Kapalama Loop Trail is a 7 mile lightly trafficked loop trail located near Honolulu, HI that features a river and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking, nature trips, and birding and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.
dogs on leash
Access to this trail is via private lands owned by Kamehameha Schools. Lately, a bypass trail has been established from the nearby Pueo Park in Alewa Heights off Alewa Drive. This is a scenic trail that traverses two ridges that connect on the mauka end behind Kapalama and Alewa. Most will take this loop in an anti-clockwise round. The first segment contours below a water tank, and pass several houses. It then becomes a ridge walk that is very pleasant with great views of Honolulu, Nuuanu, Liliha, Alewa, and Kapalama. Not to be missed is the line up of Punchbowl and Diamondhead prominently standing out against the urban sprawl. The trail has two major junctions, one where the by-pass meets Kapalama Loop Trail and the other where the a large Koa tree marks the junction to Lanihuli. Unfortunately, most of the trail is not native but rather a show of invasive species like pine, bamboo, and strawberry guava. The west ridge returns the trail back towards the ocean. This segment quickly becomes a series of switchbacks which may be overgrown due to a lack of use. This leads to Kapalama Stream. From here return uphill through some bamboo to join back to the start and return to the by-pass trail.
Not really a loop anymore. We tried to keep following the trail through the overgrowth, but after a few hundred feet the trail becomes jumbled with pig-trails.
The hike is pretty boring and easy enough. There are a few annoyingly steep ups and downs, but I only recall one instance of anything resembling scrambling. It was more like walking up a steep city sidewalk. You'll get some decent views of the city, punchbowl, diamondhead, a few dozen backyards, the Pali hwy, and a golf course.
At the turn around point for "loop" the trail continues northeast into the Ko'olau, but I haven't tried that part yet.
We entered at Na Pueo Park, just walk around the back of big water tank.
You'll walk past a fence on your left about 10 mins. As the fence ends the trail goes through a grove of tall trees. This is where the loop splits, we stayed to the right which is the passable trail. I can't say what the other one looks like if you approach from the bottom, might be easier to follow uphill than it was going from the top.
I'm going to do this hike again, but only to see if the trail to the Ko'olau range is passable.
Also, I couldn't imagine someone trail-running here, the trail is fairly flat, but it's also wet and steep. Even if you had the stamina to run up the steep hills here, there is no way you could safely run down them - and I went on a relatively dry summer day.
The trail wasn't that hard but it was pretty long up to the top. Didn't make it all the way around the loop because the trail becomes overgrown towards the top but it's nothing terrible. View at the top is gorgeous and well worth the struggle.
I'm giving this trail a 2 only if you do it as an out and back. we got to the middle point that people showed on their previously hiked maps, and couldn't even locate the rest of the trail. we had to turn around and go back the way we came. then we got lost on the last leg of the hike bc it wasn't well marked. we used the GPS on our phone to find a road and then followed the road to our car. the views of the city from the ridge are gorgeous but it was exhausting.
Parked at Na Pue Mini Park and hiked the loop counter-clockwise. East ridge has some nice views looking down on the Pali. When you switch back to the West ridge, good luck. It is pretty much not makes at all. It's overgrown everywhere. I either followed my dog or had to refer to the map to try to stay on the path. I would have given this trail only 1 star, but right when got off the ridge and into the valley, the trail was pretty easy to follow, for the most part, lots of switchbacks. River was dry when we crossed it, so now break for the dog. If I did this again, big if though, I would probably stay on the east ridge and do an out and back.
Kapalama Loop Trail is an easy to intermediate trail with both ridge views and valley switchbacks. It can be done in either a clockwise or anti-clockwise direction, with most of the views on the east ridge side. There are some really nice big trees here - Koa, Kukui, Ohia, Cook pines, Banyan,and Monkey Pod. There are great views of Nuuanu, Kapalama and Kalihi Valleys.
Be prepared as the west ridge is actually not well maintained. There are a number of very large blow downs and the trail is overgrown with Uluhe and grass. Wearing pants is a must, else you are guaranteed lots of scratches. There were also two blow downs that literally obscured the trail and we had to climb over or crawl under to get through.
All in all it is a trail with some nice variety that I hope will not disappear!