Righteous waterfall hike up Ka’au Crater

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Theme for hike – “Right on righteous.”

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The drive up Palolo Valley to the Ka’au Crater trailhead feels like a trip off of Oahu. You could easily be on Kauai or Big Island. Probably a good idea to park a block or two below the trailhead. We left my little red car, Bindi, to meditate at the Zen Center while we hiked.

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There are two ways to get up to the rim of the crater and two ways to traverse the crater rim to the highest point overlooking the windward side. As with many things in life, each has an easy way and a hard way. We took the more difficult way up to the crater rim, the waterfall climb. (Follow the excellent directions at backyardoahu.com.) The first and second waterfalls are beautiful, as promised, but what they don’t tell you is that the entire rest of the climb is along waterfall! It just keeps going and going! As cool as that is, it isn’t even the best part of the hike – the best part is that for long portions of the climb you can see almost no signs of civilization, no houses, no cars. It was absolutely quiet except for the water and the birds.

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At the top of the crater rim, you can follow the ridge to either the right or left. We took the shorter and steeper right path. The trail is mostly very narrow here, but there’s a great place to stop and rest in a shady clearing under a random tuft of ironwood trees. Near the peak, the trail is significantly eroded and a bit treacherous. We returned to the crater rim the same way, but took the easier path down the valley to avoid repeating the waterfall climb in reverse on slippery ropes (of questionable age and strength). To reach the easier path, do not descend at all along the water. As soon as you return to the water, cross straight over and ascend steeply again on the opposite bank. As soon as you start thinking you must have missed the path, you’ll see a trail on your left that descends the valley at a gentle slope.

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I have no idea how long this hike is, but we were out there for almost 6 hours… earning our later carbo-loading at Romano’s Macaroni Grill.

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