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Lanipo Trail, Not for the Faint of Heart

June 22, 2011

The Lanipo Trail, a 7.5 mile ridge trail, starts at the top of Mauna Lani Heights in Wilhemina Rise. I’ve read it’s a novice trail and the beginning is fairly easy with some boulders you need to scramble down but nothing trecherous. In fact it’s pretty easy going for most of trail with a couple plateaus along the way.

Bench at the first plateau

About an hour and a half in you can start to see the back of Ka’au Crater one ridge over. As you gain elevation you can see the last waterfall fed by the high elevation marsh as well as the marsh itself.

Ka'au Crater

Third Waterfall Leading up to Ka'au Crater

As you go along the terrain becomes more and more lush. At one point we were almost shoulder high in ferns. The path was dotted with large Ohia trees in bloom, strawberry guavas, locquates and something that resembled wild blueberries.

It’s not till you get a solid 2 hours into the hike that it becomes challenging with the last two peaks before the summit being the toughest. There are ropes in some of the steeper sections but what made it particularly difficult for me was the sheer drop off on either side of the trail. The ferns growing up around the path create the illusion of land but one slip of the foot reveals there isn’t much supporting there.

I kept my head down and focused on the path. It was all I could do to keep my mind off how high we were and how steep the ridge line was. Thus there are no photos of this.

We finally arrived at the summit after 3 hours of clambering up rocks, wading through waist high ferns and trudging through mud. It felt like you had reached the end of the earth. At first we couldn’t see anything but the next peak over shrouded in fog but as it burned off you could see Waimanalo down below, Kailua and Kaneohe to the left. On a clear day apparently you can see the northshore.

The edge of the summit

Waimanalo in the distance

I was so relieved to have finally reached the peak, a goal that too much longer to achieve than we had anticipated. But I was reluctant to head back on that path. The entire journey took us 5 hours. If you plan to head out on this trail it’s well worth it. Bring a light rain jacket, a hat and lots of water. The views are spectacular.

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