I first completed Hawaii Loa Ridge many years ago, back in 2004. I remember the trail as being a very brutal one with steep inclines and challenging rope climbs. Of course, that was way back in 2004 and Hawaii Loa was my first big hike.
I revisited this hike a few days ago with Joel, one of the friends that I originally did this hike with. The rest of the people that originally hiked this trail with us have long moved away from the islands. Needless to say, the memories of the previous hike flowed like one of the many waterfalls that we’ve since visited. I remember our group taking multiple breaks on the way up to the summit of Hawaii Loa Ridge. I remember vowing never to do this hike ever again. And I vividly remember one of my friends being so grumpy towards the end – I wasn’t even sure if she was going to make it up (we miss you Annette!).
Seven years later, I’m back on Hawaii Loa Ridge. Was it as brutal as the first time I did it? Not at all. Joel and I pretty much blazed our way up the trail, only stopping once about halfway. It took us 1 hour and 44 minutes to reach the top of Hawaii Loa Ridge. The first time we did it, it took about 2 hours and 45 minutes (over 5 hours round trip).
The trail will start off very dry, however, the deeper that you go into the ridge, the more muddy the terrain will become. There are no narrow ridges to walk on this trail, so it’s a good one to do if you’re not a fan big drop offs. Overall, Hawaii Loa Ridge offers a relatively safe upwards climb towards the Ko’olau Summit Trail. I counted about 5-6 steep climbing sections (nothing too hairy though, just take your time as you navigate your way up).
Throughout our way to the top, I kept telling Joel that “we better get a view this time.” The last time we did this trail, we were totally engulfed by the clouds and had absolutely no view of the Windward side of the island. This made for a horrible reward after completing the upward climb to the top of the ridge. Speaking of the climb, if you are able to complete the Koko Head Crater Steps Trail, then you should have no problem doing the last part of the Hawaii Loa Ridge Trail. The last quarter of the hike will involve you climbing up a few Koko Head like steps. The main difference is that these steps are much more muddy and therefore there is a greater chance of you slipping. There will be some rope installations to also help you navigate your way up.
I was initially disappointed when we reached the top of the trail. We were once again engulfed by the clouds! There was absolutely no view! Fortunately for us, this lasted for just 10 minutes or so. After that time, the clouds cleared up and were rewarded with excellent views of the Windward side of Oahu. Even better, two people that we had passed earlier on the trail reached the top and proceeded to gift us with some homemade oatmeal cookies and even some Toblerone chocolate bars! Both were excellent treats after a great cardio workout. We talked story with our new friends for a little while, took some pictures of the little green army men, and most of all we soaked in the view. Once our friends left us, we proceeded to enjoy our lunch, fried chicken bentos from 7-11, on the edge of the ridge! Anything will taste gourmet after a strenuous workout. In total, we spent an hour relaxing on the Hawaii Loa Ridge summit. That was an excellent hour.
The trek down the mountain can be a little tricky, especially navigating the slippery and muddy steps. The rope will be helpful in working your way down. We took our time walking down and it took us a total of 1 hour and 30 minutes to reach my car. A fun, intermediate level hike!