Trail in Honolulu Watershed Forest Reserve
The Kolowalu Trail is closed indefinitely, due to a landslide event. A hazard mitigation team is currently assessing the damage and potential hazard on-trail. Please do not visit the Kolowalu Trail at this time. Updates will continue to be posted.
Closed from September 25, 2018 to TBA.
Length (one way): 1 mi / 1.61 km - Elevation Change: 1,100 ft / 335.28 m
Kolowalu trail is a steep ridge trail leading to Wa'ahila ridge filled with mixed types of foliage.
For additional information refer to the "Route description" section below.
Rules & Regulation
Terrain and Trail Environment
Mountainous, steep, mixed forest and tree types
- Nature Study
- Dog Hunting
- Dog on Leash
Amenities & Facilities
- Picnic Tables
Plants & Birds
On the lower section look and listen for the white-rumped shama. It is black on top with a chestnut-colored breast and a long black-and-white tail. The shama has a variety of beautiful songs and often mimics other birds. A native of Malaysia, the shama has become widespread in introduced forests such as this one.
Lining the trail in the gulch are ki (ti) plants. They have shiny leaves, 1-2 feet long, that are arranged spirally in a cluster at the tip of a slender stem. Early Polynesian voyagers introduced ti to Hawai`i. They used the leaves for house thatch, skirts, sandals, and raincoats. Food to be cooked in the imu (underground oven) was first wrapped in ti leaves. A popular sport with the commoners was ho`ohe`e ki or ti leaf sledding. The sap from ti plants stained canoes and surfboards.
Watch for native koa trees in the short level section. Koa has sickle-shaped foliage and pale yellow flower clusters. Early Hawaiians made surfboards and outrigger canoe hulls out of the beautiful red brown wood. Today it is made into fine furniture.
Toward the end of the trail look and listen for the red-billed leiothrix, a songbird introduced from China in 1918. The leiothrix is olive-green above with an orange-yellow throat and underside. It is frequently seen on the ground, foraging for insects, fruits and seeds.
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.
If driving, take E. Manoa Road in Manoa Valley, toward the mountain, past Manoa Marketplace to the intersection of Alani Dr. Turn left, and continue for about 0.75 mi. to where Alani Dr. takes a sharp right, and Alani Lane continues straight ahead. Park along Alani Dr. in the neighborhood outside Alani Ln. Do not continue down Alani Ln. with your vehicle. Walk down Alani Ln. (it will look like a driveway), past the houses, and through the cable gate. Beyond the gate, continue on the dirt road until you get to the Forestry and Wildlife picnic shelter. The Kolowalu trai head is to the right of the shelter. PLEASE NOTE: This trail shares a trail head with Pu`u Pia Trail, which starts to the left of the shelter. Camping allowed at trail shelter - See below "Resources" section for camping permit application link.
Continue along Alani Dr. on foot. The paved one-lane road soon turns to dirt after passing the last house. Climb over a wire across the road. Parallel an intermittent stream on your left. Reach a signed junction in a clearing with a covered picnic table. Turn right onto the Kolowalu Trail. (The road becomes the Pu`u Pia Trail, which continues into Manoa Valley.) Immediately reach another signed junction. Keep right on the Kolowalu Trail. (The side trail on the left leads to a covered picnic table.) Climb gradually upslope through dense introduced forest. Cross an intermittent stream in a small gulch and turn left upstream. Ascend steadily alongside the rocky streambed. Switchback once to the right to climb out of the gulch. Gain a ridgeline and turn left up it. Ascend, steeply at times, along the top of the side ridge. After a short, level stretch through native koa trees the Kolowalu Trail ends at a signed junction at the top of Wa`ahila Ridge. (To the right the Wa`ahila Ridge Trail follows the ridge back to Wa`ahila Ridge State Recreation Area.)
- No Alcohol
- No Bicycles
- No Commercials
- No Littering
- No Motorized Vehicles
- No Open Fires
- No Plant Sand Dirt Rock Removal
- No Smoking
- Dangerous Footing
- Hunting Area
- Narrow Trail
- Uneven Surface
Early Hawaiians first used the Kolowalu route to access Wa`ahila Ridge from Manoa Valley. In 1911 First Circuit Court Judge Henry E. Cooper hired laborers to improve the trail for hikers climbing Mt. Olympus. During the 1920s the ridge route became known as the Woodlawn Trail and was the site of a ki (ti) leaf sledding course for over 40 years. In 1933 Territorial Forestry workers dug out the lower trail section to provide better access for reforestation efforts.
From the back of Mānoa Valley, this thickly forested trail ascends up a finger ridge to Wa‘ahila Ridge. This is a very steep trail and is not suitable for novice hikers. Other: You may also access this trail by hiking 2.4 miles along Wa‘ahila Ridge Trail, and then proceeding left at the junction down Kolowalu Trail. Descriptions for route, history, plants and birds were provided by Stuart Ball, author of The Hikers Guide to Oahu and other hiking books.
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.
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.
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