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Best Hikes On Oahu: The Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail to the Haiku Stairs

Basic Information

  • Name: Moanalua Middle Ridge
  • Where: Honolulu, Hawaii
  • Distance: 9.5 miles
  • Maximum Elevation: 2,820
  • Elevation Gain: 2,524
  • Time: 6-8 hours
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • More Information: The Hikers Guide to O’ahu

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

Topographic Map of the Trail

Moanalua Middle Ridge Topo Map

Elevation Map of the Trail

Moanalua Middle Ridge Elevation Map

Overview

One of the most popular and notorious hikes on Oahu is the Haiku Stairs also known as the “Stairway to Heaven”.  This controversial hike is illegal and actually has a security guard positioned to try and stop hikers.  People caught by the police face stiff fines for trespassing.  Due to the legal issues the alternative way to the top of the stairs on the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail has grown in popularity.  The trail ascends up to the top of the stairs from the Honolulu side of the Ko’olau Range.  This may be the legal way to get to the top of the stairs, but it is much longer and challenging.  It is ultimately worth the effort though, to access the radar station on top of the mountain where great views await.

Moanalua Middile Ridge 3

Directions

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 on Ala Aolani St. to where the road ends at the Community Park:

Parking

The Community Park is open from 7AM to 7PM.  The parking inside the park is limited to about 15 vehicles.  If you arrive when the gate is not open you can park in the neighborhood and just walk into the park. However, be respectful of local residents when parking in the community. Don’t make noise early in the morning or block driveways.

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

Hawaiian Meaning

The Hawaiian meaning for Moanalua is unknown.  However, the forked peak at the back of the valley Puu Keahi a Kahoe has an interesting history.  The Hawaiian meaning of Puu Keahi a Kahoe is “Hill of Kahoe’s Fire”.  This name is from an ancient Hawaiian story about two brothers who settled in the Kaneohe area of Oahu.  One brother Pahu, was a fisherman who settled at Kaneohe Bay.  The other brother Kahoe was a taro farmer who settled at the base of the Ko’olau Range in the Haiku Valley.  The two brothers often traded taro and fish together.  However, the brothers had a falling out when their sister named Lo’e, informed Kahoe that Pahu always gave him the worst fish.  During a time of poor fishing and crop failure many Hawaiians were going hungry.  Kahoe decided to hide his cooking fire by only cooking at the very back of the Haiku Valley.  Lo’e was able to track down both brothers and tell them how wrong the both of them were and get them to reconcile.  The overall moral of this story was to not be selfish in times of plenty or times of need.

Narrative

The most controversial hike in all of Hawaii is without a doubt the Haiku Stairs which is also known as the Stairway to Heaven.  Hiking up the Haiku Stairs is considered trespassing and thus an illegal hike.  There are many technically illegal hikes on Oahu that have signs up simply for liability reasons, but people can still hike them.  However, the Haiku Stairs is different because of the amount of people that have trespassed through people’s backyards to access the stairs.  Home owners in the Haiku neighborhood have long called for the dismantling of the stairs to stop the flow of people trespassing through their yards.  This has caused a guard to be hired to monitor the entrance to the stairs who will call police if a hiker is spotted.  The best way to avoid legal issues and just be a good citizen and not bother the home owners in the Haiku Valley is to hike up to the stairs from the other side of the Ko’olau Range.  The Moanalua Middle Ridge accesses the top of the Haiku Stairs from the Honolulu side of the range.  This may be the legal way to get to the top of the stairs, but it is much longer and challenging.  It is ultimately worth the effort though to access the radar station on the top of the mountain with its great views.

The trailhead for the hike is located at the back of the Moanalua Valley Community Park.  There is a gate marked with a trailhead sign for the Kamananui Valley Road hike:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

You can read more about this nice valley hike at the below link:

Best Hikes On Oahu: The Kamananui Valley Trail

The trail up the Moanalua Middle Ridge is accessed by hiking up the Kamananui Valley Road.  It was still dark out when I passed through the gate, but I noticed there was a lot of construction going on since I had last hiked up the Moanalua Valley a few months ago.  Here is a picture from later on that day that shows all the construction equipment parked near the trailhead:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

Near the trailhead there was also a lot of new signs installed to include one that explained the construction schedule over the next year to repair the valley road due to recent flooding:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

