Backcountry Hiking Plans

My brother and I have laid out some plans to do some backcountry overnight hiking on the Big Island sometime in the next several months. I have wanted to hike deep beyond the Pololu Valley, past the Honokane Nui and beyond. I previously read a blog (that I can no longer find online) that described a wonderful hike many valleys beyond the Pololu, venturing over steep ridges, passing rain-soaked valleys, and far from the casual hiker or passer-by. I’ve been pouring over a 1:24K topo map of the area and see several marked trails - but I have no idea what the actual condition of those trails actually is. I would like to make this trip an over-nighter, so that we don’t have to rush back in the dark — however I also do not know where an appropriate (or even legal) campsite may be… I’ll post more information when we have more figured out.

Our second option is to hike down into the Waipio Valley, across the mouth of the valley, up the intimidating”zig-zag trail” (a.k.a. Muliwai Trail) up and over the staggering ridge, eventually into the scenic and peaceful Waimanu Valley. This valley has been more frequented by hikers and campers - and there are plenty of blogs and online photos of the Waimanu. I think it would be a challenging hike and a very pretty spot to camp out.

Our third option is to hike the Napau Crater trail at the Volcanoes National Park. This is a long hike - with a small campsite located enroute to the spectacular views of Pu’u O’o Crater. I took a look at the trail head and the information published at the Volcano Visitor’s Center as well as online trqavelogues — this looks to be a very interesting, challenging hike. There are several high-terrain points along the route with sweeping views of Napau Crater and other depressions. The grand finale is Pu’i O’o - which I heard is wonderful viewed from here at night. No doubt there would be few if any other persons encountered on this hike. Park rules state that you must register at the Visitor’s Center before commencing this hike.

The last hike proposed was enthusiastically brought up by my brother who is looking for a herculean challenge: hike to the summit of Mauna Loa. This looks to be the mother of all hikes on the Big Island - something we would need the right gear and the right conditioning before we attempted this. And I heard it can be brutal — the rate of altitude change is such that altitude sickness (adema) is felt by many that attempt this hike.

We will be taking a look at all of these options and planning which hikes we will be doing. I have already begun accumulating the gear that I will need for any of these hikes. I recently bought a new pair of hiking boots — the sturdy and very supportive Asolo 95Ns, as well as a full set of rain outerwear (top and pants), water purifier + tablets to tackle even the tiniest Leptosperosis particles, and I plan on finally getting a good set of trekking poles (something from Black Diamond). We’ll keep you all informed of our upcoming backcountry hiking and hope to post several entries as well as photos of the trip itself.

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  3. Hike the Pololu Valley
  4. Adventure: Hiking the Waipio Valley
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  1. Lumbee says:

    A few tips.
    The trails past Pololu are too damaged by the 2006 quakes. What you see on maps are also very over grown. You will get lost.

    Napau crater hike will offer a view of the glow from the current flows but, not much else.

    Mauna Loa isn’t a hike. It’s a mountaineering expidition in the winter. Currently there is too much snow For the unfimilair.

    Your best bet is the Waipio hike. But, don’t expect to be alone in Waimanu.

  2. says:


    Thanks for the feedback. I tried hiking beyond Pololu two months after the big earthquake (Dec 2006) and found the trails very dangerous, washed out, and as a result turned back. I was hoping their condition has improved since…

    Having hiked most of the rest of the park over the years, I still think the Napau Crater hike will be interesting (and offer some solitude away from the crowds).

    I definitely wouldn’t try Mauna Loa until the summertime — going to Hawaii and freezing my butt off is not my idea of a good time!

  3. Bryan/lumbee says:

    Just saw your response.
    Napau crater is an interesting hike and worth doing regardless of not seeing lava or glow.
    Mauna Loa is always cold when cloudy or at night. It can snow any time of the year so, be prepared for anything.

  4. Letsgo-Hawaii says:

    I read a blog long ago (unfortunately lost the bookmark…) about a hiker’s afventure on the Napau Crater trail - this particular person hiked with their young child and camped at the camp site near the end. Then, at night, the traveled to the edge of the forest to see the glow from Pu’u O’o crater. I’d like to do that someday.

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