Hiking Oʻahu’s Volcanic Terrain
Getting up close to Oʻahu’s ancient volcano ranges is a once in a lifetime experience, but being prepared for the journey will help you enjoy it more. The inactive Waiʻanae and Koʻolau Ranges aren't necessarily easy to tackle, but the challenge of conquering these iconic and beautiful terrain is part of the fun. Here’s everything you need to know about hiking Oʻahu’s volcanic terrain to set you off on the right foot.
All trails mentioned leading to O‘ahu waterfalls are currently open but may close at any time. We recommend checking City and County of Honolulu or State of Hawai‘i mandates and individual attractions for operating hours, updates, and social distancing measures before your hike. Please travel responsibly by treating Hawai‘i’s trails, creatures, sacred sites, residents, and areas of ecological restoration with respect. Refer to Hawai‘i’s Department of Land and Natural Resources website for additional hiking etiquette and safety preparedness information.
You won’t find classic cone-shaped volcanoes anywhere on Oʻahu. In fact, the remnants of the island’s ancient shield volcanoes are so old that they have become heavily eroded over time (although parts are still pretty impressive, with heights exceeding 4,000 feet). The Waiʻanae Range on Oʻahu’s leeward coast is 22 miles long by 9 miles wide and was created from a single volcano believed to have last erupted 2.5 million years ago.
From the steep coastal cliffs of the northern slopes to the even gradient of the southern, explore the breathtaking scenery on hikes like Mokuleia Trail, Kuaokala Trail, and Kealia Access Road and Trail. Mountainous heights, thick rainforest canopies, and glimpses of the highest point of Oʻahu, Mt. Ka’ala - there’s no better collection of trails than those that wind their way through the Waiʻanae Range. Check their respective websites for more information on day use permits.
Next up on our adventure is the 37-mile long Koʻolau Range, or, the remnants of a shield volcano, a type of volcano named for resembling a warrior’s shield lying on the ground, that runs along Oʻahu’s windward coast. The eastern half of the volcano slid into the Pacific Ocean in prehistoric times, and what remains of the summit is located in present-day Kaneʻohe Bay (pictured above). After a long period of dormancy, the volcano began to erupt once again, creating hikeable landmarks such as Diamond Head, Koko Head, Koko Crater, Punchbowl Crater, Tantalus, and Aliapaʻakai.
Hikers love to trek the Honolulu Volcanic Series (the landmarks mentioned above) that have been formed by volcanic activity. The most famous of these is Diamond Head, which is known for its breathtaking scenery, accessibility, and proximity to Waikiki. For more hikeable trails along the Koʻolau Range and challenging landscapes tracing nearly every type of terrain imaginable, visit Hawaiʻi Trails - there are tons to choose from!
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