While the traditional Pu’u Piei trail is a simple trail leading to a peak on Pauao ridge on the west rim of Kahana Valley, making a right at the Piei turnover on the ridge introduces you to a much more difficult trail that can be used to loop back into the valley. The Piei Makai trail is short, at around 3 miles total, but can take up to 6 hours to complete due to its 2 major obstacles and many scrambling sections, both up and down.
Baron Yamamoto invited me on this hike with Joshua Serrano and Jeremy Kreis already agreed to join. Later, Cory Yap and Jenelyn Castillo would also agree to join the hike. I have had actually talked with most of them before online but this would be the first time I would meet them in person, except for Jeremy who I ran into when I did Ohulehule.
Jeremy was the first to arrive in Kahana around 6 AM as he planned to make the crossover from Pauao (water tank) to Piei and then would meet us at the Piei summit. The rest of us all got to the park around 8:30 and started towards the Piei trail around 8:45. When I was here the first time, I used the Stuart Ball route by starting on the highway. But this time, Josh would lead us to the starting point from within the valley. We would walk into park, make a right before reaching the orientation center then hop a chain and continue until we found a dry stream to make a left on. From there, it was an obvious trail to the ridge.
We arrived at the turnover around 10:15. Josh and I elected to wait at turnover while the rest of the group made a left towards the Piei summit to wait for Jeremy, who would finish all of Pauao ridge after today. They intended to wait only until 11 AM and found Jeremy just 4 minutes before they were about to leave. After all of us met up at the turnover, we turned makai to start part of the Pauao ridge none of us had been on before.
The trail is narrow at times and somewhat crumbly. But it was dry when we went and most of the footings were solid enough to not cause any major slips. There are many small saddles on the trail that can at times require actual saddling, but there won’t be any majorly difficult sections until you have to climb down the first notch.
The first notch requires you to down climb a vertical wall with blind footholds due to some overhang. There is a strong rope attached at this point, using a puka, that makes the descent easier. Although not having much experience in down climbing vertical walls and looking for blind footholds, I wouldn’t have been able to make it down the half-way point without guidance from Cory, who assisted me by climbing back up a bit to my right side.
The second notch comes quickly after the first and required us to provide webbing to have everyone safely descend. Baron had brought 80 feet of webbing that he tied to some shrubbery; although the shrubs did not seem very solid so Baron elected to hold the webbing himself as well to reduce tension. He beliefs the shrubs may not last long so setting up webbing here may not be the best choice in the future. The second notch might be easier for some as, while longer, is not as vertical as the first. It is easier for someone below to guide you. Jeremy would stay just above the bottom of the notch to help others climb down. It is also possible to contour the second notch as Cory had done. There should be a path going down shorty after the first notch.
With the 2 major obstacles behind us, the remainder had some scrambling but it was nothing too different than what we had found in the beginning. Climbing down some of the smaller notches can still be tricky if you lack climbing experience but there’s no rope needed on any part of the trail except for the 2 notches.
Before reaching the highway, you will find a good lookout point to the right looking over Kahana Bay and Valley. This is where we took our long lunch break. Further on, there will be pit that provides good photo ops and another lookout point overlooking the coast.
We would continue the trail until we found the seaward most ridge heading towards the valley. There would be a long rope leading to the pit/lookout point mentioned above and an obvious trail leading to the bottom.
Reaching the ridgeline for Pauao could take around 75 – 90 mins and the remainder of the hike can take between 4-5 hours to complete. This is a fun loop, and while we did not have great weather like when Kaleo’s group went, we still had good views the whole way. It was great hiking with such an experienced group and much thanks to everyone for helping me out in the trickier spots, especially Cory on the first notch and Jeremy on the second. It was an all-around amazing experience due to the veterans on the trail, wonderful views and fun scrambling portions.