Koko Crater. It’s Only 1048 steps…

View from Top of Koko Head

Diamond Head and Hawaii Kai as seen from Koko Head
70-200mm @ 70 mm, 1/4000 s., f/8, ISO 2500

It’s only 1048 steps to the top of Koko Crater on Oahu, which gives you terrific view of the island.  That’s Diamond Head in the distance, as seen across Maunalua Bay.  The residential area known as Hawaii Kai is in the foreground.  Great view, even on this hazy day.

You may be thinking, as I did, that 1048 steps is not so many – maybe like walking up the stairs of 3 or 4 lighthouses, which I’ve done in the past. Not too bad.  Reading reviews of this hike I gleaned that I should be able to make it to the top in 40 minutes.  My daughter’s boyfriend has a friend who has made it up in 20 minutes.  And, while I was climbing, I was passed twice, in both directions, by a man sprinting up and down the top half of the climb, the steepest part.

It took me 65 minutes.

Koko HeadI had the leg strength, although three days later I’m still feeling it in my thighs, but I didn’t anticipate the aerobic challenge that had me stopping frequently to keep my heart rate at a tolerable level.  It turns out that these aren’t ordinary steps, these are the ties from a long-abandoned tramway to the Koko Crater radar station, built in 1942-1943.  Steps vary from maybe 10 to 20 inches high, and some are 2 feet apart – hardly a set of lighthouse stairs. The climb is shown at right, and goes all the way to the topmost point.  Click on the image to see the trail as a brown path that starts above and slightly to the right of the rightmost of the four ball field light poles.

Here’s what the ties look like up close, at the beginning and shallowest part of the trail…

Koko Head Trail - First Steps

Koko Head Trail – First Steps
20 mm, 1/800 sec, f/8, ISO 400

But, it does get steeper, as you can see at this bridge near the half-way point and beyond.  For those of us less sure of foot, there is a bypass to the right of the bridge – wouldn’t want to slip and fall partway through!

Bridge on Koko Head Trail

Koko Head Trail – Bridge at Halfway Point
20 mm, 1/500 sec, f/8, ISO 400

And, if that doesn’t convince you of the challenge, here is the view near the top.  It’s like a roller coaster track, where it drops so steeply that you lose sight of the track part of the way.  I was pretty exhausted at this point, so didn’t quite capture the full text on the rail, which says “50 TO GO … 1000”.  And, it took me 5 more minutes to go the last 50!

Koko Head Trail - Step 1000

Koko Head Trail – Step 1000
20 mm, 1/80 sec, f/16, ISO 400

At the top, at last, for a wonderful view.  That’s my daughter and her boyfriend, with me in the cap.  They made much better time than me, both up and down, but were kind enough not to let me know how much faster.  Behind us is the Hawaii Kai golf course and, in the distance, Makapu’u Point.

Koko Head Trail - View to Makapu'u Point

Koko Head Trail – View to Makapu’u Point
20 mm, 1/500 sec, f/16, ISO 800

So, we made it up, and we made it down.  We experienced some great views of the island. None of us is ready to try this again, but if you are looking for the next great physical challenge, we heartily recommend it.

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