balance the ecosystem
Portions of this trail are on an Army range. This hike is only open on weekends or federal holidays!
Kaunala Loop explores the foothills at the very northern end of the Ko'olau Range. The first half of the trail gently follows the topography of 2 lush valleys, with the second half climbing and then descending 2 connecting ridges. Bring your camera to capture the expansive views of the northern shore and western mountain range of Oahu.
The trailhead is unmarked, and is reached by driving east on Pupukea Road to its end (park on the side of the road). The first mile of the hike requires a little bit of attention to stay on-route, but it's quite well-marked. To begin, follow the dirt road between the camp and the cattle ranch, and climb over the gate marking the Kahuku Range. Follow this main road, ignoring the locked gate to your right after about 0.7 miles. Very shortly after this is another junction. Follow the sign for the Kaunala Trail to the left (the road that continues ahead of you is the return route). Follow the graded trail as it descends into the first valley, ignoring the trail that cuts straight down through the switchbacks.
If you're hiking in late summer/early fall, keep your eyes peeled for strawberry guavas. They're delicious, and you can give yourself a pat on the back for eating them because they're actually a highly invasive species in Hawaii. Way to help balance the ecosystem!
About two and a half miles in, the trail pops you out on top of a wide grassy ridge, which you follow up for another half mile to a large clearing. If you look to your right here, there's a fantastic view of the northern coast and the Wai'anae Range. From here, the trail follows this ridge down to a gravel road. Turn right onto this road, and follow it back down to the trailhead!
Gate Policy: If a gate is closed upon arrival, leave it closed after you go through. If it is open, leave it open. Leaving a closed gate open may put cattle in danger. Closing an open gate may cut them off from water. Please be respectful, leave gates as found.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.