Northwest of Lihue and east of Wailua, there is a very secret, beautiful, trecherous and physically demanding hike through little known Kaapoke Tunnel to the Hanalei River. This route combines a 2 mile muddy, slippery, rarely-used trail with 1 mile of spelinking in an old abandoned tunnel. This unmaintained, unmarked route is extreme and not for the faint-of-heart. It...
Northwest of Lihue and east of Wailua, there is a very secret, beautiful, trecherous and physically demanding hike through little known Kaapoke Tunnel to the Hanalei River. This route combines a 2 mile muddy, slippery, rarely-used trail with 1 mile of spelinking in an old abandoned tunnel. This unmaintained, unmarked route is extreme and not for the faint-of-heart. Its not so much of a hike as it is a mud-slogging, jungle crawl (you ll understand what this means when you get there). There are many natural and man-made dangers. First, the road to the trailhead is rough and muddy with two river fords requiring a 4WD vehicle. Second, the trail to the tunnel is very muddy, slippery, narrow, brush covered on sides and above and requires trekking poles, boots and long pants (and a long sleeve shirt unless you want scars from the sharp brush). Third, the unmaintained dark tunnel is always wet and slippery, therefore head lamps and water shoes or tabis are required. Fourth, the tun!
nel is narrow and low, so dont bump your head (of course, when in tunnels, hardhats are always a good idea). The tunnel is NOT maintained and you may get hurt -- dont compain to anyone or this route may be closed. This is a very long hike, so start early (like 7am) to return before heavy afternoon rains which make the road and trail treacherous (early also means you beat the humid heat and have privacy at the falls). But, if you survive, youll reach a narrow gorge in the Hanalei River and be all alone to enjoy this private jungle. To reach the trailhead from Wailua, head west on SR580 (Kuamoo Road) for 6.6 miles. At the Arboretum (where the pavement ends), ford the river and climb up Waikoko Forest Road. The rough dirt road winds south for 2.2 miles crossing two more fords. Turn right for another 1.45 miles to the trailhead, which is just before the yellow gate (elevation of 1000 feet). From the main road just to the right of the gate, start hiking north on a muddy side !
road (an old hunters 4WD track). After about a half mile, the 4WD rout
e ends at the North Fork Of The Wailua River, which can get very high when it rains. A narrow trail crosses the river and enters a small bamboo forest. The ankle-deep mud trail rolls through low hanging brush ideal for menehune-size hikers. There are many slippery logs placed on the trail throughout its length. After about an hour and a half of hiking (if you can call it that), the trail meets a large stream and the route seems to disappear. Actually, the route angles back through the grass for a few minutes and then parallels the stream. It finally crosses the stream when the stream turns left (there is a large cable-wire on the ground in the grass on the opposite bank). Continue across and eventually the route passes over a ditch on old boards and then passes a shack (covered in very thick brush). The tunnel entrance is just ahead (elevation of 1200 feet). It is about a 2 hour hike to the tunnel entrance from the trailhead if you are continuously moving (about 2 miles over!
all) with over 500 feet of rolling climbing. Once in the tunnel, there is always ankle-deep water in the 6 foot high tunnel. Continue hiking for 0.7 miles to the first opening, which offers a view of a nice of a small waterfall down a fern and moss covered slope. The dark tunnel turns left and winds through a couple left turns for a total of another 0.25 miles to final exit. Climb up out of the ditch and head on down to the Hanalei River. Just upstream from the tunnel exit is another tunnel to an even more scenic gorge. This next tunnel is even smaller than the first and much more sketcky. To get to the next tunnel, there is a seldom used trail on the other side of the Hanalei River which leads to the entrance after a 10 minute hike. Alternately, you can follow the Hanalei River upstream past the dam and veer to the right when the river forks and look for the tunnel opening. Once in the second tunnel, continue 0.7 miles to the end. Veer left near the end and head up the inc!
line with the water coming down. Welcome to paradise.
Here are some notes on adventuring in Hawaii. First, unlike mainland forests, the tropical island forests can grow very dense and can mask dropoffs. Plus, the trails can be very wet and slick most of the year (December to February is the main rainy season, but expect rain all year round). Stay on the trail to avoid disorientation. Second, speaking of disorientation, be aware that most Hawaiian topographic maps use the Old Hawaiian Datum. When trying to use the latitude/longitude from those maps with a GPS unit, you will think you are 0.4 miles south/southeast of where you really are. Kind of important in a dense jungle. Third, the bacteria Leptospirosis is found in the local waters and mud. It causes flu like symptoms within 2-20 days of contact, and can be fatal if not treated with antibiotics. Fourth, when hiking about, walking sticks can be very helpful for stablity in the slick conditions, for probing mud hole depths and clearing webs of the tiny crab spider.
Overall, Kohua Ridge Trail is the 12th most popular mountain bike trail of all 22 mountain biking rides in Hawaii. Several of the better mountain bike trails are nearby Kohua Ridge Trail including Waimea Canyon, Kalepa Ridge Trail, Donkey Beach - Kealia Trails, Kauhao Ridge Road, Haeleele Ridge Road Trail and Waimea Canyon Trail.
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