This track is from LP/OP 14 (overlooking the Mākua Valley Military Testing Area) to the Kealia Trail and back down to Dillingham... more » Airfield. The pash is about 4.6 miles long each way, or about 9.25 miles round trip. The trail is begins and ends on the NW corner of Oahu, and is accessible from the North Shore of the island. The trail is great for trail running as well as hiking, and normally takes half a day. This part of the island can be very dry, even in the wet season.
Enter Dillingham Airfield at the third entrance. Proceed around by the tower; you'll see signs to the trailhead pointing to your right, but just after that is the parking lot on the left. There are public restrooms (and not scary ones, either) at the end of each of the two hangar buildings, which include a toilet and water.
Bring water. And a cell phone. And a snack -- a Clif Bar or two, maybe. This part of the island is dry, and once the mid morning shade is gone, and it warm up quickly. While this trail offers plenty of shade, it's still a warm hike and you'll want / need water. Bring 2 if not 3 liters with you, and leave a stash of cold water in your car. There's cell phone reception through this trail, and decent bars, too, so be sure to bring a phone for emergencies.
Tell someone where you're going. This is wilderness, after all.
Bring someone with you. And keep them with you. You won't likely run into Hogzilla, and this path is sure-footed. But still -- it's 9+ miles, up to peaks at 2000 feet of elevation, in a dry area and on paths that feature pine needles as much as they do exposed rocks.
From Dillingham Airfield, head up the Kealia Trail. The trail is part of Hawaii's Na Ala Hele trail system, and is well maintained. The first segment features 19 switchbacks and almost a mile and a half of climbing up the side of the cliff. The picnic table at the top, along with the commanding views of Dillingham and the North Shore, are your reward for the 1000+ foot ascent. Earlier in the morning, this is a nice hike in the shade with gorgeous views; later in the day, the sun will beat you for doing this.
From the picnic table, you'll transition to a dirt road. It's a red dirt road, nothing fancy. No fantastic views, no great turn outs from which to watch the submarine races. Yes, off-road vehicles to run around up in this part, and yes, with permits, it's OK for them to do it. At this point, you're off the Kealia Trail and onto the Kuaokala Access Road. There are only a few places where you might think there are turns, and most all of them have signs to tell you where the main road is. Early on, there's one zig to the right and a zag to the left; you'll known you're on the correct road when you pass the water tank (there's a ladder and no top -- go take a look). About a mile and a quarters from the iconic table, or about 2.75 miles from the start, the road will seemingly "T" -- the road to the left is a steep hill and looks ugly, and yes, that's the way you are headed. Another quarter mile up the road, there's another "T" -- again, stay to the left (it should immediately have a steep descent and then a steep climb)
And then you'll come to the proverbial pork in the road. One road goes high, one goes low. As is often the advice in life, take the high road -- stay to the right. It's a short segment of road, and it just ends. If you're using one, your GPS will tell you that you're about 3.25 miles into this hike, and that you're about 2000' feet up -- your legs will likely tell you that, too. It's a nice shady place to catch your breath; rejoice, you're done with the road for a while. Before you push on, check your water; if you're out or running low, decide if you're really going to push on for the last almost mile and a half.
From here, stay to the right and follow the trail down to the right. you'll be following the ridgeline from here to the end. Keep to the right as you get to the first set of rocks (there's a path around to the right, with good footing) at the top, it's trail and pine needles. At some point, you'll start to see the giant golf balls through the trees. Yes, you'll be looking down on them. And off to your left, you'll see the final ridge line and the final high ground - LP/OP 14. This is also where the shade ends; it's exposed trail from here on out.
At the 4.25 mile marker or so, there's one last left you need to make. It's best to follow the trail that turns left before the rock outcrop; no need to go up and around it. From there, stay to the right and stay on the trail, and it's fairly easy cruising on out to the point. As of this writing (JAN 2011), there's fence along some of this trail, as part of a wildlife control program; it doesn't interfere with the hike. At the end, you'll have a great view of Mākua Valley Military Testing Area. Sip some water, enjoy a Clif Bar, and check in on Facebook to let the world know you're OK and headed back.
To come back down, re-trace your steps. Even at mid day or on the afternoon, the route back offers decent shade and plenty of chances to catch your breath under a big tree. There are restrooms at the parking lot -- a place to get some water from a faucet, and a chance to change into something less gross. less «