Paul writes to ask:
We were also hoping to hike to the bottom of Opaeka’a Falls via the short, standard trail/route that starts just upstream of the falls. However, I recently found out that the state closed this trail because two women fell to their deaths from the top late last year. Are folks still using this trail? Is the state serious about enforcing this closure? I have never been a fan of blanket trail closures by the authorities in an attempt to “save competent outdoors folks from ourselves”. Any insight you could provide on the status of the Opaeka’a Falls Trail would be greatly appreciated.
Here is a Honolulu Star Bulletin article about the closure.
The public land around Opaeka’a Falls is still closed by special decree of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources. Personally, I feel the closure is unwarranted, though I have been too busy to address my concerns to the state or even to blog about it. I don’t know what it would take to get it open again. When it was open, it wasn’t even a real trail and certain sections are hazardous, I guess it was just too close to the road and too easy for non-experienced hikers to get into dangerous situations.
The photo above shows the fence and signs that the state installed all along the trailhead area (with a memorial to the women). I have seen state rangers there enforcing the closure, and I assume fining the people they find. However, looking at these photos I took a while ago, there is no mention that the area is off limits. I have heard that residents nearby, for whatever reason, report cars parked there, so you don’t have much of a chance of sneaking in.
I think the DLNR made a big mistake installing the fence. It is obviously easy to hop over or go around. If you went around on the left side, you’d end up on the right trail. But if you went around on the right side as it looks possible to do in the photo above, you would find yourself on the steep slope with slippery vegetation that is precisely the spot where the women fell to their deaths.
One website I found suggests hiking to the falls from the bottom, after kayaking up the Opaekaa stream from the Wailua River. I have paddled up there, but the stream is blocked by trees in a way that seems to make it impossible to just get out and walk. There may be a way to hack through or maybe land elsewhere and walk up, but I haven’t found it.