The Hike

We carefully climbed over the gate at about 8 in the morning…so much for my 5:30 exit from Hilo! It turned out an alright time though as we had no problems with the entry or weather. There were clouds around the mountain top, but I just assume there will always be some cloud walking on this hike! As I said earlier, it’s a short walk of a few hundred meters over a double track jeep trail.

Daughter and grandson walking along the road
Daughter, son-in-law, and grandson walking along the road (that’s my hat in there at the bottom too, four families on the hike!)

The road takes you around the top side of the reservoir, over some hills and winds up at another gate.

Hills to our left. We'll be on the other side of that in an hour or so
Hills to our left. We’ll be on the other side of that in an hour or so
Papa, Uncle, and the MoneyMan
Papa, Uncle, and the MoneyMan
Auntie follows (and texts while there's a signal!)
Auntie follows (and texts while there’s a signal!)
A view of Mauna Kea from the top of the reservoir
A view of Mauna Kea from the top of the reservoir
Past the reservoir and approaching the Kohala Forest Reserve
Past the reservoir and approaching the Kohala Forest Reserve
Uncle and Nephew have already crossed in the Kohala Forest Reserve
Uncle and Nephew have already crossed in the Kohala Forest Reserve

We now have another easy walk to the aqueduct. After you climb over the gate the vegetation gets a bit more dense and there are more puddles in the road tracks. At first it is tempting to try to walk around the puddles in an effort to keep dry and clean. Let me just say this: if you came on the WRH to keep dry and clean you are in for a miserable failure! My son-in-law and his sister-in-law made the attempt, my grandson and I decided to let our feet feel some water from the get go so we just trudged through. The entire group got on board with that after they saw our success and their lack thereof!

You'll eventually find that it is easier to go straight through these rather than hunt for a "dry" path around them!
You’ll eventually find that it is easier to go straight through these rather than hunt for a “dry” path around them!
The jungle closes in rapidly after the Kohala gate
The jungle closes in rapidly after the Kohala gate
You travel past a small pump house.
You travel past a small pump house.

Once here, you know that you are pretty close to the aqueduct. Depending on the water flow, you may be able to hear it soon.

Sometimes the center is the best path...
Sometimes the center is the best path…

And then you get to the gate to the aqueduct. The gates are usually closed but not locked. I would respect a lock if you find one…

These gates lead to the aqueduct.
These gates lead to the aqueduct.
This is the downhill side of the aqueduct. There is a spillway that regulates the water flow into the reservoir
This is the downhill side of the aqueduct. There is a spillway that regulates the water flow into the reservoir
This is looking at the other side of the spillway.
This is looking at the other side of the spillway.

You’ll be hiking along this aqueduct for much of the rest of the day, although it does go into some mountain tunnels and pipes. However, on the chance that you get disoriented use the aqueduct as a point of reference and follow it back out.

Following the aqueduct
Following the aqueduct
Auntie walking along the trail. the aqueduct is about two meters to the left of her.
Auntie walking along the trail. the aqueduct is about two meters to the left of her.

A pleasant walk along the trail takes you through a lot of ferns, bamboo, and ginger. Depending on the season it is often very fragrant for the duration of the journey! It is also very common to walk in the mist and rain. The temperature can get a bit chilly when you are wet so it is not a bad idea to bring a small poncho or trash bag to shed some water in case the rain comes harder. However, since a lot of the trail is in and around water, I would probably come back another day if it really dumps on you!

After a bit you will come upon a section of the aqueduct that flows through a big pipe over a small chasm. The bridge has gates on either end. I like to keep them closed to help keep animals off the bridges.

This gate leads to the first pipe and a walking bridge.
This gate leads to the first pipe and a walking bridge.
The kids crossing over the bridge
The kids crossing over the bridge
Even in Hawaii we still Hook 'Em!
Even in Hawaii we still Hook ‘Em!
Looking down from the bridge into a bamboo forest. It's about 20-30 ft to the jungle floor here
Looking down from the bridge into a bamboo forest. It’s about 20-30 ft to the jungle floor here
We passed a fallen tree and went through several photos trying out different expressions. I liked the "Happy Auntie" best...
We passed a fallen tree and went through several photos trying out different expressions. I liked the “Happy Auntie” best…
Not sure if this one belongs to Jimmy Buffet, but I don't recommend doing the hike in slippers!
Not sure if this one belongs to Jimmy Buffet, but I don’t recommend doing the hike in slippers!
The mist makes for some interesting effects on spider webs
The mist makes for some interesting effects on spider webs
I presume these were mongoose tracks...
I presume these were mongoose tracks…
As I said, the jungle can close in at times
As I said, the jungle can close in at times
He's my grandson Ol' MudFoot McGee!
He’s my grandson Ol’ MudFoot McGee!
The hike can be exciting and "boar-ing" at the same time! Be on the look out for boar, there is evidence all along the trail
The hike can be exciting and “boar-ing” at the same time! Be on the look out for boar, there is evidence all along the trail
There is also solid evidence of Goof Balls on the trail!
There is also solid evidence of Goof Balls on the trail!
Crossing the stream/river depending on your outlook!
Crossing the stream/river depending on your outlook!

