Popular trail reopens in Honolulu, safer and more user-friendly

A well-trafficked trail has reopened on Oahu after a nearly two-year closure for maintenance and safety measures.

The Manoa Falls Trail in Honolulu, which prior to the pandemic attracted 700 to 1,000 hikers daily, closed in July 2019 to enable the Department of Land and Natural Resources to install a rockfall hazard mitigation fence next to the falls.

The 1.7-mile, out-and-back trail winds through a tropical forest in the highlands above Honolulu to the base of the 150-foot Manoa Falls. The trailhead near Lyon Arboretum and Botanical Garden is a 5-mile drive from Waikiki and can be accessed at the end of Manoa Road, where there is a $5 parking fee.

While the fence was erected, Na Ala Hele, the Hawaii Trail and Access Program, completed a handful of trail safety improvements, including widening the trail for two-way traffic and resurfacing the trail bed among other upgrades, using funding provided by the Hawaii Tourism Authority and the Federal Highways Administration Recreational Trails Program.

“It’s really about safety,” Aaron Lowe, Oahu Trails and Access Specialist for the Na Ala Hele Program said in a statement. “In a lush valley that gets 160 to 170 inches of rain a year, the trail was an eroding, slippery, muddy mess. After a lot of work during this extended closure, we are very happy to reopen a safer trail just in time for National Trails Day that is also better for the watershed.”

The Manoa Falls Trail will also include new rest areas with benches and signs informing hikers about the falls’ rainforest watershed.

“We value our continued partnership with [the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources] to support these critical improvements to the Manoa Falls Trail and importantly, educate hikers about how to malama the watershed through our Aloha Aina Program,” John De Fries, president and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, said in a statement, using the Hawaiian word for caring for the Earth. “Mahalo to DLNR and the important work of the many individuals who restored this trail for the safety and enjoyment of our residents and visitors.”

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