Trail in Kuaokala Game Management Area
Length (one way): 2.5 mi / 4.02 km - Elevation Change: 1,600 ft / 487.68 m
Kealia trail is a 2.5 (distance combined with Kealia trail) trek gradual climb to a wide ridge connecting to Kealia Access Road.
For additional information refer to the "Route description" below.
Rules & Regulation
The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) built the switchback section of the Kealia Trail in 1934. A 42-man crew from the Wahiawa Camp began construction in March and finally finished in September. Whole sections of the route had to be blasted out of the lava rock.
Look for some historical graffiti left by a trail crew member, probably during lunch break. He carved his initials, the date, and “C. C. C.” on a rock face just after the eleventh switchback. The holes near the inscription are not left over from CCC blasting, but were drilled more recently by geologists studying changes in the earth’s magnetic field.
In early 1993, Na Ala Hele, the State trail program, completely renovated the switchback section, which had gradually deteriorated over the years. On June 6, renowned trail builder Richard H. (Dick) Davis led an evening procession up the refurbished route to celebrate National Trails Day. About 240 people climbed to the top of the pali by flashlight.
Historically the Air Force has closed public access during RIMPAC in the month of July and on the anniversary of September 11. It is recommended that you call to check on the status of access in the event that the Air Force closes public access for security reasons. During these closures, you will not be able drive up the road through the Kaena Point Satellite Tracking Station at The Kaena State Park section of the Mauka Kaena State Park or Keawaula. The KPSTS land line is (808)697-4311 to check on potential closures.
OVERNIGHT PARKING IS NOT ALLOWED AT OR AROUND THE AIR FORCE FACILITY. Campers may park overnight at the east trail head off of Kuaokala Road.
WARNING! Serious rock fall has occurred on this trail. Please use caution when hiking.
If accessing via the Ka‘ena Point Tracking Station, a hiking permit is required. See below "Resources" section for permit application link.
Do not use any trail or access road that is not delineated by name and color and that may also be displayed on these maps. The marked features are managed for public recreational use. Other trails or roads that branch off from the public features may be on private property, and are not managed for any public recreational use. Access is subject to adjacent landowner approval, and if used without authorization, you will be trespassing and possibly putting yourself at risk.
Downloadable resources are provided below
- 4-Wheel Drive
- Dog Hunting
- Dog on Leash
Amenities & Facilities
- Picnic Tables
- 4-Wheel Drive
- Nature Study
- Ocean Scenery
- Open Views
- Scenic Viewpoint
- Sensitive Area
- No Alcohol
- No Littering
- No Open Fires
- No Plant Sand Dirt Rock Removal
- No Rock Climbing
- No Smoking
- Blind Corner
- Dangerous Cliff
- Dangerous Footing
- Falling Rocks
- Fire Danger
- Narrow Trail
- Sun Exposure
- Uneven Surface
- Vehicle Traffic
Accessing this trail requires a day use permit issued by Hawaii’s Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DLNR). This permit must be printed in advance and in your possession at all times when on the trail. An additional copy must also be displayed on your vehicle dashboard when on the premises. Trail users may obtain permits through the following methods:
Method 1 (Online-CURRENTLY INACTIVE) - A permit may be quickly obtained via the online link provided in the Links section at the bottom of this page. Trail users who use this method will be
charged a $2.50 service fee for the online transaction. The permit will be issued automatically after purchase.
Method 2 (Via Mail) - Trail users who may not wish to pay the online service fee may manually send in an application, free of purchase, to the Department of Forestry
and Wildlife, Oahu Branch. Please download and complete the form provided in the Resources section below (under Permit Application). Trail users may mail your
application packet to:
2135 Makiki Heights Dr.
Honolulu, HI 96822
Permits will be issued after the completed application has been reviewed and approved.
This may take up to 5 business days.
Method 3 (Walk-In) - Permits are also issued same-day to trail users who wish to visit our DOFAW Makiki and Downtown offices. Walk-in permits are issued free of
charge, and at the desk. Trail users may visit either of the following locations:
1151 Punchbowl St., Rm. 325
Honolulu, HI 96813
2135 Makiki Heights Dr.
Honolulu, HI 96822
Terrain and Trail Environment
Exposed switchbacks, rocky, dirt road, hot and dry
If you are driving, there are two ways to reach this trail:
1. From Farrington Highway, after passing Camp Mokuleia, turn left into the third entrance to Dillingham Airfield. Parking is available at airfield. Continue by foot toward the mountain, crossing the access road you just came in on, and enter the gravel road. Go through the cable gate and continue left down the road. When the road forks, stay right. The road will end at a fence lined with WWII bunkers. Proceed through the gate at the fence. The trail begins here.
2. By four wheel drive and DLNR permit (See Permit Requirments): Drive towards Ka‘ena Point on Farrington Highway until you reach The Kaena State Park section of the Mauka Kaena State Park or Keawaula. Turn right and check in with your permit at the security guard station for the Ka‘ena Point Tracking Station. Continue up the road until you get to the intersection with the second guard shack on the left. Turn right at the stop sign and proceed past the Tracking Station. Once past the station, the road curves to the left and you will pass another intersection on the right. Adjacent to the next intersection is a large dirt parking area. Take the road on the right, heading downhill. Follow the arrow signs along the road, and turn left at an intersection marked Kealia Trail, with an arrow. Continue down this road to the Kealia Trailhead and park in the open area before the shelter.
From the control tower parking lot walk back across the access road. Jog right and then left around a chain onto a partially paved road heading mauka (inland). The wide road narrows to a gravel track. Ignore side roads branching left and right. Go through an opening in a low green fence by a yellow warning sign and immediately bear left on the Kealia Trail. Ascend the pali (cliff) gradually on nineteen switchbacks to a covered picnic table.
Climb gradually up the wide ridge on a dirt road to a junction by an old fence line. Bear right on the main road through two weathered wooden gateposts. After passing a rusted water tank on the left, enter Kuaokala Public Hunting Area marked by a sign. As the road curves around a hump in the ridge, reach a second junction. Continue left and up on the main road. The road climbs, dips briefly and then ends at a signed T junction. Turn left on Kuaokala Access Rd. toward Makua Valley. After passing a water catchment tank for wildlife, reach another signed junction. Bear slightly right and up on the Kuaokala Trail, which is the less-traveled dirt road. The road ends at a fence along the rim of Mākua Valley. Go through a gate in the fence to reach the valley overlook.
Plants and Birds
Cattle ranching and other human activities through the years have destroyed much of the native dry-land forest, especially along the upper portion of the trail. The switchback section still has some native vegetation, including lonomea, alahee, naio and wiliwili trees, and yellow hibiscus shrubs.
Na Ala Hele has been instrumental in restoring native plants to the zigzags with the help of volunteers. The birds found along the trail have all been introduced from elsewhere. Listen for the cackling cry of the Erckel's Francolin, a brown game bird originally from Africa. Look and listen for the iridescent peacock with its wailing call.
Always yield to hikers. Do not slide around corners or slide down the trail. Careless mountain biking damages the trail and causes erosion. If accidents are reported or damage to the trail is extreme, the trail may be closed to mountain bikers.This trail is not an easy mountain bike trail.
Hunting may be in progress on or near this hiking trail. Hunting dogs may be off-leash while engaged in the hunt. Hikers must keep their dogs leashed at all times and remove dog waste while on this trail.
Simple Trail Tips
- Stay on the trail.
- Check the weather
- Watch the time
- Avoid undue risk
- Read all posted signs
- Respect other trail users
- Pack out at least what you pack in.