hills along the road.  From the big, brown sign my run began with a long half mile stretch of straight road:

Picture from Moku'leia Access Road

I then came to another green gate that was open:

Picture from Moku'leia Access Road

After passing through the gate the road has a few curves in it and steadily picks up elevation as it nears the cliffs of the Waianae Range:

Picture from Moku'leia Access Road

The road soon made a sharp switchback and began to gain elevation up the adjacent cliffs:

Picture from Moku'leia Access Road

I then passed through another open gate where the road narrowed in size:

Picture from Moku'leia Access Road

As I gained elevation I began to be surrounded by lush vegetation along the road:

Picture from Moku'leia Access Road

This next picture gives a good indication of how lush the vegetation around the road really is:

Picture from Moku'leia Access Road

At the below building I stopped to take some pictures of the view:

Picture from Moku'leia Access Road

From the building I could see the North Shore village of Hale’iwa being rained on down below:

Picture from Moku'leia Access Road

Looking in the other direction I could see Dillingham Airfield where I had recently completed the Kealia Trail from:

Picture from Moku'leia Access Road

After a short pause to take in the view I continued my jog up the road:

Picture from Moku'leia Access Road

At this point it began to rain on me which I didn’t really mind since it cooled me down as I powered up the hillside:

Picture from Moku'leia Access Road

As I neared the campground I reached an area where a number of beautiful Cook pine trees could be seen:

Picture from Moku'leia Access Road

I next came to the gate of the campground:

Picture from Moku'leia Access Road

At the gate there is this large, brown sign designating the area as the Mokulea Public Hunting Area:

Picture from Moku'leia Access Road

Also at the gate are these nice signboards that the Division of Forestry and Wildlife have put up:

Picture from Moku'leia Access Road

One signboard describes the Mokuleia Forest Reserve:

Picture from Moku'leia Access Road

Another signboard shows the various trails in the area which are numerous and offer some of the best hiking on Oahu:

Picture from Moku'leia Access Road

The other signboard provides trail safety information to hikers:

Picture from Moku'leia Access Road

Across the street from the signboards is where the campground known as “Peacock Flats” is located at:

Picture from Moku'leia Access Road

The campground is a large grassy area with picnic tables and pit toilets:

Picture from Moku'leia Access Road

Peacock Flats looked like a really nice area to camp at for those willing to haul their camping gear 3.5 miles up the Moku’leia Access Road to the campground.  No open fires are allowed at the campground and there is even a Smokey Bear sign warning campers of the danger of forest fires in the area:

Picture from Moku'leia Access Road

The sign seemed a bit ironic considering the current rain and lush foliage.  However, there are times when the western side of the island can get quite dry.  From Peacock Flats there is a dirt road which is the beginning of the Mokuleia Trail:

Picture from Moku'leia Access Road

The Mokuleia Trail leads to a lookout of the beautiful Makua Valley on Oahu’s west coast.  Obviously with the clouds and rain there would be no views to see so I did not even consider jogging up the muddy dirt road.  Instead I stuck with my original plan of just jogging to the end of the paved road:

Picture from Moku'leia Access Road

From the campground I had another 1.5 miles to jog up to the Nike Missile Site.  The foliage around the road was especially lush as I got high up the mountain:

Picture from Moku'leia Access Road

After the campground the road actually descended a bit before beginning its steady ascent again.  The next landmark I hit was an intersection that takes hikers to the Kuaokala Trail:

Picture from Moku'leia Access Road

The Kuaokala Trail connects to the Kealia Trail that I had previously hiked:

Picture from Moku'leia Access Road

I will eventually get around to hiking the Kuaokala Trail as well.  The Kuaokala Trail begins at a US Air Force satellite tracking station that I saw during my previous hike to Kaena Point.  A sign at the trail intersection showed that the satellite tracking station was 4-miles away and the trailhead for the Kealia Trail was 4.2 miles away:

Picture from Moku'leia Access Road

After passing the trail intersection the steepness of the road began to increase as I neared the top of the hill:

Picture from Moku'leia Access Road

I next came to yet another green gate:

Picture from Moku'leia Access Road

Shortly after the gate I began to jog adjacent to a fence line which was a sign I was near the Nike missile site:

Picture from Moku'leia Access Road

I then came to the gate that was open that provided access to the old Nike missile site:

