After hearing so many good things about the hike to Ka’au Crater in the back of Palolo Valley, I had to try it out for myself. Getting to the trail is simple. Take the 6th Avenue cutoff on the H-1. Turn left. Take a right on Waialae Avenue, and then take a left on 10th Avenue. Drive a ways until the road forks. The right fork is a street called Waiomao Road. Drive to the end of the road, and park just before a private driveway.
The weather was really sketchy for a stream/waterfall hike. Instead of walking up the private driveway to the official trailhead, Daniel and I took a trail to the left of the gate at the beginning of the driveway. This trail immediately took us down to Waiomao Stream. After following the trail upstream we eventually spotted trail ribbons, indicating that we were on the right track.
The trail to the first waterfall doesn’t do much climbing at all, and it isn’t very long either. There is a short, gradual ascent out of Waiomao Stream, but from there the trail levels out as it proceeds deep into the heavily vegetated and lush Palolo Valley. The only detraction is a metal pipe that has to be followed all the way to the first waterfall. The pipe does get irritating at times, but on this day, the trail was really wet and muddy, so using the pipe as an option to walk on to avoid the muddy areas kept our shoes clean for the most part.
After about an hour, we reached the first waterfall. I took a few pictures and then we proceeded up to the second waterfall. Both waterfalls were beautiful, with the second being higher than the first. The second waterfall was raging furiously, and Daniel and I got a bit jolted. When we reached the second waterfall, the rain started to come down hard. As soon as this happened, the water level started to rise over the boulders we were standing on within only a matter of seconds. We immediately proceeded up the trail to get to the top of the second waterfall. Fortunately, the rain slowed to a drizzle once we reached the third waterfall. The third waterfall doesn’t cascade vertically as does the latter waterfalls, but it is long. To get to the rim of Ka’au Crater, the third waterfall must be climbed. There were ropes everywhere to aid in our upward progress. The climb is an unreal experience. Where else on Oahu can you climb a waterfall to get to the rim of an extinct volcanic crater? Well, this is the hike to do it, and the feeling is surreal.
The view from the crater rim is amazing. Further progress is possible along the crater is possible. The trail climbs the eastern portion of the crater rim to the Ko’olau summit and then descends the western portion of the crater rim, making a full loop of the crater. Our sights were set on the summit, but it wasn’t good idea after the heavy downpour. The eastern portion of the rim to the summit is steep, and with the addition of rain, the trail was extremely muddy and slippery. We decided that that route would have to wait until summer, so we he headed back down the waterfall.
We got back to our starting point at 3:30pm: five hours on the trail. Going back to the car was a cinch. From the first waterfall, it took us only thirty minutes to get back to the trailhead. Thirty minutes! With that said, this is probably one of the most easily accessible, mulit-tiered waterfall hikes on the island. The climb up to the second waterfall does require some muscle, but as long as it is taken slow, the second waterfall is worth the climb from the first waterfall. There is a sketchy section when climbing the right side of the second waterfall. The trail is extremely narrow with a perilous drop on one side. The climb up the third waterfall is extremely dangerous. Because the climb up the third waterfall uses both the left and right sides, you will get your feet wet, and it is very, very, very slippery. But if you’ve got what it takes, you’ll be rewarded with an awesome view of a hidden crater nestled along the southern walls of the Ko'olau Mountain Range. I’m looking forward to the summit hike this summer, so keep checking the blog for an update.