The Pali Notches is one of the more intense hikes on Oahu. To get there from town, drive on the Pali Highway and follow the signs for the Pali Lookout, or the Nuuanu Pali. Or, simply type Pali Lookout into your GPS. It’s about a 20 minute drive from Honolulu.
There are two entrances leading up to the trail. The more inconspicuous one is in front of the paid parking meter.
The hike is relatively short and can be completed in ~1.5 hours. Although the duration is short, PLEASE be advised that this is considered one of the most dangerous hikes on the Island. The ridge is very narrow and you have to scale down the notches using rope. If you take on this hike, make sure you are comfortable with heights. Also note that it is EXTREMELY windy on the ridge.
A little background on this hike: The notches were created by native warriors of ancient Oahu to house cannons when defending attacks from Nu’uanu Valley. In 1795, King Kamehameha’s warriors disabled these cannons in the Battle of Nu’uanu known as Kalelekaʻanae, which translates to “the leaping mullet”, and refers to a number of Oahu warriors driven off the cliff in the final phase of the battle
What You’ll Need
- A bottle of water
- GOOD HIKING SHOES- this hike is STEEP and sometimes muddy. The more grip your shoes have, the better.
- A backpack (you’ll need to be hands free for the climbing portion of this hike)
- Cell Phone
- Camera- I highly suggest a GoPro.
Ladies, wear your hair up, the wind is gnarly and you don’t want a big gust to throw your hair into your face while scaling down a cliff.
Now that you have some history and advisory for the hike, let’s get to the good stuff.
Starting at the ‘trail head’ follow the trail to the left and up. The trail isn’t market but you should be able to identify it by how worn it is. The first 15-20 minutes are pretty steep. Use the roots to assist you until you come to a section in the woods with ropes. The ropes are a good aid in climbing through the forest to get to the first peak.
Shortly after you reach the initial summit, you’ll follow the trail to the first notch. Please assess how comfortable you are. If you have any doubts, there is no shame in turning around. The first peak is just as good of a view as any! But if you’re ready for more adventure then continue down the first notch.
Whew, after the first notch you feel half terrified and half badass. We stopped for a photo op (and to catch our breath). If the badass feeling is greater than the terrifying feeling, continue the path to the second notch.
After the second notch, we felt pretty accomplished.
We admired the chimney from the last notch (see cover photo for reference). People do hike it, and I’m all for adventure, but once you commit to the chimney you can’t come back down the way you came and would need to do a full loop of the mountain range.
We definitely had our fill of adventure for the day so we turned back and headed down the path we came.
If you’ve done the Pali Notches, please feel free to share your experience. If you haven’t and want to find out more, leave a comment or contact me!