Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sacred Falls Trail

Please disregard the distance in the elevation profile. 

Warning: This park is closed. On May 9, 1999, there was a landslide that killed 8 people and injured many more. The rockfall occurred near the falls.

Trails: Sacred Falls Trail
Distance: Approximately 4.5 miles to and from falls
Elevation Gain: about 600 ft
Hiking time: about 4 hours
Area: Laie around the Mormon Temple Windward coast, Hau'ula
Trailhead: Sacred Falls State Park
Trailhead Coordinates: Entrance of Sacred Falls State Park N21 36.053 W157 53.878
Sights: Sacred Falls
Directions via bus: Take the 55 from Ala Moana Center. Pass Kahana Valley and pass Punalu'u. There is a stop right around the park. It takes about 1 1/2 hours.

Directions via car: Take H1 to Likeke or Pali Highway or H3 northward. Take Kamehameha Highway up the windward coast. After Kahana Valley and pass Punaluu. After Puhuli St on your left, the park entrance will be blocked on the left. Not sure where to park cause the state park's gate is closed.
Recommendations for hike: Sunscreen, bug repellent,  water. Though manageable in slippers, I would recommend sneakers. Swimsuit or shorts.
Trail Conditions:A bit muddy at parts especially near the falls. Not too steep. A majority of the trail is rocky.

So I finally got a chance to go to Sacred Falls. I've been wanting to go for quite some time but it's tough to find information on the trail since it's been closed. So at 10 a.m. this morning, Nicole and I headed out in search of the trail head. We got lost. A lot of other internet resources tell you to get onto Koolau Rd. Guess what? Most of the maps, including Google Maps are incorrect. The road is not connected as shown. Plus the state park can be seen from Kamehameha Hwy.
Once I walked into the park, I noticed how abandoned it was. There are no facilities and  a fence in the distance. There was no parking and everything was covered in grass. See image below Sacred Falls State Park. Though the entrance is fenced off, on the left there is a pine covered trail towards the left. After following the right most path, I was beyond he fence at a dirt road. It's peaceful and I heard plenty of birds chirping and singing. The road is overgrown with grass. I heard some near by locals from beyond the tress. Sounded like some construction.
As I followed the dirt road up, I noticed a dry stream bed. The falls didn't seem to promising at this point but I was determined to go. Soon after, there was a path to the left as the road went up and slightly to the right. The left path was a little narrower but the path is clear. The brush surrounding me was a couple feet taller than me. Only one way to go and I came across an open area. I'm guessing this is the official trail head for Sacred Falls trail but all the signs have been replaced with warnings. At the opposite end of the area, there was a narrow path. Onward!!!

As I entered the trail, there was an immediate stream crossing, but it was dry. The trail is short and not difficult at all. The entire trail follows Kaliuwaa Stream. At first, the trail was on my left. Then after crossing twice and it was on your right. I know it doesn't make sense but the stream makes this jug handle type of bend. There will be mountain apples on the ground and plenty of gnats dining on them. It was kind of annoying but no biggie. The trail is a bit unclear at times but follow the stream and you'll be fine. At one point, it will digress slightly from the stream but I was able to hear the stream the entire time.

Soon enough, I reached the mouth of the valley. It's an amazing sight! I've never been in a valley with the walls so high and valley so narrow. It was at least 40 feet across but still. From this point, I followed the stream. Just be careful some of the rocks are not as sturdy as they look and of course some are slippery.While I was chilling there, there was a helicopter tour entering and leaving the valley. I noticed 2 prior, on my way up to the falls but this one was quite annoying. At first I didn't mind, but when it left, it left me unsteady and my hearing was off. I tried to equalize and couldn't. It was odd. Maybe something with the vibration between the rock walls but it was an unsettling and just plain old annoying feeling. As I hiked down, I was able to equalize but it wasn't until I was out of the valley. I wonder about the science behind it because it doesn't make much sense to me.

Sacred Falls State Park

The dirt road. It's less than a mile to next marker.

 Trail is to the left.

 I think this is the trail head???

This is the terrain for the most of the trail. There isn't much sun light until later on. There are constant branches that I needed to hop over or duck under.

Mountain apples. See all the gnats? Yummy...

 This was taken at the mouth of the valley of to the left. Pretty sweet!

Looking up. It's tough to capture the landscape.

What's that in the distance?

YESS!!! Victory!!! Spoon!!! (The Tick's battlecry)

So I took a quick swim. Very refreshing especially after walking through all those gnats. A bit chilly but not bad. The falls is like 80 ft high. The pool is about 40 ft or more across. Water wasn't the clearest and I'm not sure how deep it was. 

 Looking back from where I came. 


  1. We were in Oahu last week from Cincinnati, Ohio and I read that two foreign hikers were arrested for venturing into Sacred Falls.

    Plus the risk of new rock falls is still present and there is no prior warning either.

    Going there 1) you risked your life and 2) you risked getting arrested.

