If you stick to just the “road” then this hike can be a very long and boring ordeal. It’s when you venture off the old, dirt and gravel filled road, that the adventure on Kamananui Valley Road really begins. Upon first glance, one would doubt that there is much to see on Kamananui Valley Road, other than some really old stone bridges. Quite the opposite is true. In fact, this 4-mile, mostly flat road, is filled with rich history. And those really old stone bridges? They’re pretty cool too.
I first checked out Kamananui Valley Road over a year ago, when L. Steve Rohrmayr, affectionately known in Hawaii hiking circles as Waianae Steve, posted a scan online of a very old walking guide that
used to be is distributed by the Moanalua Gardens Foundation (you can now purchase the guide for $5). The old guide provided the details of Kamananui Valley, with instructions on how to find the hidden treasures. Eager, I downloaded Steve’s scans and checked out the trail with my regular hiking partner, Joel.
The old guide reference old, numbered, wooden markers. Though the wooden markers were still there, we also noticed that blank, informational stands, had been erected. A day later, we saw a short clip on the evening news that mentioned that Na Ala Hele were replace the old wooden number markers with new “interpretive stands.” And so the plan (at the time) was to return back to the valley, photograph the informational plaques, and then work on a post for this blog. It took me a year to go back to the valley road to do this! Hey, it’s better late than never, right? A year later, and those wooden number markers have since been removed and replaced with the interpretive signs mentioned above. The only marker left standing is wooden marker number 12.
So, what’s to see? One of the main artifacts is an abandoned stone home that once belonged to Douglas Damon, son of early Hawaii businessman and politician, Samuel Mills Damon. The movie, The Descendants, is loosely based on the Damon family and their excessive estate. The Damon Estates was one of Hawaii’s wealthiest trusts, and have been battling over money for many years. In 2004, the heirs of the estate received nearly $500 million dollars and continue to battle over $1 billion dollars worth of land and assets.
Near where old wooden marker number 3 used to stand, is a brand new interpretative sign of Damon’s old stone home. Here is the junction at which you will vere off of the main trail in order to make your way toward the old home. The first structural artifact that you will notice will be the once grand staircase. Near where the front door once stood lay a sizeable rock with a deep cylindrical hole carved in it. This is a post hole, which was used to support Hawaiian homes. A brick fireplace and swimming pool are other remnants of the past. Once you’ve had your fill of the old Damon house, begin to make your way back to the main trail.
Past the old Damon home, you will begin to cross several old bridges. Keep your eye out for an old water gauging station that was installed during the same time that the H-3 highway was being proposed. Further down the trail, you will notice an old cobblestone road. The road leads to the old home of May Damon and also to Damon’s old horse stables. Another point of interest is Pohaku Ka Luahine, which is located at the old mile-marker 10. This large rock is actually one of the “most revered petroglyph” rocks on the island. Pohaku Ka Luahine literally means the rock of the old woman. The old Hawaiian legend says that a child once broke kapu at a religious ceremony because he wouldn’t stop crying. This act was punishable by death. Because of this, the child’s grandmother took the child and ran up Moanalua Valley and hid behind the sacred Pohaku Ka Luahine until the kapu expired. So, next time you break kapu, you know where to go.
Just beyond Pohaku Ka Luahine will be a side trail to your right. This trail used to be marked by wooden marker 11, however, that marker is no longer there. This side trail will lead you to the remains of an old stove house that May Damon lived in the early 1900’s. If you hit wooden marker number 12 (the only wooden marker left standing), then you know that you’ve gone too far. Marker 12 is also a good reference point for those interesting in climbing the grueling Tripler Ridge. This is one of the routes that individuals take to reach Stairway to Heaven, or Haiku Stairs.
The last point of reference in the old guidebook is Puu Pueo. This flat and open area offers sweeping views of the ridges that make up the back of the valley. Pueo means owl in Hawaiian. I am yet to see an owl on this trail, but maybe you will have better luck. Feel free to walk past Puu Pueo. The road meanders, eventually reaching junctions for the Kulanaahane Trail and Moanalua Middle Trail. Kulanaahane will bring you to an awesome, but eroded lookout. This route can also used to access Haiku Stairs, but via Moanalua Saddle, which is dangerous and eroded. Moanalua Middle, however, is considered to be one of the easiest routes to Haiku Stairs.
Total Distance: 8 miles roundtrip.
Total Time: 4 hours.
Kamananui Valley Road Trail Tips:
- Take the time to enjoy the history of Kamananui Valley Road. If you fly through the trail, then it’ll be quite a boring walk.
- The gate does lock at 6pm. If you plan to do a crossover hike to Haiku Stairs, then consider parking your vehicle outside of the park in the residential area.
Directions to Kamananui Valley Road Trail: From Honolulu, head Ewa bound (west) on H1 and take Exit 19b to Moanalua Valley and turn right on Ala Aolani Street. Moanalua Valley Park is located at the very end of the road. The trailhead to Kamananui Valley Road Trail is located at the end of the parking lot.