Aiea Loop Trail ( Kalauao Falls and Plane Crash )

by kenji SAITO on September 13, 2014

Hiking Aiea Loop Trail ( Kalauao Falls and Plane Crash )

A friend had asked me to take him and his cousin on an easy hike. That is why I found myself at Keaiwa Heiau State Park with Glenn, Jose and Thessa. However, my friend failed to show up. Oh well, let’s hike.

Aiea Loop Trail

Aiea Loop Trail

Group photo at the trailhead: Jose, Thessa, Glenn and myself.

Water tank

Water tank

Passing the water tank, that was surprisingly untouched by graffiti.

Exposed roots

Exposed roots

Exposed tree roots are part of the trail, the side of this hill was no exception.

Trail to the valley

Trail to the valley

Roughly ten minutes later, we headed down a side trail to our left.

Powerlines

Powerlines

Jose and Glenn passing underneath the powerlines. High voltage.

Purple tree

Purple tree

This tree “doorway” was marked with purple coloring.

Mango tree junction?

Mango tree junction?

I had read that many hikers miss the critical junction that is marked by a mango tree, to turn down to Kalauao Valley. We would be no exception. Sort of.

Going down

Going down

Mango tree. Check. Trail. Check. Let’s go. The actual junction was just a stone’s throw away by another mango tree further down the trail. We would find that out coming back up.

Is this the way?

Is this the way?

The “trail” soon petered out to be replaced by bushwhacking down a steep hill through heavy vegetation and trees.

A real trail

A real trail

Eventually we connected with the obvious trail.

Remember this junction

Remember this junction

The trail lead us down to the valley floor, where we made a mental note of the junction so as not to miss it.

Where's the water?

Where’s the water?

The dry streambed was a good indicator that the waterfall would not be flowing. At least we wouldn’t be slipping and sliding on wet rocks.

Tree fungi

Tree fungi

White tree fungi. I read somewhere that fungal fruiting structures will eventually result in structural weakening of the tree. Did not know that.

How many crossings?

How many crossings?

We crossed the dry streambed about eight times before arriving at the waterfall.

Kalauao Falls

Kalauao Falls

Group photo at the trickling Kalauao Falls. Have to come after a heavy rainfall to see the falls as they should be seen.

Top of the falls

Top of the falls

Looking down at the group, wondering who turned off the water?

Upstream

Upstream

I heard other hikers have followed this stream further up and bushwhacked their way back to the loop trail.

Tree canopy

Tree canopy

Taking a break under the lush tree canopy.

Headed back

Headed back

No raging waterfall. No show for us today.

Hurry! Pick it!

Hurry! Pick it!

On the way back along the streambed, ripe guavas were hanging high on trees. Jose and Glenn bowed the trees down so that Thessa and I could pick some.

Back in the loop

Back in the loop

The group back on the loop trail. Now let’s go search for the plane! In 1944, a B-24J Liberator Bomber took off from Hickam Field and crashed into Pu’u Uau. There are some confusion as to the type of plane that crashed, some say it was a Japanese Zero fighter and others a C-47 cargo plane. The memorial plaque at the beginning of the loop trail clearly states what type of plane crashed. End of discussion.

Standing room only

Standing room only

The loop trail seems to be a favorite amongst families and dog owners. One of the few views on the trail of the Waianae Mountains.

Three finger tree

Three finger tree

This trail has got to have the most fallen trees and branches I have run across.

Scenic point

Scenic point

Group photo with the H-3 freeway snaking through Halawa Valley.

Looking

Looking

We passed a friendly guy that was greeting hikers as if he were the unofficial docent of Aiea Loop Trail. He told us that a major landslide a few years back had pushed the plane wreckage to the bottom of the gulch and was inaccessible and that scavengers had packed out most of the aluminum pieces from the plane when metal prices were climbing. What a shame.

Found it!

Found it!

Roughly two-thirds going into the trail, we rounded a bend and noticed other hikers coming up from the bottom. The plane! The plane! At one time, part of the wing rested against a tree on the trail. A landslide took care of that.

Here's a wing

Here’s a wing

Jose and Thessa passing the wing. Guess it was too big for the scavengers to carry off.

Going down

Going down

Glenn following the fallen tree down.

Part of the engine

Part of the engine

Thessa standing next to part of the plane’s engine.

Not what you think

Not what you think

An unidentified hiker holding part of the plane’s wreckage. If you want photos that are off center or not fully framed. Please contact Glenn for a free consultation. Photo by Glenn Toyama.

Touching history

Touching history

Group photo with part of the plane wreckage. The plane wreckage parts seemed to thin out at this point, so we decided against following the trail down.

Part of the tire

Part of the tire

Going back up, we noticed the plane’s tire rim half covered by the tree, that we had overlooked coming down.

Divided we hike

Divided we hike

One of many trees on the trail that were cut to allow hikers to walk on the trail.

Timber!

Timber!

More fallen trees.

Another one ready to go

Another one ready to go

Maybe they should cut this one down, before it falls. On somebody.

Glad we're on the right trail

Glad we’re on the right trail

Our first sign on the trail. Right before this sign, we saw another trail on our left that goes to Camp Smith.

Hmmm

Hmmm

What is beyond this sign? Why is it closed? Curiosity killed the cat. The trail dropped a little as we crossed a stream and came back up.

Open seats

Open seats

Views of Pearl Harbor peeked out from behind the tree line.

All pau

All pau

The trail ended at a campsite.

The hardest part

The hardest part

Now we had to walk back up the road to our cars. Broke a sweat doing it.

GPS Tracks

GPS Tracks

Our nice, easy hike clocked in at 6.76 miles under hot and muggy conditions. Post hike meal at The Alley Restaurant. Best oxtail soup on the island.

Leave a Comment

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Scott January 11, 2016 at 7:31 am

Climbed down as far as the engine last Friday. The gulley has filled in with more dirt from the rains. Afterwards found your article and forwarded to a friend to let him see pictures of the trail. Nice photos.

Reply

kenji SAITO January 11, 2016 at 10:03 am

Aloha Scott,
Thanks. Yeah, at one time I heard the wing was actually propped on the side of a tree on the trail. Then a landslide took everything down to the gully.
Mahalo

Reply

Amy March 12, 2017 at 12:25 pm

Thx for the post! I’ve been on this hike so many times but never knew there was a waterfall. Do you think I can carry my 1 yr old and have my 4 yr old do it…? Or is that being too ambitious?

Reply

kenji SAITO March 13, 2017 at 10:32 pm

Aloha Amy,
You’re welcome. Just my opinion, I would not take your kids down this hike. Perhaps wait a couple more years. Or do it yourself first so you can more accurately gauge the hike for you and your family.
Mahalo

Reply

Amy March 14, 2017 at 1:17 pm

Darn it! Yea you’re probably right and it’s better I be cautious with the little ones. Adultering is so hard. ; )

Thanks again!

Amy

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