How to Hike the Crouching Lion Trail in Hawaii
Distance: 0.8km / 0.5 miles Time: 1-2 hours Elevation: 90m / 300 ft From Waikiki: 1 hour Dog Friendly: Yes Toilets: None
The Crouching Lion Hike on Oahu is a short and steep trail on the East Coast of Oahu in Kaaawa that leads to incredible views over Kahana Bay. This was the first hike that we did in Hawaii and we were a little shocked to find that a lot of the trail was scrambling but we were blown away by the views from the top! The views from the top of this hike are what you would image to be classic Hawaii views. Bright turquoise water, with rolling green Jurassic Park-like mountains framing the ocean.
In this hiking guide, I will share everything you need to know to do the Crouching Lion hike in 2023 including where to park, what to expect from the trail, and what the views are like from the top as well as what else to do while you are in Hawaii.
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📍 Where is the Crouching Lion Hike located?
The Crouching Lion Trail is located in Hawaii on the East Coast of Oahu in Kaaawa. From Waikiki it is around a 50 minute to 1 hour drive to reach the trailhead.
How to Get to the Crouching Lion Hike Without a Car
It is possible to reach the Crouching Lion Trailhead without a car, however, I highly recommend hiring a car, even if it is for only one day to explore the island. The public transport in Hawaii is not the greatest and you will be taking up way too much of your exploration time sitting on a bus.
If you do need to catch public transport for whatever reason, you can get the #2L bus to S Beretania St + Pali Hwy + Bishop St where you will need to change to bus #60. The entire journey will take almost 2 hours which is more than double the time it takes to drive.
How to Get to the Crouching Lion Hike by Car
From Waikiki, you can take either HI-63 N (Kalihi St) or HI-61 (Pali Hwy) if you are driving. I recommend checking google maps for any slow downs or potential road closures before leaving. You will then need to merge onto H-83 W and follow it to Kaaawa.
Where to park
If you are coming from Honolulu, if you drive past the trailhead, you will see a small parking pullover spot on the right-hand-side of the Kamehameha Hwy (HI-83 W). There will likely be a few other cars parked there. This is where you can park.
How to Find the Crouching Lion Trailhead
After parking on the right-hand-side of the road if coming from Honolulu, you will need to cross over to the other side and start walking back the way you came from.
The trailhead can be found between a ‘Do Not Pass’ sign and another sign saying “danger hazardous cliff.” The actual trailhead is quite overgrown and isn’t marked as it is not an official trail. Walk through the bushes for a bit and you will start to see a bit of a trail ahead of you.
❗ Can I Hike the Crouching Lion Trail in 2023 / Is it Legal?
When you reach the trailhead for the Crouching Lion Hike, you will notice a sign that says “Do not pass.” The Crouching Lion Trail is technically illegal but it is still popular as ever. While we were in Hawaii, we noticed that a few of the hikes we had on our list that we had seen others doing had “closed” signs when we arrived.
I suspect that this particular sign at the Crouching Lion Trailhead is directed towards hikers who are planning to do the Puu Manamana Trail, a much more dangerous trail with huge drop offs. Crouching Lion is an extremely popular hike and is well known as one of the best hikes on Oahu.
📄 Things to Know Before Hiking the Crouching Lion trail
This is important. When we decided to visit Hawaii, we wrote a list of all the incredible hikes we were going to do and were so so excited, but when we arrived and started trying out some of the trails on our Hawaii Bucket list, we soon realised that the trails in Hawaii are INTENSE. They are completely on another level to any other trails we had ever done. We have hiked Angels Landing in Zion National Park and the Hawaii hikes were scarier. I think the reason for this is that they are much less official. Most of the trails in Hawaii that we had seen on social media were unmaintained and some (like Crouching Lion) even had signs saying “trail closed.”
I would recommend wearing enclosed shoes like trail runners or hiking boots to help you on the slippery sections and to protect your feet. Unless of course you are extremely used to Hawaii hiking and you are one of the insane people who are comfortable hiking in flip flops. We saw a few of these on the Hawaii trails.
❗ If it has rained recently, I don’t recommend hiking the Crouching Lion Trail. Most of the trail consists of mud and clay that gets extremely slippery when wet and can make hiking this trail very dangerous.
🦁 Why is it called the Crouching Lion Hike
The name “Crouching Lion,” comes from the shape of one of the rock formations on the hike that looks like a lion crouching down.
🕐 How Long Does it Take to Hike the Crouching Lion trail
The Crouching Lion hike on Oahu takes around 30 minutes each way if you are a moderate hiker. Then you will probably want to spend 10 -20 minutes at the viewpoint so in total you should allow for 1.5 hours to complete the hike.
🥾 How Hard is the Crouching Lion Hike
The Crouching Lion hike is very short, however extremely steep with ropes to help you scramble up certain sections making it moderate in difficulty. The dirt is also quite loose and dusty in places, making the scramble a little harder. If the trail is wet at all from the rain, I recommend giving this trail a miss as it can be extremely dangerous when slippery.
🚶♀️ The Crouching Lion Trail Description
The Crouching Lion Hike on Oahu is 0.8km / 0.5 miles with an elevation gain of 90m / 300 ft and will take you 1-2 hours return. Please note that this entire guide is only with regards to the short route. There is another, longer route that will take you much longer.
Finding where the trail starts can be a little tricky but you might run into other hikers like we did, who will be able to show you the way.
Once you find the trail, you will climb up a steep dirt path, reaching the viewpoint after around 20-30 minutes. The trail involves some steep scrambling up roots using the aid of a rope.
You can continue on further after the viewpoint, however I don’t recommend it. Further on the trail turns into the trail for Puu Manamana which is a much more dangerous hike and most likely the reason for the closure signs.
🌊 Once You Have Finished the Hike
Once you are back to your car, if you feel like chilling out for a bit longer in the area, there is a short trail that leads you to the ocean on the side of the road that your car is parked on. I’m not sure if it still there, but there was a little swing tied up to the trees by the water when we were there back in 2019. I was also lovely to dip our feet in the water after the hike.
🛏 Where to Stay Nearby
Here are some beautiful places to stay not which is the closest town to the Crouching Lion hike.
🤿 Other Fun Things to do on Oahu
If you are spending some time on Oahu, why not add a few other things to your itinerary?
If you enjoy snorkelling, then you HAVE to check out some of the snorkelling spots on Oahu because the snorkelling is incredible in Hawaii! You might even see a sea turtle! One of the best spots on the island for snorkelling is Hanauma Bay. This is a protected Marine Park so you do have to pay an entrance fee, but once you are in, you can stay for as long as you like.
Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail
Distance: 7.6km / 4.7miles | Elevation Gain: 493m / 1,617ft | Time: 3 hours | Moderate
The Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail is one of the easiest ridge trails on Oahu so if you are dying to do a ridge trail in Hawaii but feeling intimidated by how scary they are, then this might be the trail for you!
The views from the top are awesome. You can see all the way out to the ocean and Waikiki. Like the Crouching Lion Hike, I recommend avoiding the Wiliwilinui Trail in wet weather due to the trail become extremely slippery.
💭 Our Thoughts
We both loved this hike and think it is a must-do hike on Hawaii! The epic views from the top definitely the hard scrambling work completely worth it because they were literally the views I had been dreaming about for years whenever I thought of Hawaii. This is a great little trail to do if you are in the area and have time.
You might also enjoy:
- Ultimate Guide to 5 Days in Oahu, Hawaii
- Hiking the Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail, Oahu
- The Best Beaches for Snorkelling in Oahu
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