Danger on Hawaii's Three Peaks Trail

Words and photos by Coalatree Ambassador Nick Bode. You can read more about his Olomana Trail hike on his blog or follow his adventures on Instagram.

Just be careful,” the locals kept telling me. “Several people have died on that trail.” I knew this was true and I didn’t take it lightly, but that’s what had me so intrigued. The quick elevation gain, the ledges, the cliffs, the narrow trails, the rock climbing, the tattered old ropes...

There was a true element of danger. I was completely enamored by the Three Peaks Trail, locally known as the Olomana Trail.

Appropriately nicknamed the “Three Peaks,” the Olomana Trail offers not only a challenging and dangerous day-hike, but stunning panoramic views of the island, including Waimanalo and Lanikai beaches. “It’s only 4.5 miles,” I thought. “I don’t see what the big deal is.

The “big deal” was evident quickly, as my haole friend Chris and I began our 1,784 foot ascent towards the peaks. The jungle-like trail to the first peak, muddy and root-filled as it is, is tough but beautiful. The deep-green ironwood and pine trees kept us shaded, providing occasional teasers of views to come. We soon hit the first section of ropes, left by  past hikers to assist in the steepest sections. We powered through, hitting the first peak after a little over than an hour. Most people stop here, and truthfully, the views are just as good here as any point on the hike.

With that being said, if you’ve made it to Peak #1, you may as well venture on to Peak #2. It is no more challenging than any ground you’ve already covered, but delivers more unique views.

From here things get truly interesting... actually things get pretty sketchy. Most people make the wise decision to stay behind, choosing survival over adventure. 

The descent from Peak #2 to Peak #3 begins with a 40-foot vertical drop. I took hold of as many of the man-made ropes as possible, and slowly started backing my way down the rockwall. I was forced to trust these ropes that had been put up... who knows how long ago!? And by whom!? After a long pause and a few deep breaths, I leaned back, and took a literal leap of faith.

The trail continued to tighten, with sheer drop-offs on both sides. The ropes appeared more and more weathered with every grasp. Sure-footed on every step, I finally reached the tallest, steepest, and most dangerous peak. The views were incredible. The ocean crashing to my front. The mountains looming at my back. The dense green forest surrounding me. I was on running on adrenaline. I Facetimed my friends and family to boast about where I was standing, but nobody picked up. It didn’t matter. It wouldn’t have done it justice anyway. I smiled, turned around, and proceeded back down the way I came.

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