To get to the Moanalua Middle Ridge I had to first reach the trailhead for the Kulana’ahane Trail located about 2.5 miles up the road.  Since this was a road I was hiking up I made great time up it even in the early morning darkness.  After about an hour of hiking I came to the Kulana’ahane Trailhead:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

You can read about my prior hike up this trail at the below link:

Best Hikes on Oahu: The Kulana’ahane Trail

From the Kulana’ahane Trailhead I walked a short distance up the dry creek.  After maybe a hundred feet I spotted the large boulder in the creek that designates where to look for the trail to access Moanalua Middle Ridge.  Here is a daylight picture of the boulder from later in the day:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

The trail can be seen on the other side of the dry creek.  Once on the trail a tree limb has the words “Middle Ridge” carved in it which designates the trail:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

Considering how popular this trail has become as an alternate means to reach the Haiku Stairs, it seems to me the State of Hawaii should put up some proper trail signs for hikers to more easily find this trailhead.  From the trailhead the well defined path up the Middle Ridge immediately began to gain in elevation:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

The below Google Earth image from my GPS tracks shows in more detail the trail up the Moanalua Middle Ridge:

Moanalua Middle 1

From the ridge I could see in the early morning sunrise that the massive peaks of Puu Keahi a Kahoe that the ridge trail leads to was clouded in.  I hoped by the time I reached the summit the clouds would pass so I would have views:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

On the Red Hill Ridge running adjacent to the west of the Moanalua Middle Ridge, there were no clouds and nice early morning views:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

As I continued up the trail I had some really nice sunrise views of the Kamananui Valley that the Kulana’ahane Trail crosses:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

Here is a wider angle picture of the view of the Kamananui Valley:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

Looking towards the east I could see Tripler Ridge and above it a crescent Moon in the early morning sunrise:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

For most of the early parts of the ridge there wasn’t a whole lot of views because the surrounding vegetation:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

During the hike for whatever reason people have decided to graffiti this tree:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

As the trail became steeper I began to see the first of many ropes installed along this trail:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

As I continued to hike up the ridge I stopped often to take in the views of the Kamananui Valley:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

The trail came to a rocky outcrop where I took this panorama picture of the Kamananui Valley on the left and the Moanalua Middle Ridge on the right:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

Here was the view from the rock formation looking behind me down the scenic Moanalua Valley:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

From the rock outcropping I continued to make my way up the Moanalua Middle Ridge towards the cloud covered peaks ahead of me:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

As I gained in altitude I began to notice the blossoms of the ohia trees:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

The ohia tree has an interesting legend associated with it due to its bright red blossoms.  The legend states that if you pick the tree’s lehua flower it will rain on the same day.  This belief goes back to a legend involving Hawaii’s goddess of fire Pele.  She wanted a great warrior named Ohia to marry her.  He refused because he was already in love with a woman named Lehua.  Pele was angry and turned Ohia into a twisted tree now called a ohia tree.  Other Hawaiian Gods took pity on Lehua for losing her lover and thus turned her into the Lehua flower so she could forever be with Ohia.  So if you pick the Lehua Flower you are separating Lehua from her lover which will cause it to rain due to Lehua’s tears.  I hoped no one would pick any lehua blossoms on this day because I really wanted to see some views from the summit.

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

To get to the summit though I was increasingly encountering areas that had ropes:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

During this hike I used none of the ropes because my microspikes provided me enough traction to ascend the steep areas with no issues:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

As I continued to ascend the ridge I could see to my right Tripler Ridge where the Powerline Trail runs up the side of the mountain:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

To my left I still had views of the Kamananui Valley to include a large rock dike that I noticed:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

As I continued up the trail I saw that I would soon ascend into the clouds:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

I made sure to enjoy the views I had before I was engulfed in clouds.  The most prominent view I had was of the Moanalua Saddle at the the end of the Kamananui Valley:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

This saddle is the one that the Kulanaahane Trail ascends up that provides great views of the Haiku Valley and the H-3 Freeway.  Looking at the saddle I could see the steep trail ascending up to the summit of the ridgeline:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

To my right I had views of the steep slopes leading up to Tripler Ridge:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

After taking in the views I proceeded to hike up towards the clouds.  Before ascending into the clouds I had to do a little more rock scrambling:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

After ascending the rocky section I found myself engulfed in clouds:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

After a short distance of hiking through the clouds I came upon the steepest part of the hike.  At this point I let a gentleman pass me who told me that he runs up the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail twice a week for exercise.  It showed because he was extremely fast as I watched hime ascend up the steep slope:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

