Koko Crater Trail

Hawaii's Hardest Hike? Koko Crater Trail

If you're looking for a hard hike on Oahu, look no further than Koko Crater Trail. This steep climb consists of 1,000+ steps along an abandoned railroad track that runs to the top of Koko Crater. It's a challenging hike that will challenge not only your leg strength but your will as well. Read on for tips on how to find and conquer this beast of a hike.

The Stats

  • Round trip distance: 1.8 miles
  • Number of steps: 1,048
  • Elevation gain: 820 feet
  • Type of hike: out and back
  • Difficulty level: difficult
  • Generally very crowded with athletes, hikers, and tourists
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii

About the Trail

Originally created during World War II at the same time as bunkers such as the Lanikai Pillbox, this railway was used to haul cargo and supplies to the mountaintop. Today, the abandoned railway is used as a hiking trail. It's considered a difficult hike, but you'll see all types of people attempting to get to the top. Some are athletes using the trail as their regular training route, while others range from experienced hikers to overly optimistic tourists. Not all will reach the top, but that's actually ok given the fact that you can get decent views from even part way up the trail.

The ascent is rather difficult and steep at times. It's made more challenging by the fact that most of the steps are much longer and taller than the usual steps that we are used to. But the reward is a stunning panorama with views of Hanauma Bay and Hawaii Kai. If you have any fear of heights, don't attempt this one, or come with an experienced friend who is willing to give you a helping hand. There are no ropes or handrails to help you up and down these stairs.

Where is Koko Crater Trail?

The trail is pretty easy to find and is visible in the distance. From Waikiki, drive south on H1 (Kalaianaoli Highway) and keep going until it turns into Highway 72. When you hit Hawaii Kai Shopping center, take a left on Lunalilo Home Road, then a right on Anapalau Street. Taka e left onto Koko Head District Park where you'll find parking lots and a trailhead.

More Oahu Hiking Guides

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koko crater trail
koko crater trail

Photo Gallery

Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii

Best Hikes on Oahu, Hawaii

There is no shortage of stunning hiking trails on Oahu. From popular trails with more people than you can count to more serene destinations where it's just you and nature, there's something for everyone. This is a list of some of my favorite hiking trails on Oahu. I have personally completed these hikes and have found them all to be very enjoyable and photo-worthy.

Recommended Hiking Gear

As a rather risk-averse hiker who is wary of heights, the first two hikes were somewhat easy for me. The latter was truly difficult and I had a hard time making it to the top and back. If you too are not much of a hiker, know that there's absolutely no shame in turning back if at any point you feel uncomfortable. No hike is worth risking your health and safety. On that note, do make sure you are duly prepared with proper hiking equipment. This alone can make your hiking experience much safer and more enjoyable.

Makapu'u Point Lighthouse Trail - Very Easy

This is a pretty popular trail that can at times seem crowded if you judge on parking availability alone. But to be fair, the parking lot to this trail is on the small side, and it's actually ok to park your car on the side of the road just outside of the gates. Even if the parking lot seems full, don't be deterred. Makapu'u Point is quite large with many little side trails so it doesn't feel very crowded. The main trail is nicely paved, allowing for baby strollers and those in wheelchairs to access the top. But it is a somewhat steep climb. The view at the end is such a reward and worth the hike. Makapu'u tidepools can also be accessed from this trail, although that path isn't paved and requires a bit more agility.

Kaena Point Trail - Easy

The easiest hiking trail I've done on Oahu has to be Kaena Point Trail. It's roughly 5-miles long (roundtrip). The terrain is flat and there's little to no descent. It winds along the westernmost coast of Oahu leading to a nature reserve where you can see seabirds (mainly albatross) and large Hawaiian monk seals in the wild. Since there are two different trails, this hike is rarely crowded and is one of those "off the beaten path" trails.

Read more about the Kaena Point Trail.

Kaena Point Beach and Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Kaena Point Beach and Hike on Oahu, Hawaii

Lanikai Pillboxes - Moderate

A moderate Oahu hiking trail is the now popular Lanikai Pillbox hike. Located on the windward side, this hike is actually quite short, but it involves a quick, steep ascent. It's not terribly difficult, but those with a fear of heights and poor balance may have issues. The reward comes rather quick in the form of a stunning panoramic view of Lanikai and Kailua Beaches. This hike can be somewhat crowded, but traffic is restricted by the difficulty in finding parking in this area.

Read more about the Lanikai Pillboxes Trail.

Lanikai Pillbox Oahu Hiking Trail
Lanikai Pillbox Oahu Hiking Trail

Koko Crater Trail - Difficult

By far the hardest hike I've yet to do on Oahu is Koko Crater Trail. From what I've read, there are many other hikes that are much more difficult but I warn you again that I'm not much of a hiker. So for me, Koko Crater Trail exceeds my comfort zone by a lot.

This trail is short (under 2 miles), but it's very steep. It also involves climbing old railway tracks that now serve as makeshift stairs. Except these stairs are much longer and taller than the ones that modern humans are used to, so they're not terribly easy for those of us with shorter legs. But like Lanikai Pillboxes, the reward is in the panoramic view at the top. So in that sense, Koko Crater is worth doing at least once.

Read more about the Koko Crater Trail.

Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii

Over To You

What are your favorite hiking trails on Oahu? Let me know in the comments below!

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Best oahu hikes
Best oahu hikes