One of the more challenging hikes on Oahu is Koko Head Railway Trail. Koko Head is a steep peak that overlooks the district park and provides a nearly 360 view of the island, including the Hanauma Bay and the Port Lock Peninsula. The trail itself is very straightforward and leads right to the top of the peak. The challenge lies in the 1000 plus steps that it takes to get there. These steps – at times quite uneven and rugged – are the remnants of a railway used in World War II to hoist supplies to the barebones artillery station up top. The railway has since fell out of use but its remains were transformed into the hiking trail that it is today.

Getting up this intimidating flight of stairs is no easy task. The climb to the peak feels extremely long, and gets steeper the higher you go. Luckily there are small patches of even ground every few feet, allowing a space for hikers to take a break and catch their breath without blocking the way for other climbers. There are some motivated individuals who sprint their way to the top, but I recommend taking it slow, especially if you’re not a frequent user of “stair master”. The way up can seem brutal, but it ends with a very spectacular and rewarding view.

At Koko Head’s peak, visitors can see the beautiful homes scattered in the valley below and the ocean enveloping the island. Moloka’i sits faintly on the horizon. It’s a very picturesque spot with plenty of photo opportunities, including an abandoned pillbox decorated with colorful graffiti (very similar to the ones at Lanikai) and a small  overlook surrounded with various foliage and cacti.

Heading back down is vastly easier than making the ascent, but it can still be a bit tricky due to the steps uneven surface. Hikers should head down cautiously, especially if their shoes don’t have a good grip. Another thing to be cautious of is a segment of the trail that appears to be missing every other step. For a short time, you’ll have to step over large, pretty ominous looking holes…One misstep could lead to a fall or serious injury. Fortunately there is a less sketchy route that curves off from the main trail, before rejoining it a few steps down.

In terms of difficulty, I would put Koko Head somewhere between moderate and difficult. It will require a bit of cardio, but the distance is doable — and in keeping with the “aloha spirit” — the hikers coming down will often provide cheers of support and motivation for those going up.  As for the views, this hike provides some of the best scenery on island.

PRICE: Free 

TRANSPORTATION AND PARKING: The easiest way to reach Koko Head is via car; luckily there are plenty of parking spots available in a lot right at the foot of the peak

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