At this section it is important that hikers ascend up the rope one at a time in order to not overburden it.  With my microspikes on I found I did not need the rope and was able to easily ascend it using just my hands and feet. Another reason to let people ascend and descend this section one at a time is because of the rocks that can be kicked down the slope.  As the other hiker ascended a had to get out of the way of a number of rocks falling down the trail.  After I ascended the steep section, I found myself near the summit ridge of the Ko’olau Range:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

Up here at an altitude of over 2,000 feet with high rainfall, the plant life is stunted causing these small trees to grow:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

The summit ridge was also covered in lehua blossoms from its many ohia bushes:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

I soon came to the junction with the Ko’olau Summit Trail that is designated by this small, muddy clearing:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

Down below the steep cliff I could hear cars on the H-3 Freeway, but could not see them because of the cloud clover:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

As I turned to my left to hike the summit trail to the radio station, I noticed a USGS elevation marker on the ground:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

Here is a close up look at the marker that designates the summit of the 2,820 foot forked mountain called Puu Keahi a Kahoe:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

From the clearing I found the summit trail to the radio station to be extremely eroded:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

The summit trail was also extremely muddy which once again made me happy I had my waterproof hiking boots and gaiters on:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

After about 15 minutes of hiking through the clouds and mud I could see the old radio station in front of me:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

As I hiked up to the radio station I was welcomed by a big pile of crap that someone left right in the middle of the trail.  It appears that whoever took the crap on the trail tried to cover it with a newspaper, but someone stepped on it.  I could not believe how inconsiderate someone could be by taking a dump in the middle of the trail and then leaving it for someone to step in:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

Anyway I found myself at the old radio station that looked a bit spooky in the early morning clouds:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

This old radio station was constructed in 1942 during World War II by the US Navy to send radio signals to US ships operating through out the Pacific theater.  The radio station began operations in 1943.  The US Navy decommissioned the facility in the 1950s and turned it over to the US Air Force who used it as a microwave station.  That is where the dishes on top of the station came from.  The station was then turned over to the US Coast Guard in the 1970’s.  The Coast Guard used the facility as a site for its Omega Navigation System.  Omega used a network of fixed radio stations to help ships locate where they are at.  The station remained in use until 1997 when GPS became the primary system for locating US ships.

As I walked around the radio station I noticed that it has become totally trashed with garbage lying around everywhere:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

Much like crapping in the middle of the trail I could not believe how further inconsiderate people could be by leaving this much garbage on top of the mountain.  This really is an embarrassment for the State of Hawaii to allow this kind of mess to accumulate without doing anything to clean or stop it.  As I walked around the radar station I looked inside and noticed that there was a large group of people camped inside the building.  Not wanting to disturb them, I walked over from the building to the top of the Haiku Stairs:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

Considering how clouded in the views from the radar station were, I decided to hike down the Haiku Stairs and hopefully get below the cloud cover in order to get some views of Windward Oahu.  I have heard stories about how bad the stairs are and from my experience I found them to be in great shape and a very easy way to access the mountain:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

The planks of the stairs are narrow, but nothing dangerous:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

The railing along the stairs I also found to be surprisingly solid:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

As I hiked down the stairs the clouds began to slowly break up:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

I soon came to the first viewpoint below the summit that was still covered in clouds:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

Here is a picture from this viewpoint looking back up the stairs towards the radio station that was obscured by the clouds:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

From the viewpoint I continued to hike down the stairs and noticed the Magnum P.I. helicopter from Paradise Helicopters Hawaii fly by me:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

As descended further down the stairs I came to another viewpoint where the clouds had broken up enough that I had views of the surrounding scenery:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

The most noticeable feature from the viewpoint was of the H-3 Freeway running through the Haiku Valley down below:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

The H-3 Freeway is the most spectacular drive on Oahu and one of the best in all of America.  This 15 mile long highway finished being constructed on December 12, 1997 after much controversy, but it was worth the wait.  The highway travels right through the heart of the Ko’olau Mountains that divide central and eastern Oahu.  To access each side of the Ko’olau Range the Tetsuo Harano Tunnel was constructed that is easily seen from the viewpoint:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

Another structure down below in the Haiku Valley that was easily visible was the old transmitter building that was connected to the radio station above the valley:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

Here is an old picture of the transmitter building when it was under construction back in the 1940’s:

Also from the viewpoint I had a good view looking down on the Moanalua Saddle which I had previously ascended up using the Kulana’ahane Trail:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