    Is losing your life worth a few photos and an adrenaline rush?

    1. Yup definitely worth it

    2. Sad people have NO RESPECT not only for themselves but for the other who will have to come get you if something happens
      your life may not be worth anything but theres is

  2. Other than the incident back in 1999 there have been few injuries or fatalities on the trail. There is a possibility of flash floods but it was not raining in the days of or prior to my hike. There is no adrenaline rush in seeking out this fall, rather an experience of finding the serene beauty of the waterfall on the island. Though unpleasant, getting arrested and fined to have a chance to see this is worth it in my opinion.

    As for living life, you may see it as foolishly risking your life to go see a waterfall. I consider it experiencing life to the fullest and enjoying what the world has to offer. If there were was a higher statistic of the rock slides in the area, it may have dissuaded me from going. It may not suit your lifestyle, as you prioritize aspects of life differently. You clearly read the blog and choose for yourself (and possibly for your family) that it was not worth it. It is one's own choice.

  3. Does the police still patrol the park/trailhead area?

  4. on what day of the week did those foreign hikers get arrested?

  5. Do you know if the police still patrol the park/trailhead area? If they do, when they normally do it? Thanks.

  6. Thank you for posting this. I ran up the Sacred Falls Trail and back in 1988, and it was one of the greatest trail runs of my life. I am going back to Hawaii this December for the XTERRA Trail Run Worlds and was excited to take a run back up to the falls 22 years later - a little slower this time. I'm disappointed that it is closed. May chance it anyway...

    To the first poster, who are you to judge what is "worth it". Please go back to your protective bubble in Ohio. 6 fatalities in 1999 at sacred falls, 50 fatalities a year on Hawaii roads. Do the math.

  7. Hey Ohio, have you ever been skydiving? Probably not, but anyway, if you ever read the release forms for skydiving, just about every other sentence in the form says, "YOU COULD DIE". Yet, thousands of people do it every day... AND LIVE! So, let's do some math. 9 people died in 1999. 10's of thousands of people hiked that trail before they closed it. So, what's the chance of something bad happening to you... let's just say, you have a better chance of dieing or getting injured driving to work. So, do us all a favor and stay home where it's safe and stop supporting overzealous safety laws. I believe most safety laws are for the stupid and scared. If you're scared, putting up warning signs should be enough to keep those people away. If you're stupid and something happens to you, thank you for cleaning up the gene pool. And just remember, any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.

  8. Go with it, live life. I have pics of my cousin and I lovin' it, just a few months before the slide... That coulda been us, and the chance was higher that it should have been us versus the the guy that went as a "rogue". Besides, only the haoulies care, because the local kine probably go all the time, and they'll bring back a boar one of them killed with a knife. If you think I'm lyin', talk to any local between Waimanalo and Mokuleia...

  9. Great information, I also wrote a review and directions to Sacred Falls on my Oahu Hiking website. Check it out :

  10. This place shouldn't be closed! I walked in today and was amazed at how easy it is to get to. The danger of this place no different than any other water-fall i've been to! It should be avaliable for everyone to see.

  11. Please kokua and delete the Sacred Falls description, photos, and responses. People are still being injured and deaths are inevitable. Every week, criminal citations are written to people, who face 30 days incarceration, $1,500, and a criminal record. Military personnel face loss of security clearances and discharge if convicted. Most locals also consider it disrespectful of the dead to enter the park.

    Mahalo A Nui,

    1. Most locals also consider it disrespectful??? Are we talking about locals or Hawaiians? If locals, then give me a break, tired of locals acting like they are hawaiians stating what "Hawaii thinks"

  12. With all do respect this is America and we are free to do as we please. So go head write me ticket!

  13. Ive hiked it many times and had no problems it was perfectly safe. Just go when weather is nice and it hasn't rained for a couple weeks. I live here and it's beautiful

  14. I'm going to hike it right now! I will write back if I made it home safely!

    1. did u make it home safely...?

  15. Hiked it today. Was rainy and muddy no flash flood. No cops. Be aware if u get caught on this hike the fine for first offense is $2,500. Plus possible jail time.

  16. Hiked it this past Monday, it was amazing. Was I scared? Hell yeah I was scared. But there's so much hype built up around it, it's hard NOT to think about the fact that people died there.

    This is a tiny island, people have died EVERYWHERE here. People die on hikes here, fall off fenced-in mountainsides, drown while snorkeling, have heart attacks while parasailing... I read about it every day. One bad lawsuit could put any one of them out of business just like what happened at Sacred Falls. The fact is Sacred Falls was shut down not just because it posed a danger to hikers, but also because it cost the state millions of dollars in restitution to the victims' families; and the state didn't want to take that risk again.

  17. I'm wondering if you ever tag along with a group to be the "guide" for this hike?

    1. I would if I were still in Hawaii. Enjoy Hawaii while you can!!!

  18. Beautiful - just as described! We were up, took a dip, and back in 2.5 hours