Treadmill Rating (out of 10): 7 out of 10
Distance: 1.5 miles (round trip)
Elevation Gain: 1000 feet
There is one word to describe this hike….STAIRS.
During a recent visit to Oahu, Hawaii I decided to take on a little challenge for my vacation and hiked Koko Head. Many people have seen this hike on Hawaii Five-O (TV series), as did I. It was a much more challenging hike than I had anticipated. I was prepared for a stair climber type of hike, but nothing prepared me for just how difficult it really ended up being.
The trail is an abandoned railway built during WWII to transport material and personnel to the top of Koko Head for the lookouts. It consists of about 1048 steps which are actually railroad ties. In most places the steps are just far apart enough to warrant an extra step between them, but I was up for a challenge so most of the way I stepped directly from tie-to-tie.
About 1/2 way up the trail there is a small bridge spanning a small section. It is a little freaky on the way down, but not too bad. There is a bypass trail that allows you to go around the bridge. Other than the bridge the hike is just regular steps that seem to go on forever. The incline is moderate but very doable for most people. I highly recommend bringing plenty of water to drink. It can get hot since there is no real shade along the way.
I made it to the summit in about 20 minutes and back down in about the same amount of time. I took a few breaks on the way up and down to take pictures and catch my breath. The views from the top are beautiful. There is a lot to explore and see while you are at the top. This is one hike that I will highly recommend to anyone visiting the island (or living there). It is an excellent training hike.
Please make sure you are physically and mentally prepared for this hike. Bring plenty of water, sunscreen, and a hat. It is highly recommended to have a good pair of shoes to get traction along the trail.
One thing that surprised me was the difficulty heading down the trail. Normally heading down the trail is where I shine, but because of the need to walk down stairs it began to really work my upper legs. They were a little shaky when I reached the mid-point of the hike down, but as soon as I got into a better groove they calmed down.
WHERE IS THIS TRAIL?
The trail begins at the Koko Head Regional Park just off of the 72. It is very close to Hanauma Bay and easy to spot from a distance. There is ample parking at the regional park with restrooms and water to fill up your water bottles.
HOW TECHNICAL IS THE HIKE?
Overall the hike is not technical. You do need to make sure you have the ability to climb lots of stairs.
I would honestly say that anyone in relatively good shape can handle this hike. Just remember to take your time and bring plenty of water.
WHEN SHOULD I GO?
The awesome part about this hike is the geographic location. I would recommend this hike anytime of the year. Obviously there may be days of heavy rain and wind, but for the most part the hike is accessible year round. I would highly recommend getting to the hike in the morning around 7 or 8am. It is much better to get on trail before the heat of the day.
I would recommend climbing the steps or bleachers at a local high school football field to make sure your body can handle the stairs.
GEAR LIST (day hike)
Water, good walking/hiking shoes, hat, camera, lots of water, food/snacks.