From the viewpoint I next followed the stairs a short distance over to what is known as the hoist house:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

Inside the hoist house is the old machinery that was once used to pull up a cable trolley:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

The installation of the cable trolley allowed US Navy personnel to access the radio station on top of the mountain without having to climb the 2,000+ feet of stairs.  Here is a historical picture of what the cable trolley looked like back in the 1940’s:

Here is a closer look at the gears that brought the cable trolley up to the hoist house:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

On the front side of the building there is a triangular shaped entrance where the cable trolley would have entered the hoist house at:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

Today the inside of the hoist house is covered in graffiti:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

I don’t get graffiti artists wanting to make a mess of property like this?  This is once again another sign of the disrespect people have for this trail:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

Here is the view from the hoist house window that workers would have had to view every day when the the cable trolley was operational:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

Unfortunately the views of Kaneohe from the hoist house were still obscured by clouds so I decided to hike further down the stairs to get further below the clouds:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

At the next view point I had a nice view looking towards Kaneohe:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

Here is a panorama picture I took of Kaneohe on the right and the Haiku Valley on the left with the H-3 Free way traversing across the foreground:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

Looking towards Kaneohe I could see the large campus of Windward Community College as well as the Hawaii State Hospital next to the campus on the bottom right:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

The Hawaii State Hospital is where a convicted killer recently escaped from.  He walked across the Windward Community College campus to a local park where he called a cab to take him to the airport.  Needless to say local residents were very upset that this murderer was able to escape and roam around their community.  Beyond Windward Community College I could see beautiful Kaneohe Bay:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

I found it interesting to contrast Kaneohe today with the rural, farming community it once was during the 1940’s:

I could also see He’eia Fishpond outside of Kaneohe that ancient Hawaiians cleverly used to catch fish.  The fishpond was constructed by piling up lava rocks to block the sea water while having an entrance that could be opened and closed to catch fish.  There were at one time four watchtowers around the pond where observers could follow the movement of the fish inside it.  According to the book, Ancient Sites of Oahu a mo’o or lizard man known as Meheanu guarded this fishpond.  Meheanu was known as a shapeshifter and would only appear at the He’eia Fishpond when the leaves on the hau trees are yellow:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

Looking to the north I could also see way out in the distance the islet of Mokoli’i which is Hawaiian for “little lizard”.  This name comes from the sister of Pele, who’s name was Hi‘iaka.  At Kualoa Hi’iaka killed a huge mo‘o or lizard and its tail is all that was left of it and it formed Mokoli‘i.  Today Mokoli’i is more commonly known as Chinaman’s Hat:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

From the viewpoint I could see below me the entrance to the Haiku Stairs.  Due to the illegal nature of this hike the Honolulu Board of Water Supply who owns the land at the base of the stairs has hired a security guard to patrol its entrance.  This security guard cannot arrest people, but instead calls the police who will respond and then issue tickets to anyone they catch.  The fine for trespassing at the Haiku Stairs is $1,000.  I could see the security guard standing next to his truck at the entrance to the stairs and I threw him a shaka to say hi:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

The threat of fines though has not stopped hikers because I could see people down below me ascending up the stairs:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

Here is a zoomed in look at the hikers I saw heading up the stairs:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

Satisfied with the views I had received I decided to turn around and head back up the stairs.  Above me I could see the hoist house:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

As I ascended up the stairs and passed the hoist house, I could see that the clouds parted enough to where the radio station on top of the mountain was visible:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

The clouds even parted enough that I could see the H-3 Freeway running below the mountain for the first time:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

I also saw the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Gardens for the first time.  These gardens are a real gem that have not been spoiled yet by the tourist bus crowd yet.  My kids love going here to hike its trails and go fishing.  It was cool to see the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Gardens from this perspective:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

Here is a wider angle panorama picture that shows the hoist house on the left, the H-3 Freeway in the center, and the radio station on the upper right:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

Here is another panorama picture I took in the opposite direction that shows the radio station on the upper left and the H-3 Freeway running through the Haiku Valley in the lower center:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

From the hoist house it was a steep ascent back up the stairs, but this was definitely a much easier way to ascend the mountain compared to the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

Here is the view from the stairs looking back towards the hoist house:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

Here is a wide angle panorama of this view:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

The views from the stairs are just stunning and some of the best to be seen in Hawaii.  Here is a view of the stairs as it ascends towards the top viewpoint:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

