Is This Hike Dangerous?
Let me start with a warning – hiking in Hawaii can be really dangerous. Multiple people die on these islands every year, mostly due to flash flooding, falling off ridges or going on a hike unprepared. People have died on the Crouching Lion hike as well, as recently as 2016. So don’t just head to a spot you saw on Instagram without doing much research, assuming it’s safe. Also keep in mind this trail is officially closed, so the state is not officially maintaining it. Still lots of people do it on their own risk.
That being said, if you are fit, confident in your hiking abilities and stay careful, you’ll be totally fine doing this hike. We don’t recommend going all the way to the end with kids or older people, but you can easily do the first half of the hike without any danger and still get to see amazing views.
We don’t recommend you hike this trail in rainy weather. It can be slippery and dangerous when it’s muddy and you might not be able to even get the beautiful views if it’s cloudy. Since this is the East side of Oahu, it rains a lot so you might need to plan more carefully for this. We spent a week in Oahu and only had one suitable day with no rain and clouds on that side of the island.
How Long Is The Trail?
There are actually two trails that will get you to the top, and both are under a mile long. The first trail would be the longer, more difficult, but it is also a lot more picturesque. It should take about 45 minutes to the top at a normal pace. The second version of this trail is a little shorter, about 25minutes, but it also skips a lot of the most stunning views along the way. But it is a lot faster and easier, at least at the start. We made a map for you with the two trails below. Both trails are marked and the black cross marks the end of the hike.
When you park your car at the parking lot head North along the way and look for the signs that mark the entrances. As this is a closed hike, you won’t see the usual hike marking signs. Instead, there are hike-at-your-own-risk signs warning of hazardous cliffs. Another word of caution regarding the parking lot: we heard a lot of people had their car broken into. For this reason we advise against trying to get to this hike first in the morning. There might be a higher chance of a break-in if your car is the only one in the lot early in the morning.
Trail No. 1 On The Way Up
We took the longer trail on the way up by mistake, but ended up being very happy about it. The first half of this trail is strenuous, it starts off steep early on and it only gets steeper. There are a couple of parts with ropes – the vertical incline can be a little tough with nothing to hold on to. This part can be difficult for children or seniors but if you are fit you shouldn’t have any problems. Still, it didn’t feel dangerous to us – no sharp drop offs or cliffs.
After about 20 minutes on this trail the most spectacular views of Kahana bay open up in front of you. At this point the near-vertical inclines end and you have a bit of easy hiking on pretty even ground. If you worry about steep drop offs and slipping off the edge of a cliff, you can end your hike here and head back. We marked this spot with a green circle on the map above. Other than the very end of the hike, you won’t get a much better view but you will get some dangerous parts. But if you are confident in your hiking and take your time, you’ll be fine getting to the end.
If you continue forward, there are some parts of the trail have pretty steep drop offs, but mostly on just one side. Stay low and go slowly at these parts and you should be fine. Most of the last third of the trail is not steep, except for the very end where you need to climb a little to get to the top.
If you made it to the top – congratulations! This is the most rewarding part of the whole trail. The views are breathtaking in every direction so sit down and enjoy for a minute. This is the most stunning part of the entire hike but also the most dangerous. The wind here is strong and can come out of nowhere, so be sure to stay low and move slowly and carefully.
Trail No. 2 On The Way Down
No matter which way you come up, we recommend you take trail no. 2 on the way down. You’ll likely be tired and this trail is much shorter and not dangerous at all. There are also no steep parts here, which can be tricky on the way down. It took us a quick 20 minutes to get down to our car this way and it felt pretty painless.
We’ll say again that this hike can be dangerous and tricky, especially when wet. It is also technically illegal and the state of Hawaii does not recommend you do it. But if you use caution and take it slow, it’s totally doable and absolutely worth it. It offers some of the most beautiful views for the least amount of effort and time.
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