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Time: 3-5 HOURS

Distance: 5 MILES

Elevation Gain: 1000 FEET

Foot Traffic: LOW

Challenges: MUDDY, Stream Crossing

Sights: Honolulu, Nuuanu Lookout, Bamboo Forest, Jackass Ginger Pool

What to Bring: Water, Snack, Shoes to get muddy, Swimsuit and Towel

This slippery hike takes you through the Mauka Trail System, a series of interconnected trails located in the ridges and valleys near Honolulu. You begin along the Judd Trail before breaking away on the Nu'uanu Trail where you will follow a series of muddy switchbacks to the scenic Nu'uanu Lookout. From there you descend the ridgeline back to the Judd Trail. The trail ends at a secluded pool with a small waterfall, known as the Jackass Ginger Pool. If you can deal with the mud, this is great hike to get in a little workout, see some views, and even swim at a waterfall!


I came across this hike in Stuart Ball's book, "The Hiker's Guide to Oahu". It's a great little book that gives detailed history and descriptions about many of the sanctioned hikes on Oahu. As I'm now entering my third year on Oahu, I've done quite a few hikes on the island. Whenever I get the chance, I look for a new ridge or trail that I haven't yet explored. After perusing this guide, I decided Nu'uanu Judd was my destination for my Saturday. My friend Danielle decided to join me for this adventure. After she picked me up in her Jeep, we were off!

The hike is a partial loop, partial out and back hike. You begin along the left loop of the Judd trail before ascending the ridge along the Nu'uanu Trail. Upon reaching the Nu'uanu Lookout you will descend the ungraded ridge portion of the Nu'uanu Trail as you head back into the trees. Nu'uanu will then intersect with Judd, where you take the second loop back to the start. Just be sure to take a quick dip in the Jackass Ginger Pool before returning to your car!

The trailhead is located off the side of Nu'uanu Pali Drive. There isn't a lot, so just park somewhere off the side of the road.

Within minutes you get hit with an obstacle, a stream crossing!

Nothing too challenging, it's up to you on how you want to cross. You can simply wade through the stream and get your shoes wet or you can hop the slippery rocks, relying on your balance skills. Danielle is expertly demonstrating the latter technique.

Right across the stream you will arrive at a fork separating the two loops of the Judd Trail. The left fork will take us to the intersection with Nu'uanu trail. The right would be a short walk to the falls and swimming hole. Since I see waterfalls as a reward for a good job hiking, we will save that for the end.

In no time, you will get to see one of the most beautiful parts of the hike, this massive Cooke Pine forest. These are by far my favorite tree on this island. I still think my favorite hike to view them is Kuli'ou'ou Ridge Trail, but this hike probably just won the silver medal.

Nothing like a walk in the woods amongst the trees on the most remote island chain in the world...

I was quickly brought back from my blissful moment by this major obstacle, MUD, and lots of it. It had been raining pretty consistently during the week, but I have a suspicion this hike is always caked in mud. That's fine, more reason to hop in the pool at the end of the hike :)

After 20ish minutes, you will reach the junction to the Nu'uanu Trail.

One more quick gander at the trees.

Because it's ascent time! Overall, the climb isn't overly difficult. There's several switchbacks and it doesn't get super steep. I will say it is possible to get lost. It is marked pretty well with pink ribbons, but there are a few spots that look like the trail veers elsewhere and you may be tempted to follow. I highly recommend the AllTrails track for this hike just to ensure you are on the right path. I think it saved us from making a wrong turn early on.

But hopefully, you stay on the right path. Up and up we go.

Once you get up high enough, Honolulu will come into view.

The graded ridge weaves through the valley, surrounded by the thick vegetation. Luckily this hike is part of the Mauka Trail System so it is maintained. No bushwacking necessary!

The trail dips back down once more and at some point you will be forced to cross this fallen tree. I wonder how long this has been there?

Eventually, the trail will bring you to these planks, which are part of the Pauoa Flatts trail, indicated by that sign in the distance. To get to the Nu'uanu Lookout, take a LEFT.

Which leads to this beautiful bamboo forest. This part was very muddy, but just forget about the mud and get lost in these towering stalks.

And before long you will have reached the Nu'uanu Lookout.

And there she is, the view from the Nu'uanu Lookout. It wasn't an ideal day for views given the low lying clouds, but it was still nice with the afternoon glow illuminating the trees and the cool breeze blowing the sweat from your face. That road down there leads to the popular Lulumahu Falls, a nice and casual waterfall hike.

To continue on the loop we make a left from the lookout which will take us back on this ridgeline.

You will still get a few glimpses of the valley as you make your way along the ridge.

But eventually the descent begins back down into the valley. There were a few ropes on this ridge, which were nice to have because it was slippery. Several falls were incurred during this descent.

Aloha Honolulu! I can't wait to get back to you. I'm hungry!

Another cool tree we found along our path, created by the wonders of nature.

I think we are getting close.

Eventually the Nu'uanu trail will link back up with the Judd Trail. Go LEFT to take the loop towards the waterfall.

After hiking on Judd for 15-20 minutes, you will see the stream to the left and below you. There is a path down to the waterfall marked by ribbons. This is known as the Jackass Ginger Pool. Supposedly it's name came from a local donkey and the surrounding yellow ginger.

Unfortunately, we did not find the time to swim in the pool. We had gotten a late start and the sun was beginning to set. I took a few minutes to try a few long exposures. Meh, I've done better, but it will have to do for today. Just another reason to come back (and to swim!).

As we began to make our way back, I saw the orange of the sun peaking through the trees, illuminating this beautiful spot. Another hike in the books, another lovely experience.

Enjoy this post? Leave a comment below!

Also Check Out:

- On Walkabout's post about the loop

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