From this viewpoint I could see that the radio station was now completely free of clouds:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

Something I found troubling as I ascended the stairs was the amount of human feces scattered around the viewpoints.  It seems that people need a place to go when hiking up these stairs and the most convenient place are at the viewpoints.  This is just another example of the disrespect shown to this trail.  People should bag their crap off of the trail instead of leaving it for people to smell and step in:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

From the top viewpoint I just had a short stretch of stairs remaining to get back to the radio station:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

Here is the final steep climb to the radio station:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

After climbing back up the stairs all the people I saw previously camped out inside the radio station had come outside and it was a straight up party atmosphere.  There was about 15 people outside posing for photos and playing loud music.  Not that I am complaining, but there was even one young woman who may have been model posing for topless pictures.  Sorry no pictures of her since I did not want to be rude and photograph the topless young woman.  From the summit I did have more sweeping views of the area to include looking right down on the H-3 Freeway below me:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

Here is the view of the H-3 Freeway as it travels through the Haiku Valley:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

Down below me I could also see the Moanalua Saddle as it rose above the Tetsuo Harano Tunnel:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

Looking at the saddle from the radio station I noticed that there were stairs descending toward the saddle which meant there must have been an old structure located further down the ridgeline at one time:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

Here is the view looking back towards Pearl Harbor:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

Here is a picture looking towards the 2,820 foot summit of Puu Keahi a Kahoe:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

Here is a panorama picture of the view from the radio station with Puu Keahi a Kahoe on the far left and the Haiku Valley on the bottom center:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

Being by far the oldest guy on the summit I was definitely the unwanted party crasher, so I decided to leave the radio station craziness and proceed back down the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail.  As I hiked down the trail I had good views behind me of the radio station:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

Here is a panorama picture of the view where a thick band of clouds could be seen rolling in again from the ocean:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

From the trail I could also see people from the party now climbing up on the microwave dishes and posing for pictures:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

With the clouds now parted I also had some good views of the native shrubs that grow on the summit of the Ko’olau Range:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

I soon reached the summit of Puu Keahi a Kahoe again and took this panorama picture where the radio station is visible in the upper right:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

I was a bit surprised that even from the summit of Puu Keahi a Kahoe I could still hear the music blaring from the party going on at the radio station.  From the summit I then proceeded down the trail and took in views of the large drainage area below the radio station:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

During heavy rain this catchment area is what causes a huge waterfall to form that can only be seen from the Moanalua Saddle.  When I hiked up the the Kulana’ahane Trail I was very fortunate to see this large waterfall:

Here is a view of the catchment area from further down the trail with Puu Keahi a Kahoe visible in the upper right:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

I was making very quick time down the trail and soon found myself waiting for some hikers to ascend the steep trail below me.  I took this time to soak in the views which included the Waianae Range on the west side of Oahu:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

Out towards the Waianae Range I could see that the highest point on the island, the 4,025 foot Mt. Ka’ala as usual, was covered in clouds:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

Looking at Mt. Ka’ala gave me time to reflect and compare the Mt. Ka’ala Trail to the Moanalua Middle Ridge.  I believe the Mt. Ka’ala Trail is more difficult because of the greater elevation gain of almost 1,000 feet, overall greater steepness of the trail, and the large boulders that need to be climbed compared to the Middle Ridge Trail.

Best Hikes on Oahu: The Mt. Ka’ala Trail (Waianae-Kaala)

Before attempting the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail, I had read a number of online reviews about how hard and dangerous this hike is.  Now having completed this hike I have to honestly say the danger and difficulty of this hike is overstated.  For someone with no experience hiking in Oahu I could understand how this could be perceived as being difficult, but for people who have experience hiking in Oahu, this ridge trail is not that hard.  I find it to be comparable to the Kolowalu Trail to Mt. Olympus, but just much longer.

