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Best Hikes On Oahu: The Lulumahu Falls Trail

Basic Information

  • Name: Lulumahu Falls Trail
  • Where: Honolulu, Hawaii
  • Distance: 2.2 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 702 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Time: 2-3 hours
  • More Information: The Hikers Guide to O’ahu

Picture from Lulumahu Falls

Topographic Map of the Lulumahu Falls Trail

Luluhamu Falls Topo Map

Overview

The Lulumahu Falls Trail is a moderately challenging 2.2 mile hike that will bring out your inner Indiana Jones as you tramp through the jungle in search of a beautiful waterfall.  The hike includes views of a lake, the beautiful Nuuanu Valley, the stunning Ko’olau Range, and one of the largest waterfalls on Oahu.

Luluhamu Falls Trail

Hawaiian Meaning

From what I could find the meaning of Lulumahu in Hawaiian is a “gay guy named Lulu”.

Directions

The Lulumahu Falls Trail has one of the easiest trailheads to access in the Honolulu area.  To reach the trailhead from Honolulu just drive up the Pali Highway.  Then exit on to Nuuanu Pali Drive on the right.  Follow this beautiful road to where it ends at the intersection with the Pali Highway.  On the right the dirt lot can be pulled into for parking.

Parking

Parking for this hike is pretty easy because of the large lot at the corner of Nuuanu Pali Drive and the Pali Highway.  The lot however is not maintained and is full of huge potholes and is usually muddy.  So if driving a car just be careful to not bottom out.  Anyone with a truck or SUV will have no problems with this lot.  On weekends the parking lot can get quite full so arrive early if possible.

Narrative

Some of my favorite hikes on the Hawaiian island of Oahu is to to the various waterfalls that can be found in the Ko’olau Range.  The latest waterfall I decided to hike to is Lulumahu Falls.  This waterfall is one that is not found in guidebooks, but through social media has become a popular hiking destination.  Below is a view of the trail from the Nuuanu Valley Lookout that shows how it crosses the valley to a spot below the highest peak of the Ko’olau Range, the 3,149 foot Konahuanui where the Lulumahu Falls is located:

Nuuanu Valley Lookout

The trailhead for the Lulumahu Falls Trail is marked with this large sign explaining the rules of the Nuuanu Public Hunting Area:

Picture from Lulumahu Falls

Below the sign is a map that show the boundaries of the public hunting land located on both sides of the Pali Highway:

Picture from Lulumahu Falls

Also on the map the nearby Judd-Nuuanu Trail can be seen as well:

Best Hikes On Oahu: The Nu’uanu-Judd Trail to the Nu’uanu Valley Lookout

Next to the sign is an entry gate which is the start of the trail:

Picture from Lulumahu Falls

I followed this trail for a short distance until it came to a junction with a power line trail.  I took a left here and followed the power line trail towards the Nuuanu Reservoir:

Picture from Lulumahu Falls

The Nuuanu Valley is well known for being very lush and this lushness is because of the amount of rain it receives every year.  Because of this rain there was a lot of mud to deal with. That is why I was happy I wore my waterproof hiking boots which allowed me to trudge up the muddy trail with no issues.  Next the earthen dam that holds back the water in the Nuuanu Reservoir came into view:

Picture from Lulumahu Falls

The area is marked with a number of No Trespassing signs like many other hikes on Oahu, but it seems no one enforces it because the trailhead is packed with cars every weekend.  I have been told before that these signs are put up for government liability reasons to avoid a lawsuit.  However, just keep in mind that technically this trail is trespassing so everyone needs to make their own personal decision on whether to hike this trail or not:

Picture from Lulumahu Falls

Once on top of the dam I took a right and hiked across it:

Picture from Lulumahu Falls

The views of the Ko’olau Range in front of me were just tremendous:

Picture from Lulumahu Falls

Behind me I could see the early morning sun beginning to shine on the massive peak named Lanihuli:

Picture from Lulumahu Falls

To the east I could see the gap in the Ko’olau Range where the Pali Lookout is located:

Picture from Lulumahu Falls

Here is a closer look at where the Pali Lookout is located:

Picture from Lulumahu Falls

Just above the Pali Lookout I could see the Pali Notches:

Picture from Lulumahu Falls

The Pali Notches are man made cut outs in the cliff that some believe were used at one point to emplace canons during the Battle of Nuuanu.  In 1795 this valley was the scene of the final battle between King Kamehameha and Chief Kalanikupule who ruled Oahu.  King Kamehameha had already conquered all the other Hawaiian islands except for Oahu and Kauai.  King Kamehameha’s forces landed at Waikiki and Kahala and initiated battle against Kalanikupule’s forces that had garrisoned the Punchbowl Crater.  After losing the battle at the Punchbowl Crater the Oahu forces retreated into the Nuuanu Valley.  It was here that the final battle for control of the island was waged that saw many of the Oahu forces pushed off the cliff at the Pali Lookout thus giving control of Oahu to King Kamehameha:

After taking in the views of the surrounding Ko’olau Range I then walked across the dam and passed this fenced reservoir facility:

Picture from Lulumahu Falls

The fencing is needed because Youtube idiots have filmed themselves jumping from this tower which has led to drownings.  I highly recommend not trying to jump into this reservoir.  Instead just walk across it and take in the incredible views of the Ko’olau Range like I did:

Picture from Lulumahu Falls

After crossing the reservoir I then made a left on an access road.  On the left side of the road there is a long concrete wall filled with graffiti:

Picture from Lulumahu Falls

The graffiti was pretty colorful, but the skills of these graffiti artists were no where near as good as what I saw on the concrete wall along the Ma’akua Ridge Trail.  On the opposite side of the graffiti wall is a stone staircase leading to a little shed:

