On my most recent visit to the Manoa Middle hike, I was joined by a fellow hiker who had asked me to show him the trail. After hiking the trail on this day, we both laughed because he had recently hiked from Olympus to Konahuanui, but never saw the Manoa Middle junction on the way. We both figured that the trail was probably overgrown when he passed it on his trip to K2. On this outing, we would start on the Kolowalu trail and hike to where it connects with the Waahile ridge trail. This first leg of the hike is very easy to follow (just make sure you take the left onto the kolowalu trail and not a right onto the puu pia trail) but is a real huffer. The entire hike to the Waahila junction was a straight uphill climb until our legs were sore and worn out and we had finally reached the junction. At the junction we took a left (there will be a sign saying "end of maintained trail") and started up Waahila ridge. This portion of the hike is a little more exposed but is still very safe for the most part. The climb was still steep and some in the group went way ahead as the rest stayed in the back and tried to catch their breath. At points the ridge gets very steep and a few of us found ourselves digging in and pawing to gain further progress. While this trail is very doable in muddy conditions, I would highly suggest to go when it's dry. It will make your hike a lot easier and appreciable.
One of the key points to this hike is finding the contour trail that will take you along the Koolua Summit Trail to the Manoa Middle junction. About fifteen minutes before reaching the summit of Mt. Olympus a fairly obvious contour trail will come in to sight on the left hand side of the ridge. This is the only trail that goes along the KST up here so be aware of that and you should have no problem finding this trail. Once we were on the contour trail, the trail narrowed and we all began to exercise more caution that on the previous ridge. Some parts of the trail have dropoffs that are blocked by shrubbery so be mindful of that and watch your footing. This portion of the hike was pretty indicative of what one comes to expect along the KST. For the most part everyone in our group was moving at a good pace and everything was fairly easy, all though the trail was a little overgrown in spots. Eventually we came to a little rock dike section, that was incredibly narrow and that we all had to negotiate with extreme caution. This was the only part of the hike that I would really consider dangerous. There was a contour trail around the narrow rock dike but having used that before I elected to just go over the rock dike this time, and to be honest the contour around the dike was not safe at all either. We all safely made it over the rock dike and then one by one climbed a small rockface with the aid of a rope. While not very dangerous, we all still had to be cautious, for a fall here would result in serious injury or worse. Once up the rock we entered a pine forest and continued climbing the muddy trail with the aid of a bunch of ropes once again. As I grabbed the final rope to help me up the muddy slope, I knew I was almost to the Manoa Middle junction.
Upon reaching the end of the rope, I looked up and saw the big open knoll that was the Manoa Middle junction. It was here that we all took off our packs and sat down for a well earned lunch. The day was a pretty clear one and the views into manoa valley on one side and of Kailua and Waimanalo on the other were beautiful. From this point we would take a left and head down into the valley via the Manoa Middle trail. If we would have continued straight ahead along the KST we would have ended up at Konahuanui eventually, a hike my friend had recently done. My buddy was shocked when he realized this was the junction. He informed me that when he hiked from Olmypus to K2 that this trail was not even recognizable, so mahalo to the HTMC and whoever else was responsible for clearing this trail. As we all headed down Manoa Middle towards the valley, it didn't even resemble the same trail that I was on a few months prior. It was so muddy on this day that we gave up trying to walk down and all just slid down on our butts for most of the way. The trail was quite lengthy on this day, probably in part due to the mud, but we finally entered a bamboo forest and at that point I knew we were getting close.
At a certain point, once entering back in to a wooded area the trail seemed to peter out and everything in front of us was blocked off by fallen trees and other debris. To the left was a tiny tree with a ribbon on it. This was our trail to get down into Waiakeakua valley. The trail down is extremely steep but there are plenty of ropes in place to help with the climb down. There is tons of loose rocks in this area though so be careful when going down so you don't dislodge them onto a fellow hiker in front of you. The climb down is steep and requires some caution but is a fairly short climb. Before we knew it we were out of the valley and had arrived at Waiakeakua stream. Directly to our right was the top of a fifteen foot waterfall. Across the stream and to the left was the trail that would take us to the double tiered waterfall and a few swimming holes after about a fifteen minute hike. On this day three of us decided to take this short trek and enjoy the waterfall while the others headed back to the car (check the Waiakeakua falls write up I posted for further information on this side trip).
Once arriving out of the wooded area and reaching Waiakeakua stream, the two members of our group that were ready to head back to the car, took a right. Almost immediately after making that right some concrete stairs come in to view. After following those stairs down a crystal clear pool with a tiny waterfall will be awaiting you. This is a perfect spot to rinse off and refresh before ending the hike. In addition, the 15 foot waterfall that I mentioned was visible from the top when we first reached the stream, can be visited by making your way behind the little pool and rock hopping for about one minute. After cooling off in the little pool, we all stayed to the left side of the stream on an obvious trail. Just a minute or so after another fairly obvious trail came in to sight. We headed left and straight up the hill. Once to the top of this short but steep hill we emerged back on to a wide, state maintained, trail (the Puu Pia trail). Taking a left once reaching the top of the hill we reached the junction with the Kolowalu trail (where we had started our hike earlier that day) within ten or fifteen minutes and just continued straight and back to the road and our cars. I'm not sure how long this hike would take most people, but it took us around eight hours on this day, but we did relax and take it slow. I would suggest giving yourself at least five to six hours to complete this trail if you are gonna attempt it. It is definetly a fun trail, worthy of the effort that it takes.
Directions: take Punahou street to Manoa road to East Manoa road. When East Manoa road ends take a left onto Alani drive and then make the next right onto Woodlawn drive and park anywhere there on the street. Walk back to where the two streets just intersected and follow the gravel road to the trailhead. Make sure to take the trail on the left (Kolowalu trail) and not the one on the right (Puu Pia). This hike is a loop hike so you will enter via the Kolowalu trail and exit via the Puu Pia trail.