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Best Hikes on Oahu: The Ma’akua Ridge Trail (Papali Trail)

Basic Information

  • Name: Ma’akua Ridge Trail (Papali Trail)
  • Where: Hau’ula, Hawaii
  • Distance: 4.0 miles
  • Max Elevation: 863 feet
  • Elevation Gain: 850 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Time: 2-3 hours
  • More Information: The Hikers Guide to O’ahu

Picture from the Makua Ridge Trail

Topographic Map of the Ma’akua Ridge Trail

Makua Ridge Trail Topo Map

Google Earth Map of the Ma’akua Ridge Trail

Makua Ridge Trail Google Earth

Narrative

I had previously hiked the Hau’ula Loop Trail and have been waiting for an opportunity to complete another trail in the area called the Ma’akua Loop Trail.  Like many other trails on Oahu this trail has another name it is sometimes called the Papali Trail as well.  The nearby Hau’ula Loop Trail ended up being a surprisingly fantastic hike considering how little publicity it receives.  I was hoping the Ma’akua Loop Trail would offer the same type of experience.  On a recent weekend I decided to make the drive up to the small village Hau’ula on Oahu’s Windward Coast to find out:

As I drove up Highway 83 I had to contend with rain showers that offered occasional glimpses of various rainbows along the road.  The rainbows were so close to the road it felt like I could reach my hand out and touch them in some instances:

Picture from the Makua Ridge Trail

Once I got to Hau’ula I parked in one of the northern most parking spots at the Hau’ula Beach Park.  Since I was at the parking lot at 6:15 AM I was the only vehicle in the lot.  From the parking lot I crossed the street and began walking up Hau’ula Homestead Road:

Picture from the Makua Ridge Trail

As I walked up the road I could see the hills to north that the Hau’ula Loop Trail traverses that I had previously hiked:

Picture from the Makua Ridge Trail

After walking about a half mile up the road I then walked up Ma’akua Street:

After a short distance I spotted the yellow gate that leads to the trailhead:

Picture from the Makua Ridge Trail

After walking by the yellow gate I continued to walk up the paved road and past another locked yellow gate:

Picture from the Makua Ridge Trail

As I walked up the paved road I spotted the trailhead for the Hau’ula Loop Trail:

Picture from the Makua Ridge Trail

To get to the trailhead for the Ma’akua Ridge Trail I had to continue walking up the paved road:

Picture from the Makua Ridge Trail

This section of the road has a long concrete wall that has become a playground for graffiti artists:

Picture from the Makua Ridge Trail

Much of the graffiti was bright and colorful as well as being pretty impressive:

Picture from the Makua Ridge Trail

Picture from the Makua Ridge Trail

Picture from the Makua Ridge Trail

However, there was quite a bit of graffiti that was quite dark and spooky as well:

Picture from the Makua Ridge Trail

Picture from the Makua Ridge Trail

Picture from the Makua Ridge Trail

There was even Halloween graffiti:

Picture from the Makua Ridge Trail

A short distance passed the graffiti wall the road ends at this fenced in water pumping station:

Picture from the Makua Ridge Trail

Passed the pumping station is the closed Ma’akua Gulch Trail.  The trail was closed due to the dangers of rock falls and flash floods.  The nearby Sacred Falls State Park was closed for the same reasons after a 1999 rock slide killed seven hikers.  Adjacent to the fence I saw a sign warning hikers not to continue up the gulch:

Picture from the Makua Ridge Trail

From the pumping station I had a nice view of the Ma’akua Ridge that I would soon be ascending up:

Picture from the Makua Ridge Trail

From the pumping station I turned around and headed back down the paved road.  The Ma’akua Ridge Trailhead is located across from the graffiti wall.  The path that leads to the stream below the road was easy to spot:

Picture from the Makua Ridge Trail

A State of Hawaii sign clearly marked the trailhead:

Picture from the Makua Ridge Trail

Something else marking the trailhead is this old engine for some reason:

Picture from the Makua Ridge Trail

From the trailhead the path crosses over the Ma’akua Stream:

Picture from the Makua Ridge Trail

There was not water flowing in the stream, but the rocks were still slick from the rain that morning.  I had no issues crossing the rocks, but what I found more difficult was keeping the mosquitos off of me.  I was being absolutely swarmed by mosquitos which made me thankful I wore pants for this hike.  After crossing the dry stream bed the trail began to immediately ascend up the hill:

Picture from the Makua Ridge Trail

I found this trail to not be maintained as well as the adjacent Hau’ula Loop Trail which meant more foliage and trees had to be crawled under or walked around to get up the trail:

Picture from the Makua Ridge Trail

Less than a mile from the trailhead a picnic bench came into view:

Picture from the Makua Ridge Trail

Just above the picnic table I found this bench that offered some nice views of the Hau’ula area:

Picture from the Makua Ridge Trail

Here is the view looking north:

Picture from the Makua Ridge Trail

Here is the view towards the east:

Picture from the Makua Ridge Trail

Here is the view looking towards the south:

Picture from the Makua Ridge Trail

Finally here is a panorama picture I took of the view from the bench:

Picture from the Makua Ridge Trail

Besides providing a nice view the bench is where the loop portion of the trail begins at.  I decided to take the right portion of the loop trail first:

Picture from the Makua Ridge Trail

I chose to go on the right portion of the loop trail first because of how it immediately began to gain in elevation:

Picture from the Makua Ridge Trail

From this section of the trail I could actually see across the valley towards the ridgeline the Hau’ula Loop Trail ascends that provided so many surprisingly good views from that trail:

Picture from the Makua Ridge Trail

I was really hoping that from the top of this ridgeline I would also have surprisingly great views.  However, I found myself walking through a think rainforest with little to no views:

Picture from the Makua Ridge Trail

During this section of the hike I did run into a large group of friendly local hunters.  They asked me if I had seen any pigs during my hike.  I told them that I had not seen any, but if they saw a big, blue pig during their hunt don’t shoot at it because it is probably me since I was wearing a bright blue shirt.  That is something I always do when hiking which is I wear a bright shirt that contrasts with the foliage to help hunters as well as rescue aircraft if ever needed one for some reason.

I eventually reached the top of the ridgeline and then dropped into a valley where I crossed over a small stream:

Picture from the Makua Ridge Trail

The stream ran into a steeply descending gulch that I had earlier saw the hunters heading down into:

Picture from the Makua Ridge Trail

After crossing over the creek the trail picked up elevation again and I then found myself hiking across a narrow rocky ridge surrounded by thick foliage.  The drop offs from the ridgeline was steep on each side, but the path was very wide and not dangerous:

Picture from the Makua Ridge Trail

The trail next came to steps where I once again had to duck to get under another tree that had fallen across the trail:

Picture from the Makua Ridge Trail

Ducking under trees would be a continuous theme on this hike:

Picture from the Makua Ridge Trail

And yes there were even more trees to duck under:

Picture from the Makua Ridge Trail

Along this section of the hike I saw some of these pretty flowers blooming:

Picture from the Makua Ridge Trail

Here is the fruit that was growing out of them:

Picture from the Makua Ridge Trail

Some of the fruits had fallen to the ground and looking at them I think these are passion fruits:

Picture from the Makua Ridge Trail

I also walked through a section of the trail that was littered with these seedpods that I had no idea what they were:

Picture from the Makua Ridge Trail

Another plant I saw a few times during the hike were the always beautiful heliconias:

Picture from the Makua Ridge Trail

The trail then passed through an area known as Papali Gulch which appeared to have been hit by a recent flash flood considering all the debris piled on the trail:

Picture from the Makua Ridge Trail

As I worked by way through the debris covered gulch I did notice that there was a view looking up at the Ma’akua Ridge that I had just descended:

Picture from the Makua Ridge Trail

From the Papali Gulch the trail then began to ascend again as it worked around the side of the Ma’akua Ridge.  Along the way the trial passes the rocky cliff face;

Picture from the Makua Ridge Trail

Just passed the cliff face I found myself back at the park bench taking in morning views of the Hau’ula area:

Picture from the Makua Ridge Trail

Picture from the Makua Ridge Trail

After spending a few minutes taking in the views and swatting at mosquitos, I then quickly descended back down the trail back to the paved road:

Picture from the Makua Ridge Trail

I passed through the two locked yellow gates and then proceeded to walk back down Hau’ula Homestead Road.  When I looked back I noticed on the left that I could see Ma’akua Rige where the park bench with the great view is located:

Picture from the Makua Ridge Trail

Here is a closer look at Ma’akua Ridge:

Makua Ridge Trail Picture

I also had a glimpse into the depths of Ma’akua Gluch with its extremely steep cliffs:

Picture from the Makua Ridge Trail

At the end of Hau’ula Homestead Road I crossed over the Kamehameha Highway and back to where I parked my truck.  When I returned I was thankful none of the homeless people camped out at the Hau’ula Beach Park tried to rob my truck.  That is another reason why I start my hikes so early in the morning, because criminals I find don’t like to wake up early.  While at the park I decided to stroll along the beach and take some pictures:

Picture from the Makua Ridge Trail

I am not very impressed with this beach because of the amount of rocks located in the water right off of the beach:

Picture from the Makua Ridge Trail

Something I noticed looking to the north was that Goat Island could be seen in the distance:

Picture from the Makua Ridge Trail

Here is a view of the beautiful Ko’olau Range from the beach park:

Picture from the Makua Ridge Trail

Conclusion

For anyone trying to decide between taking the Hau’ula Loop Trail or the Ma’akua Ridge Trail I highly recommend the former.  The Hau’ula Loop Trail is in better shape, has better scenery, and some incredible views from its summit ridge.  The high point of the Ma’akua Ridge Trail is reached very early in the hike with the nice view from the park bench.  The rest of the hike I did not find to be all that interesting and why I rate this hike quite low.  For those that have time feel free to complete both hikes, but for those with limited time don’t feel like you are missing anything by not hiking the Ma’akua Ridge Trail; the only thing you are missing is the mosquitos.

Note: Many more great trails on Oahu can be found by checking out my Oahu Regional Trail Finder at the link.

Get The Hikers Guide to Oahu for more trail information:

 

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