Best Hikes on Oahu: The Kolowalu Trail to Mt. Olympus

Though the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail may not be as hard as advertised, it still has its dangers for the inexperienced, namely slipping and falling off of the trail.  That is why I recommend bringing microspikes for improved traction.  I also recommend bringing two liters of water to stay hydrated on the long hike and a sweater to keep warm on the cool summit.  Finally do not attempt this hike on a rainy day because the trail will be a muddy mess and there won’t be any views to see anyway.  Fortunately the day I went I had plenty of great views to include of all the peaks of Puu Keahi a Kahoe that had previously been obscured with clouds:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

Ahead of me I could almost see all of the Moanalua Middle Ridge leading down into the Moanalua Valley.  It definitely looked like I had a very long walk ahead of me:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

As I continued down the trail I could see below me the steepest section of the hike where I had to wait for some people to ascend up the rope:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

While I waited I took in the views of Honolulu and Mt. Tantalus to the southeast:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

After letting the hikers pass, I then descended down the steep slope.  Afterwards I turned around and took this picture of more hikers ascending the steep slope above me:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

Here is a closer look at the crux of this hike:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

Here is a panorama picture I took that shows how this steep section leads over to the summit of Puu Keahi a Kahoe:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

Just passed the steep section I came to the narrowest part of the trail where there are steep drop offs on each side:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

This narrow section is still very easy to cross, but hikers should use extra caution here if the trail is muddy.  As I continued down the trail I continued to pass a steady stream of hikers:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

This made me glad I left on my hike so early because the summit was assuredly going to be a madhouse with all these hikers heading up there:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

As I continued down the trail I enjoyed great views of the Kamananui Valley directly below me:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

I also spotted some of the native Hawaiian loulu hiwa palms that only grow on the windswept slopes of the Ko’olau Range:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

I also saw a number of large native Hawaiian koa trees along the trail as well.  These trees long ago were used by early Hawaiians to make their canoes:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

Here is another view looking back towards the steep slope leading to the Ko’olau Summit Trail now in the far distance:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

Here is a view looking back up the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail towards the Ko’olau Range:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

The descent down the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail was quite easy considering all the ropes that have been installed:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

The walls of the adjacent ridgelines were a beautiful emerald green:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

Towards the end of the ridge trail, the Moanalua Valley opened up in front of me in all its splendor:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

At the bottom of the trail I once again passed under the tree with the words “Middle Ridge” carved into it:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

I next found myself back at the trailhead for the Kulana’ahane Trail:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

From the trailhead I began my just under three mile walk through the Moanalua Valley on the Kamananui Valley Road back to the community park.  Along the way I was able to take one last picture of Puu Keahi a Kahoe in the distance:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

In the early morning darkness I had a hard time spotting the muddy sections that engulf parts of the Kamananui Valley Road. However, during the daylight hours I was able to easily see and bypass them:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

Fortunately most of the road was dry and I was able to make great time getting back down it:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

Along the way I passed by the many famous stone bridges that can be found in the Moanalua Valley:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

These bridges were built by the Damon family in the 1800’s when they once had a home in the Moanalua Valley:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

I also got to see the major construction going on in the Moanalua Valley to install a concrete road that will help prevent major erosion of the trail during frequent flash floods in the valley:

Picture from the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail

Conclusion

After completing the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail, I rank it as one of my favorite trails on Oahu due to its challenge and beautiful views.  However, the party atmosphere, garbage, and crap at the radio station is a definite turn off at least for me.  I think the state should seriously consider tearing down the bottom part of the stairs if this trail cannot be properly managed.  All the garbage and human feces everywhere is unacceptable not to mention the impact the illegal hikers have on local residents by cutting through their yards at all hours of the day.

For those that want to do this hike legally and respectfully I highly recommend the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail.  Make sure though to get an early start to avoid crowding on the trail and to bring microspikes for improved traction.  I left at 6:00 AM and had the trail all to myself on the way up besides being passed by one trail runner.  Make sure to also budget plenty of time to complete this hike.  I took me 4 hours to ascend the trail and about 2 hours and 45 minutes to get back down.  However long it does take you to complete this hike do it because this is one of the most incredible trails on Oahu for anyone who enjoys hiking.


Disclaimer:  On-Walkabout is a website about outdoor activities that is not affiliated with any state or national government.  The articles on this website are for informational purposes only and to inspire others to get outside.  The activity descriptions are given to showcase the beauty and fun of experiencing the outdoors.  The writer of On-Walkabout is not responsible for any accidents, injuries, rescues, legal issues, or loss of life by anyone attempting the activities listed on this website.  Outdoor activities can be dangerous which is why it is the responsibility of the reader to use common sense and understand their own abilities before attempting an outdoor activity inspired by this website.  Most importantly parents need to understand the ability of their children before attempting an outdoor activity.  Just because my young children completed a hike mentioned on this site does not mean your children can as well.  Be safe and I hope this website inspires others to go and enjoy the outdoors as much as I do.  

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

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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