After you cross over the stream you will find yourself very close to the Waipio Valley. I have always come upon and left the Valley in a shroud of mist, but if the clouds break, be prepared for a fantastic view!

The Waipio Valley awaits. It is often filled with clouds, but when they disappear you find a drop of over 1000 meters!
The Waipio Valley awaits. It is often filled with clouds, but when they disappear you find a drop of over 1000 meters!

Once you turn into the Waipio you walk along a small trail with a fantastic view of the Hi’ilawe Falls and down to the ocean on a clear day (or 10 minute break in the clouds like we had!). The trail is very easy, and although it is dirt (mud) and rock, we had no trouble whatsoever traversing it.

A brief pause on the rim of the Waipio Valley, across from the Hi'ilawe Falls
A brief pause on the rim of the Waipio Valley, across from the Hi’ilawe Falls

Shortly after you make the left turn into the valley you may notice a small lava tube opening. It is easy to miss, so you should keep your eyes peeled to the left (whilst being cautious about the ledge!). The tube has a small opening that goes into a large room with two small spurs. It is less than 50 ft in total length, but is worth the time for a picture.

 

My grandson standing in the opening of the lava tube before entering. The hill can be a bit slippery, but isn't too heinous.
My grandson standing in the opening of the lava tube before entering. The hill can be a bit slippery, but isn’t too heinous.
Standing inside with my oldest grandson. The darkness over his left shoulder is the rest of the tube.
Standing inside with my oldest grandson. The darkness over his left shoulder is the rest of the tube.

We continued along the rim until we hit a small promontory. Being that my daughter was a gymnast we took the requisite handstand photo. Having never seen this area without a thick blanket of fog I was not concerned…more on that later!

The promontory in question...
The promontory in question…
Ready to stand on her hands
Ready to stand on her hands
And...Pow! (or is that pau?!?)
And…Pow! (or is that pau?!?)

After this pit stop we follow a small valley to the left (the trail follows it so there’s no real question as to where to go) and the fog began to lift a bit

Turning into the small valley
Turning into the small valley

The back of this little valley reunites you with the aqueduct. As the trail u-turns you cross a small concrete bridge that is clearly marked as unsafe. Having done concrete construction for several years I examined it and deemed it very sturdy and took the signs to be “litigation insurance” in case someone hurts themselves. We proceeded with all due caution.

The kids crossing the bridge
The kids crossing the bridge. That is the aqueduct behind them (covered with steel plates)
Here is the bridge. You can see that it has a nice layer of mud and silt on it
Here is the bridge. You can see that it has a nice layer of mud and silt on it.
This is a shot from the bridge looking back toward the Waipio. You can see there is still a heavy cloud layer.
This is a shot from the bridge looking back toward the Waipio. You can see there is still a heavy cloud layer.

Just around the corner you will discover another pipe crossing a canyon for our friend the aqueduct.

Water from the aqueduct crosses the canyon through a pipe about 1 meter in diameter. We are about to cross the same pipe!
Water from the aqueduct crosses the canyon through a pipe about 1 meter in diameter. We are about to cross the same pipe!
Here is the pipe bridge in total. We use the steel frame to help give security while crossing. There is a trail that you can take, but it is pretty sketchy
Here is the pipe bridge in total. We use the steel frame to help give security while crossing. There is a trail that you can take, but it is pretty sketchy
My grandson crossing the pipe and hanging on for safety
My grandson crossing the pipe and hanging on for safety
And finally, we enter the mountain!
And finally, we enter the mountain!

