The 0.8-mile trail, which had been slated for closure since July 2019, with repairs pushed back to September 2019, will reopen to the public on National Trails Day on Saturday, according to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources. It is part of the state’s Na Ala Hele Trail and Access Program.
Along with the installation of a fence to catch falling rocks next to the falls, there are now wider trails that accommodate two-way traffic, new steps leading to the waterfall viewing area, trailside plantings, and erosion and water runoff control measures in place.
There are also new rest areas with benches and interpretive signs to educate hikers about the rainforest watershed while they rest and enjoy their surroundings.
“It’s really about safety,” said Aaron Lowe, Oahu Trails and Access Specialist for Na Ala Hele, in a news release. “Before the COVID pandemic, the Manoa Falls trail attracted 700 to 1,000 people a day. In a lush valley that gets 160 -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 Honolulu Fire Department had identified the upper portion of Manoa Falls Trail as a hotbed for hiker injury, according to an earlier Star-Advertiser story. Years of foot traffic, combined with rains, led to erosion on the trail.
Prior to the pandemic, the Manoa Falls Trail averaged about 200,000 hikers annually, with a packed parking lot and commercial tours that brought in visitors.
The trail improvements, DLNR said, were made possible with financial support from the Hawaii Tourism Authority and Federal Highways Administration Recreational Trails Program, in addition to partners such as KUPU Hawai‘i, HTA’s Aloha Aina Program, Rousse Services LLC, and volunteers from the Hawaii Department of Education.