Kaunala Loop Trail: Part Hiking Trail and Part Dirt Road

The Kaunala Loop Trail, located in Pupukea on the North Shore, is an interesting hike. Some might classify only half of this trail as a hike, with the other half being walking on an excruciatingly long and boring road. Okay, maybe the walk down the road isn’t that excruciating, but, for some reason, when it’s asphalt my feet is walking on, I tend to get tired (probably from boredom) very quickly. Not to say that the entirety of this hike was boring, it wasn’t. In fact, it had its share of pleasant delights.

Cross this gate to and walk the dirt road to reach the trailhead. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Cross this gate to and walk the dirt road to reach the trailhead. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Weird and random art. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Weird and random art. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Interesting structure. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Interesting structure. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

The trailhead will be on your left. You can see the yellow and brown Na Ala Hele trailhead signs in the photo. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

The trailhead will be on your left. You can see the yellow and brown Na Ala Hele trailhead signs in the photo. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

After making the long drive to the North Shore, you will turn right on Pupukea Road (just before Foodland). Follow the road until it ends. Find parking on the side of the road. You will notice that it sort of splits at the end of the road. To the left will be Camp Pupukea and to the right will be a gravel dirt path. Follow the gravel dirt path for about 3/4 of a mile. The trailhead will be on your left. Keep an eye out for the brown and yellow Na Ala Hele trailhead sign.

Na Ala Hele has the Kaunala Trail listed as being 2.5 miles. However, this does not to take into account the entire loop, which includes the access road. After roughly 2 miles on the trail, you will break out onto a dirt road. Turn right and follow the dirt road. I hated this dirt road. It’s an uphill climb. The one upside is that it will bring you to a nice lookout of point with a good view of the recently installed wind turbines. What an awful distraction blocking a rather beautiful view. Follow the dirt road until you reach a large gate with a paved road on the other side. Go around the gate and proceed to turn right and continue to walk down the road. Eventually, you will reach a picnic table. Continue past the picnic table and you will eventually find yourself back at the trailhead.

Wide open trail. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Wide open trail. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Nice grade. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Nice grade. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Nature. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Nature. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Clear path. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Clear path. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Beautifully carved section of the trail. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Beautifully carved section of the trail. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

I found this trail to be very similar to the Aiea Loop Trail and the Makiki Loop Trail. It’s a combination of valley and ridge, with the views being mainly adjacent mountains in the distance. There was very little elevation gain on the trail, which is probably the reason why we were able to complete over 5 miles in under 3 hours.

Would I do this trail again? Probably not. It doesn’t offer anything spectacular or unique. I could get the same experiencing by doing Aiea Loop, minus the 45 minute drive and long dirt road. Nonetheless, another hike to check off of my list.

Explorers: Coty Gonzales and Joel Sabugo.

Nature's carpet. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Nature’s carpet. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Stream crossing. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Stream crossing. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Loved this portion of this trail. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Loved this portion of this trail. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Eventually, you'll exit the trail and hit a dirt road. Follow the signs. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Eventually, you’ll exit the trail and hit a dirt road. Follow the signs. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Along the way, you'll get a view of the windmills. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Along the way, you’ll get a view of the windmills. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

We had a snack break at this picnic table. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

We had a snack break at this picnic table. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Total Distance: 5.09 miles roundtrip.

Total Time: 2 hours and 45 minutes roundtrip.

Kaunala Loop Trail Tips:

  • After the trail, make a stop at the Pu`u O Mahuka Heiau. The heiau, built in the 1600’s, is the largest heiau on the island covering nearly 2 acres of land. The heiau is located just off the start of Pupukea Road.

Directions to Kaunala Loop Trail: Take the H2 and drive toward the north shore. Eventually, you will pass Haleiwa town. Continue pass Haleiwa toward Pupukea. Just before the Foodland, you will turn right on Pupukea Road. The the road to the end on park on the side of the road, just before Camp Pupukea.

About Coty

Founder of Exploration: Hawaii. Adventure, Minimalism, Vinyl, Typography, and Coffee + Matcha. A single space after a period, please.

3 comments

  1. Love this sight! Thanks for pics too it gives a visual of what is to come in these hikes! Thanks for posting.

  2. I used to hike Kaunala back in the 1980-90’s…I loved it because (only 10 minute drive from home) I was almost guaranteed to be able to hike for a few hours and not see another living soul. Maybe an occasional pig hunter on their way out/in. I also loved the mana and beautiful flora that I experienced there. There was one spot where each February, scented terrestrial orchids grew in a secret cove right off the road. Happened to find it on a off trail pee break. LoL. I am sure it has changed now, but I have fond memories of Kaunala. Thank you for the photos!

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