At this point there are some options. The first choice is to enjoy what you’ve seen and turn back. The second choice is to jump (carefully) into the aqueduct and enter the mountain. The third choice is to continue along the trail and risk life and limb while doubling your time to arrive at the water slide. We went with Door Number Two! The water was pretty high on the day we came. Since I was with my 8 year old grandson we decided to do a depth test before getting wet. I found a long ginger branch and checked the water level. It was about midway between his armpits and his navel so we decided to go for it.

A few suggestions by way of preparation before making you way through the mountain. We used one headlamp and gave it to the “locomotive” of the group. If you don’t have a headlamp and don’t want to shell out the money for one a cellphone flash will work just fine. If you are using your phone for a light source I recommend some sort of water resistance enclosure such as a ziplock sandwich bag. I also highly recommend that everyone entering the tunnels wear some sort of head gear, even if it’s just a t-shirt or bandana. The rocks often jut down low and we all left with mud stains on our hats but not our skulls! Also, a backpack is really nice. The aqueduct is about a meter wide and is concrete in construction so you have very sure footing the whole way as well as adequate hand holds. We did not go at a sprint and were able to make the trip through the tunnels in about 30 minutes. We met a group that took the overland route and they said it took them more than an hour. The water provides a pretty good workout and being that you are in virtual darkness the whole time, it does get a bit chilly so keep working and creating body heat. There are three sections of tunnel, each one having a two to three meter opening to the jungle.

A short break in the tunnel as we get some sunlight. There are two such breaks
A short break in the tunnel as we get some sunlight. There are two such breaks
There is an air shaft in the longest section of tunnel
There is an air shaft in the longest section of tunnel

Due to slope changes there are sections of the tunnels which have some very strong rapids. They are tough to scale going in, and very awkward coming out due to being pushed downhill. I kept my grandson’s shirt clenched in my hand, and on two occasions his feet flew out from under him. Be very cautious with kids and light adults!

There are places where the slope is greater which can cause some pretty strong rapids in the tunnels
There are places where the slope is greater which can cause some pretty strong rapids in the tunnels
Here we are exiting one section of the tunnel. It's a bit shaky because I was being quick so as not to lose my camera or my grandson!
Here we are exiting one section of the tunnel. It’s a bit shaky because I was being quick so as not to lose my camera or my grandson!

If you notice in that last picture, some places where the concrete walls of the aqueduct have broken off and are lying askew in the path. Virtually all such places occur after the second opening (as you are going to the water slide). I STRONGLY recommend that your “locomotive” shuffle their feet in order to assess the terrain. Ours would call out irregularities to the “box cars”, who passed the word along until the message reached the “caboose”.

The light at the end of the tunnel
The light at the end of the tunnel

Finally you will reach the end and come into a large open area under a section of aqueduct that drops about 40 feet at a 45º pitch. This is what we affectionately call the water slide.

This is a group we met that had taken the overland route. We are all in the overflow pool
This is a group we met that had taken the overland route. We are all in the overflow pool
The overflow again. You can see the entrance to the tunnels in the background (tunnels to the right as you look at it)
The overflow again. You can see the entrance to the tunnels in the background (tunnels to the right as you look at it)
The water slide
The water slide
Going down the slide on a floaty.
Going down the slide on a floaty.

The group we met was using floaties to go down. Some had success, but one of the girls in their group hit the water funny and got disoriented in the water at the bottom. The bottom has a large pool that can churn pretty violently. If you hit the water straight you can hit the bottom and push up with your legs. She did not make it all the way down and couldn’t find which way was up and spent about 5 seconds under the water, sending alarm through all of us and giving her a pretty nasty scare. Due to the volume of water that day I did not allow my grandson to use the slide and I stayed out as well.

The churning pool at the bottom. I would guess it is about 8 feet deep
The churning pool at the bottom. I would guess it is about 8 feet deep

The return hike is pretty much “put it in reverse”. However, we did get a brief respite from the fog and were treated to a fantastic view of the entire Waipio Valley.

Here is where my baby girl did her handstand...yikes!
Here is where my baby girl did her handstand…yikes!
A view of Hi'ilawe Falls (about 1500 ft)
A view of Hi’ilawe Falls (about 1500 ft)
This is the Waipio Valley from the White Road Hike trail
The Waipio Valley. You can see the Pacific in the background. You can also make out the trail along the rim of the valley on the right side of the photo.
My grandson "hanging out" over the ledge of the valley. Yes, we are holing on to his arms so he doesn't fall!
My grandson “hanging out” over the ledge of the valley. Yes, we are holing on to his arms so he doesn’t fall!
My Baby Girl can't resist a selfie and her Pops can't resist a good photo bomb!
My Baby Girl can’t resist a selfie and her Pops can’t resist a good photo bomb!

