Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Aiea Ridge

This past November one of my old hiking partners came back to Hawaii to visit and stayed with my wife and I for a few weeks.  We were looking to do a somewhat short hike in (time wise) knowing that my wife had to work around 3pm and and we wanted to be home by around 1pm. We set off from the trailhead at the top of Aiea Heights drive at the Keaiwa Heiau state park around 730 am with the intentions of setting a fast pace (the parks gates don't open until 7am I believe).  We parked near the restroom area in the back part of the park and set off on the very popular Aiea loop trail.  We knew that the Aiea Ridge trail was around eleven miles round trip but figured that the mileage could be done alot faster than most people we had talked to had said it took them.  We began looking for the Aiea Ridge trail which juts off of the Aiea Loop trail. After about 20 or so minutes on the Aiea Loop trail we found the very obvious junction for the Aiea Ridge trail veering left and up, off of the Aiea Loop trail.  A very short time after this junction the H-3 came into sight to our right.  It was still early and the cloud cover was minimal making for a beautiful but very hot day.  We kept a steady pace and the trail was very straight forward from here on out.  It was gradual climb after gradual climb with a few steep climbs thrown into the mix every now and again.  After an hour or so we reached a small clearing to our right with some sleeping bags there.  Odd to me that very good sleeping bags were just left, but, oh well.  We grabbed some water, snapped a few picutures and on we went. 

Our next stop was about 30 minutes further along the ridge when we arrived at a peak with a huge grassy clearing, which was Puu Kawipo'o.  We sat down at this point and basked in the views and relaxed for awhile.  From this big grassy knoll we could see the top of the last peak we were aiming for and the power lines and ridge that lead to the true summit of Aiea Ridge.  We were stoked because we knew we were in for a treat because there was virtually no clouds in the sky.  We continued on at a quick pace but picked it up a tad bit in anticipation of the views that lied ahead.  A few more steep climbs up to a couple more false peaks and then we arrived at an enormous clearing with an incredible overlook of the windward side.  From Kaneohe Bay to the Kaneohe sandbar and all the way down to chinamans hat, the views were magnificent and incredibly clear.  We took a few minutes gawking in awe of the views and then quickly made our way to the right, towards the powerline towers, and towards the true summit of Aiea Ridge.  After about 5 minutes we had reached the "true summit" and once on the actual "KST" and on the edge of the mountains, the views were even more beautiful.  I wished we'd had the time to crossover to waimano on this day, being that the weather was so clear, but those days will always be available in the future.  We spent about ten minutes relaxing and talking about how beautiful the day and the views were.  We could see from Kaneohe Bay on our right all the way to Chinamans Hat and Kaneohoalani and Puu Ohulehule on our right with the Valley of the Temples directly in front and beneath us.  The views were absolutely breath takeing.

After plenty of pictures and some hydrating we started to make our way back down the ridge.  We didn't make the time we had planned on or thought we would but we arrived back at the Keaiwa Heiau parking lot around 1pm, with plenty of time to spare.  The hike could take a lot more or less time depending on who's doing it.  My buddy and I were incredibly impressed with the trail on this day.  The summit views were some of the best I have seen.  If the day is clear, this is undeniably one of the better ridges to hit, all though, it seems to be one of the ridges that is socked in with clouds most of the time.  All in all it was a great first hike with my buddy who had just arrived back in town.  We even managed to make time to stop on the way home to grab a few slurpees before heading back home and  handing the car over to my wife to go to work.  My final opinion of Aiea Ridge: A very fun and worthwhile hike with stupendous views if you go on the right day.  A hike every resident on Oahu must do but under the right conditions to see it at it's best.  Another great day on the trails and the following weeks would prove to be even better and more entertaining.

Directions to Aiea Ridge Trail (Keaiwa Heiau State Park): Coming from the airport, take Kamehameha Hwy. heading west.  Take the H1-78 E ramp toward Aiea/Honolulu.  Keep left to take the ramp toward Aiea.  Turn left onto Moanalua Road and then shortly after make a right onto Aiea Heights Drive.  Stay on Aiea Heights Drive for a few miles.  When it ends you will enter Keaiwa Heiau State Park and take the right fork towards the back of the park.  Park in the very back of the park in the stalls near the restroom area.  The trail starts to the left of the restrooms.

The entire Koolau Range was clear on this day

The H3 snakeing it's way through the mountains

The 2nd grassy knoll we came to, Puu Kawipo'o, which made for
a great spot to take a short break.

Looking towards the summit.  The
entire ridge is incredibly easy to follow.

Looking back towards the start of the trail with
the Waianae Mt. Range in the background.

At the enormous grassy knoll just before the
"true summit".  The power line tower and ridge in
front of us is part of the Koolu Summit Trail.

Just about to reach the actual summit of Aiea
Ridge, with the H3 visible on the left side of the
picture and the huge grassy knoll we had just rested
at visible on the far right side of the pic.

Another view of the H3

My buddy makeing his way towards me on the
summit of Aiea Ridge.

At the Aiea Ridge summit terminus.  Looking out
towards the valley of the temples and the Kaneohe

Looking out towards Kaneohe Bay.

Another summit view of the Kaneohe Sandbar
and Chinamans Hat with Kaneohoalani in the far
left of the picture.

Terminus of the Aiea Ridge summit and
connector with the "KST", looking out at the Valley
of the Temples.

Panoramic view from the summit.

Back on the Aiea Loop trail and almost back to
the start of the trail.

Reaching the very beginnging of the hike and the 
parking lot where we began.

1 comment:

  1. I've always wanted to do this trail but could never find the trail head on aiea loop. If you park by the restrooms ans hike in, is it the 1st turn to your left that kinda goes down a ridge?