Picture from Moku'leia Access Road

Normally the gate is locked because the site has been taken over for use by the Division of Forestry and Wildlife.  As I walked into the site I saw this overgrown staircase:

Picture from Moku'leia Access Road

Here is a historical picture that shows what the Nike site would have looked like when it was operational in the 1960’s:

Nike Missile Site On Oahu

Here is a picture of the site today that I took from the top of the staircase:

Picture from Moku'leia Access Road

Here is a closer look at the structures and antenna farm on the top of the hill:

Picture from Moku'leia Access Road

The structure back in the 1970’s is where the radar dome for the Nike missile battery would have been located.  The actual missiles themselves were located below the hill at Dillingham Airfield:

Nike Missile at OA-84, Oahu

The remains of the old missile launch site at Dillingham Airfield is still visible on Google Earth:

Nike Site at Dillingham Airfield

I am going to have to walk over to the launch site at some point to take some pictures.  The Nike site was one of four that were established to defend Oahu from air attack by the former Soviet Union.  This particular site was called OA-84.  The sites were manned by the Hawaii Army National Guard from 1961-1970.  The signing of the START treaty between the US and the Soviet Union prohibited missile defenses which the Nike system had some capability of doing beside shooting down aircraft.  That is why in the 1970s all the Nike systems were scrapped across the US.

I next walked back down the stairs and over to a building that looked freshly painted and actively used by the Division of Forestry and Wildlife:

Picture from Moku'leia Access Road

Here is another picture looking back up at the antenna farm where I could see various people working at above:

Picture from Moku'leia Access Road

I did not want to walk up there and bother them plus it was raining heavily now and I decided it was best that I begin my jog back down the mountain:

Picture from Moku'leia Access Road

As I jogged back to Peacock Flats the skies were just pouring rain down on top of me:

Picture from Moku'leia Access Road

I was making good time though down the mountain and once I got below Peacock Flats I descended below the clouds and it stopped raining.  In fact I could see Hale’iwa in the distance and the switchbacks of the Moku’leia Access Road below me:

Picture from Moku'leia Access Road

The Cook pine trees on top of the cliff in the below photograph is approximately where Peacock Flats is located:

Picture from Moku'leia Access Road

As I continued to jog down the road I had some pretty stunning views of the clouds interacting with the surrounding cliffs:

Picture from Moku'leia Access Road

Picture from Moku'leia Access Road

This was definitely the most scenic part of my run that day:

Picture from Moku'leia Access Road

As I descended further I even caught a few glimpses of blue skies above the surrounding cliffs:

Picture from Moku'leia Access Road

The rain that morning really brought out how green the hillsides here are:

Picture from Moku'leia Access Road

Here is another view looking back towards the pine trees on top of the cliffs which is where Peacock Flats is approximately located at:

Picture from Moku'leia Access Road

Here is a panorama of the view from below the cliff line:

Picture from Moku'leia Access Road

Next the road began to descend into the adjacent ranch land:

Picture from Moku'leia Access Road

I soon found myself back on the long straight road leading back to the trailhead:

Picture from Moku'leia Access Road

Conclusion

After completing the run my Garmin Fenix GPS clocked me as running 9.98 miles with 2,207 feet of elevation gain in 2 hours and 31 minutes.  This time included all my stops to take pictures.  My goal is to get my time under two hours which I think is doable with more training on this road.  I will definitely be back to do more training because the Moku’leia Access Road offers many other long distance running courses such as up the Moku’leia Trail or across the ridgeline over to the Kealia Trail. I in fact plan to eventually run up the Moku’leai Access Road, take the ridgeline over to the Kealia Trail and descend down to Dillingham Airfield before running along the Farrington Highway back to my truck.  I estimate this to be about a 17 mile run on extremely steep and rough terrain.  If I can do that I feel pretty confident that I can complete the Honolulu Marathon.

For those not training for any race the Moku’leia Access Road is still worth checking out. The road makes for easy hiking conditions, but the elevation gain still makes it a moderate challenge for most people.  The elevation gain also means great views which I still had even while jogging in a rainstorm.  In good weather the views would be even better.  I highly recommend the Moku’leia Access Road to anyone looking for a moderately challenging hike with nice scenery and views of the North Shore.

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