Coming back is pleasant, but can be chilly due to the water play. Sometimes it’s nice to pack a change of clothes in a bag. When we reached the reservoir we saw that clouds had moved in around Mauna Kea. We climbed the first gate at 8:02 in the morning and returned around 1:30 in the afternoon.

Clouds have moved in over Mauna Kea
Clouds have moved in over Mauna Kea

After a long day, our adventure was over. We did our best to clean up a bit, headed into Waimea for a bite to eat then started back toward Hilo. We stopped for malasadas at Tex Drive In in Honoka’a. This is a definite must! Sorry, no pics, but you can certainly find them online by clicking here. AFter that, my weary warriors all sacked out on dear ol Pops.

Thanks for helping keep me awake guys!
Thanks for helping keep me awake guys!

Aloha and Mahalo!

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11 thoughts on “The Hike

  1. Articles like this are what gets these kind of hikes shut down and blocked off and locked. Please think of the locals before posting this bullshit. This is the kind of crap that makes me think typical haoles…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t think you had a point, but then when I saw that you threw in some swearing and then some racial/ethnic slurs I realized that you had a well thought out, rational point to make so all of a sudden I was convinced. Thanks for being so enlightened…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Haole is a Hawaiian word not a slur.

        It’s fine in my opinion to do these kind of hikes and post pictures on the internet. It is totally abominable to post detailed instructions on how to get there on the internet. I’ve watched many of my own favorite and formerly quiet hikes be ruined by internet publicity. You seem to like the big island, protect it!

        Like

  2. I will politely say that Super Gay is right. You should remove this from the internet. What part of “Kapu” and “No Trespassing” is not clear to you? You are encouraging others to do the same. You probably haven’t thought of this, but if someone takes your advice and goes on this hike, and someone in their party is seriously injured or killed, you could be sued. Let that sink in. How deep are your pockets?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. @MinisterOfMocha
    Well iv lived here for 2 years now and this is the 1 hike I haven’t done. We tried going today and met a DNR type officer sitting at the gate, So I politely asked if this was possible to hike to the valley. Of course he said no, So we went to the lookout with all the tourists. Wasn’t bad, but god damn, choke people.

    This is a great blog, great pics, and very descriptive.

    @Kevin D
    Not saying making the hike is a good thing. But when there is a “LEGAL” Kohala Forest Reserve and the LEGAL Street “White Road”, and the only thing in the way is a couple hundred yards of private land…I think that is a bit ridiculous. Totally OK to hike from the valley floor all the way up to where you would be if you just walked across the private land.

    You can get hurt or die at Kua Bay, Pololu, Mauna Kea summit, or anywhere really. I dont think anyone is in the position to sue anyone. We All work too hard here to waste time in courts (which is kind of a joke anyways) or with court fees.

    But I totally understand where your coming from. But All whites are not the same brah.
    No need water slide for me, just wanna hike the ridge.
    I may try and get a hold of the owner, or make peace with the people near the end of the road if can. If not then ill go right back to Kona Side, Honaunau where everything is accessible.

    But I wish the best to all of you
    Mahalos

    Like

  4. Thank you for sharing. Hawaii is a beautiful but has limited hiking opportunities.

    I want to make the point to “Super Gay” and “Kevin” that many hikes were “shut down” due to people getting injured and suing the state or another person (i.e. Anna’s Pond Hike when a boy who was jumping off of a waterfall hit his head). This is why signs are posted, NOT because of articles like this.

    I am disappointed that the Hawaii government bends to the will of these people that get injured and sue, ruining beautiful pieces of nature for everyone to enjoy. This is ridiculous. When entering the wilderness, one is always taking calculated risks. A person that is injured should not blame anyone but himself or herself because it is an understood risk of entering a wilderness area.

    I have hiked all over the Pacific North West and the trails are far more treacherous. Often there are landslides to climb over, falling rocks, goat trails along mountain sides, steep inclines/drops, freezing temperatures, high elevations, cougars, bears, and nobody around for hours. Yet, the Oregon trails remain open for everyone to enjoy.

    Like

  5. Articles and blogs like this are what have made my husband and my first trip to the big island together thrilling, beautiful, and adventurous. The detail you gave made it more than clear what to expect! We enjoyed reading this thoroughly! Excited for the hike tomorrow. Mahalo
    P.S. say hi to Dave and Heather!

    Like

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