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Best Run Routes On Oahu: Diamond Head and the Fort Ruger Pathway

Basic Information

  • Name: Diamond Head and the Fort Ruger Pathway
  • Where: Honolulu, Hawaii
  • Distance: 5.5 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 770 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • More Information: Diamond Head State Monument website

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Google Earth Map of the Run Route

Diamond Head Run Route

Narrative

One of the most popular run routes on Oahu is to jog completely around the world famous Diamond Head Crater.  I decided to increase the difficulty of the rune by first jogging up to the summit of Diamond Head Crater to catch the sunrise before running around it.  I arrived at 6:00 AM at the parking lot for Kapiolani Community College which is located below the crater.  From there I walked over to the entrance to the road that enters the crater by following these signs:

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Note that I took these pictures of the signs after my run since it was still dark when I was walking by them early in the morning:

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Here is a signboard welcoming visitors to Diamond Head Crater which in the Hawaiian language is know as Le’ahi which is a type of fish the crater looks like:

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At the start of the entrance road I began my jog up and into the crater.  Along the way I had a beautiful view of the sunrise occurring on the east side of the island:

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To enter the crater I had to jog through this entrance tunnel:

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The entrance tunnel is wide enough for two way traffic and has a small path for pedestrians:

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As I exited the tunnel I entered the crater which can feel like a different world from the rest of Honolulu.  The interior of the crater is usually quite dry, has many small trees and shrubs, and is completely surrounded by the crater rim that looks like a mountain range from inside:

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As I jogged to the entrance gate I paid the $1 pedestrian entrance fee and continued to jog up the trail to the summit.  Those who drive up here with a vehicle have to pay a $5 entry fee so parking at Kapiolani Community College and walking in is a cheaper option for those interested:

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As I jogged up the trail I noticed that even at opening time the summit trail is swamped with visitors.  I had to continually jog around people blocking the path.  Eventually the trail became too narrow to jog around people and I just became a lemming in line with everyone else switchbacking their way up the trail:

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Slowing down to walk up the trail did give me time to appreciate the beautiful sunrise that was occurring over the crater:

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Eventually the trail comes to the staircase that takes visitors to the summit of Diamond Head:

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At the top of the staircase I had to work my way through an old bunker complex before emerging on the summit crater with this beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean:

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Down below I could see the iconic Diamond Head Lighthouse:

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From the outside of the bunker I then had to ascend a final staircase to get to the observation deck on top of the bunker which is the true summit of Diamond Head Crater:

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From the observation deck I had the always spectacular view of Waikiki down below:

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Here is the view looking straight down from the summit towards the multi-million dollar homes located at the base of the crater:

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Here is a wider angle view of the scene:

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Here is a panorama view looking back towards the crater with the sun rising in the distance:

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After spending about ten minutes on the summit taking pictures I then proceeded to head back down the trail to continue my run:

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Much like on the way up I could not really jog on this trail until it became wide enough on the lower sections to where I could easily pass the hordes of people on the trail.  Despite not being able to jog most of the way down I still descended in about 30 minutes and was back in the middle of the crater looking up at the summit I was just on:

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After completing the hike to the summit of Diamond Head Crater I next jogged out of the crater back to to the start of the entrance road.  The entrance road is where the Fort Ruger Pathway is located:

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Fort Ruger is the old military base that was established at Diamond Head back in 1906.  The 755 acres of land for the base was acquired by the President Theodore Roosevelt administration as part of the coastal defense system to defend Oahu.  The fort was named after Major General Thomas Ruger, a noted Civil War veteran who later became the superintendent of West Point:

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The soldiers stationed at Fort Ruger were responsible for manning the coastal artillery guns that were constructed in the crater walls.  These first soldiers lived in tents before construction of more permanent buildings could be completed.  Something I noticed looking at the old pictures on the signboards was how dry the area around Diamond Head once was compared to the relative lushness that surrounds the crater today:

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Construction of permanent buildings at Fort Ruger typically made use of the ubiquitous lava rock that can be found in Hawaii:

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As the fort expanded over the decades more personnel were stationed there, to where in 1940 over 800 personnel lived on Fort Ruger with their families.  The families lived in wooden houses constructed on the base:

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Life for the soldiers and their families appeared to be quite pleasant:

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After World War II much of Fort Ruger was closed down and eventually demolished for the construction of Kapiolani Community College.  Today parts of Fort Ruger lives on as a Hawaii National Guard facility, but the majority of the crater is now a Hawaii State Monument that includes the Diamond Head Summit Trail and the Fort Ruger Pathway:

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The For Ruger Pathway section is only constructed on the north side of the crater, but connecting sidewalks make this a safe and easy run completely around Diamond Head:

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I made quick work of the Fort Ruger Pathway section of the run from the Diamond Head Crater entrance.  After a short jog through the Kahala neighborhood I found myself jogging on the south side of Diamond Head.  This is my favorite part of the course because of its expansive ocean views:

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It is possible to see hordes of surfers catching waves on the break below Diamond Head Crater:

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I next ran by the historic Diamond Head Lighthouse constructed back in 1917 that I had saw a short time before from the summit of the crater:

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Speaking of the summit, from the lighthouse I could see the bunker designating the summit of Diamond Head Crater above me from the lighthouse:

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A short distance passed the lighthouse I entered into the neighborhood of multi-million dollar homes that most of us could only dream of ever living at:

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The western part of the around the crater run is on a sidewalk that runs adjacent to Queen Kapiolani Park:

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Queen Kapiolani Park is huge green space in Waikiki popular for holding sports events, festivals, and concerts.  After jogging by the park I next hit the northern section of the run route where I found myself back on the official Fort Ruger Pathway.  Once back on the pathway I made quick time back to the start point of my run because of how wide the sidewalk is:

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At the end of the run I found myself back at Kapiolani Community College where I parked near the old Fort Ruger chapel:

Picture from Fort Ruger, Oahu

Conclusion

In total my run came out to 5.5 miles with 770 feet of elevation gain.  However, for those who just want to run around Diamond Head Crater then this becomes a 3 mile run with 210 feet of elevation gain instead.  Overall this is a great run route, but I don’t recommend jogging up the Diamond Head Crater Trail because of how packed it is with tourists even during the early morning hours.  However, just the lap around Diamond Head makes for a nice three mile loop run.  Joggers will be rewarded with not only views of the world famous Diamond Head, but pleasant ocean vistas as well.

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