Picture from Lulumahu Falls

It is important to follow directions from here because there is where people tend to get lost on this trail.  From the graffiti wall just follow the dirt road past this weathered sign:

Picture from Lulumahu Falls

From the dirt road there are hunting trails going off in various directions which causes people to get lost.  On the way back I gave instructions to two different hiking groups on the right way towards the falls because they followed one of these hunting trails.  The dirt road loops around which is what causes people to think this is not the right way:

Picture from Lulumahu Falls

However, a short distance passed the loop the dirt road ends at an old, fenced in concrete foundation which I believe was once a pump house:

Picture from Lulumahu Falls

On the left side of the foundation there is are some concrete steps that lead into the jungle:

Picture from Lulumahu Falls

At the top of the steps there is a well maintained trail to follow:

Picture from Lulumahu Falls

Once on this trail getting to the falls is pretty easy to find.  This trail leads to a small spillway:

Picture from Lulumahu Falls

This creek is Lulumahu Creek which leads to Lulumahu Falls.  Since I had my waterproof hiking boots on I simply just walked across the spillway.  From there I followed the various ribbons towards the waterfall:

Picture from Lulumahu Falls

Along the creek there are social trails running in various directions.  The easiest route is to follow the ribbons, but as long as the trail is heading up stream it will eventually end at the waterfall:

Picture from Lulumahu Falls

Following the ribbon trail caused me to cross over the creek a few times:

Picture from Lulumahu Falls

I found Lulumahu Creek to be quite beautiful with many small waterfalls to see:

Picture from Lulumahu Falls

Something to keep in mind when hiking up this trail is to monitor the weather.  It would not be good to be hiking up this creek and be hit by a sudden flash flood:

Picture from Lulumahu Falls

The trail next came to a small downward climb that someone installed a rope to assist with:

Picture from Lulumahu Falls

Just a short distance passed the rope I could see Lulumahu Falls ahead of me:

Picture from Lulumahu Falls

My first view of Lulumahu Falls was stunning:

Picture from Lulumahu Falls

There had been some rain that morning in the Ko’olau Range which meant a lot of water was flowing down the waterfall:

Picture from Lulumahu Falls

Something that I had happen on this hike that I had never had happen before was that a rooster followed me up the trail:

Picture from Lulumahu Falls

The chicken was even nice enough to pose for photographs:

Picture from Lulumahu Falls

For about 30 minutes I had the falls all to myself if you don’t count my new chicken friend.  I used that time to take a number of photographs from different viewpoints of Lulumahu Falls:

Picture from Lulumahu Falls

Overall I think this waterfall is more scenic than Manoa Falls and was a better hike considering the views from the dam and the adventure of tramping through the jungle like Indiana Jones trying to find this incredible waterfall:

Picture from Lulumahu Falls

However, I do not recommend this trail for the casual vacation hiker because it is rough in sections and some route finding skills are required.  The casual vacation hikers should stick to the Manoa Falls Trail which is wide and easy to navigate:

Best Hikes On Oahu: The Manoa Falls Trail

For those interested in finding a swimming hole, this is not the waterfall to checkout because there is no swimming hole, just rocks and a cold puddle of water:

Picture from Lulumahu Falls

The best waterfall swimming hole to checkout on Oahu is Maunawili Falls which has a stunning swimming hole underneath it:

Best Hikes on Oahu: The Maunawili Falls Trail

Here is a panorama picture I took of Lulumahu Falls:

Picture from Lulumahu Falls

Here is one final picture of Lulumahu Falls with my new chicken friend:

Picture from Lulumahu Falls

I had passed a hiking group on the way up to the falls and they must have gotten lost because it took them a while to reach the falls.  After they arrived I decided to call it a day and head back down the trail and let them enjoy the waterfall all to themselves like I had the opportunity to do.  So I made my way back down the trail to the small spillway:

Picture from Lulumahu Falls

From the spillway I walked back down the trail to the top of the dam.  From the top of the dam I could see the clouds as they often due during the daytime, begin to cover the summits of the Ko’olau Range:

Picture from Lulumahu Falls

Looking down the Nuuanu Valley I could see a large bamboo forest below me and and way out in the distance I could even see the ocean:

Picture from Lulumahu Falls

As I walked across the dam I startled a group of white colored cattle egret birds:

Picture from Lulumahu Falls

The cattle egrets are quite beautiful, but are a non-native species that the government has tried to eradicate in Hawaii.  Based on the number of cattle egrets I see on Oahu they are not having much luck eradicating them.  Another non-native avian species that will never be eradicated in Hawaii are the various tourism helicopters.  One dressed up as the Magnum P.I. helicopter flew right over the Nuuanu Reservoir:

Picture from Lulumahu Falls

After crossing back over the dam I then took the power line trail back to the trailhead:

Picture from Lulumahu Falls

Conclusion

I ended up completing this hike in a little over 2 hours which included the 30 minutes I spent at the waterfall.  The total distance was 2.2 miles with a surprising 702 feet elevation gain.  The elevation gain was so gradual ascending the creek that I hardly noticed it.  Overall I really enjoyed this hike due to the Indiana Jones like adventure of tramping through the jungle to find the waterfall, the scenic lake side views of the Ko’olau Range, and the surprisingly beautiful Lulumahu Falls.  The Lulumahu Trail is not a hike I recommend for the casual hiker, but people who enjoy hiking off the beaten path will really enjoy it.

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

The Oahu Trail Finder

Note: Further information about hiking in Oahu can be found in the below book:

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