the trail to Kilohana Lookout

The 4 mile trail (one way) I hiked to reach Kilohana Lookout was used by Hawaiians in ancient times so they could reach the north shore of the island when ocean surf along the rugged Na Pali coast was too severe to navigate. The picture below gives you a rough idea of the slick, muddy terrain you’ll encounter at various times along the way. This is right at the start, actually. You’re on the rim above Kalalau Valley and you’re pondering whether or not there’s solid ground or an overhang beneath you. Fortunately, the trail gets away from this unstable area and becomes tunnel-like through the fascinating `ohi`a and fern forest.

My initial feeling was “gosh, this isn’t nearly as bad as all my guidebooks made it out to be!”. I practically glided down this in an attempt to put as much distance between myself and the big contingent of pig hunters (and their dogs) gathering at the Pu`u o Kila Lookout.  Very soon, things got worse. A lot worse. Not having trekking poles or a walking stick for this hike was a pain in the ass. The first couple miles of trail, I came to numerous sections of path resembling mushy, gunky clay before it’s molded and fired in a kiln. Except instead of shaping it on a pottery wheel, you’re walking on it! The potential for a disastrous muddy triple axle is high.

I would venture to say the majority of people who venture along the Pihea Trail from Pu`u o Kila Lookout probably only go as far as the turnoff for Pihea Vista (one mile). When they get to the turn-off for Pihea Vista and see it’s more of the same except drastically steeper, they mutter something along the lines of “to hell with this!” Still, you’ll see families and children clambering up to Pihea Vista. I was impressed by the fortitude I saw. I went up to investigate Pihea Vista on my way back from Kilohana Lookout, and take my word for it…..the view from Pihea Vista is no better than the mile of walking from Pu`u o Kila Lookout.  And that’s a good thing. There’s no point in nearly killing yourself on slippery steep mud, is there? So if you’re reading this and trying to decide if you want to do the hike to Pihea Vista, I say only do it if you’re like me and need to have a specific benchmark for closure. Otherwise, soak in the views as much as possible on the rim above the Kalalau Valley.

The vista below is a morning gander from the first mile of the Pihea Trail. Although the forecast for the day was mostly sunny for all around the island, the Pihea Trail skirts what is literally one of the wettest places on earth (a tall signpost at the Pu`u o Kila Lookout reminds you) so I wasn’t taking any chances that there would be something to see here on my return. Diana and Adam have been to the Pu`u o Kila Lookout and all they got to see was a wall of impenetrable fog.

I know what you’re thinking: Jason, where are the stinking pictures of this famed Kilohana Lookout you keep mentioning? I’ll try to share a bunch of pictures tomorrow.

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