The Crouching Lion Trail is one of our favorite hikes in Oahu. It is a fairly short trail that packs a big punch! Due to the danger of the trail, it is technically closed and not maintained by the state of Hawaii. However, it is still a very popular hike and if you just use caution and common sense it is very manageable.
Tips for Hiking the Crouching Lion Trail in Oahu
Crouching Lion Trail Information
- Distance: Approximately 1.2 miles out and back (using the route we took)
- Difficulty: Intermediate
- Elevation Gain: Approximately 400 ft
- Time: About 1 1/2 hours
- Fee: No
- Parking: Roadside parking available across the road from the trailhead
How to get to the Crouching Lion Trailhead
The Crouching Lion trailhead is located at Kahana Bay on the northern windward side of the island of Oahu.
The trailhead can be found approximately 9 miles south of Laie on the North Shore. If you are coming from Laie, head south on the Kamehameha Hwy and drive around to the other side of Kahana Bay.
As you reach the other side of the bay, you’ll see a dirt patch on the left side of the road where cars are parked. Park your car here, but do not leave any valuables as this is a known spot for cars to get broken into.
If the parking lot is full, just wait for a spot to open. Do not park on the nearby Trout Farm Road as this is a private road and you may get towed.
Alternately, you can also park at Kahana Bay Beach Park 0.7 miles before the trail, or Swanzy Beach Park about a mile past the trail.
Since the trail is closed, there are no official signs marking the Crouching Lion Trail so it can be a bit tricky to find.
From the parking area, walk up the road a few hundred yards and just before the speed limit sign on your right, you will see two signs at the trailhead marking the area as closed and warning of a hazardous cliff.
Once you enter, the trail immediately forks. The trail to the left is the shortest way up, the All Trails app calculates it as 0.4 miles round trip.
However, we prefer the trail to the right. It is a little longer but the views are more spectacular. Both trails eventually lead to the same Crouching Lion lookout point.
I have marked the locations on the map below.
What to expect when hiking up the Crouching Lion Trail
As you start the trail, you’ll immediately start a steep ascent up through the thick rainforest.
The worn path is easy to follow in most places, but don’t be too alarmed if you think you are taking the wrong trail.
As long as you are heading upward you will eventually make it to the clearing at the top, you may just enter it at a different location.
Just keep in mind that since this trail is officially closed it is not maintained by the state so you are entering at your own risk.
The trail we took is just under a mile to the Crouching Lion Summit and took us about 45 minutes. It can be quite strenuous and there are portions with ropes to help assist on slick vertical inclines.
There are no steep drop offs on the first portion, but it can be easy to lose your footing, especially if it has been raining.
Avoid hiking this trail after a heavy rainfall. I would also highly recommend microspikes that can be worn on your tennis shoes to help with traction. Climbing gloves may also come in handy as you will be using your hands to climb up and down using roots, rocks, and ropes.
The first half is the most strenuous part of the hike, but after about 10 minutes you’ll begin to see glimpses of the bay.
After about 25 minutes you’ll reach an open clearing with panoramic views over Kahana Bay.
From here, you can also spot the summit of Crouching Lion.
The trail continues along the top of the ridge with a few switchbacks leading to the Crouching Lion summit and lookout point.
Crouching Lion Summit
The last portion of the trail leading to the summit is the most dangerous. In fact, several people have died from falling off the sheer cliffs resulting in the trail being closed.
Use caution and common sense and you will be fine. Obviously, you would not want to be under the influence while hiking this trail so that you can have your senses about you. Also, when taking photos never step back blindly to capture the shot.
It is often quite windy at the summit and gusts can come out of nowhere, so always be aware of the edge of the cliff and stay away from it.
With that being said, there is still plenty of room to walk around and we didn’t feel like we were in any imminent danger.
While the first portion of the trail is through dense rain forest, the last portion of the trail is exposed and can get quite hot in the summer. Be sure to wear sunscreen and pack plenty of water.
The series of switchbacks following across the ridge are not too steep, but you will need to scramble up the rocks a little at the end to reach the top.
Once you reach the final lookout, you will be rewarded with soul-tingling views over the iridescent Pacific Ocean, the emerald water of Kahana Bay, and the rugged beauty of the Ko’olau Mountain Range looming in the background. It is absolutely breathtaking and a total hidden gem!
This epic view is one of the best in all of Oahu and even made the cover of the Hawai’i Magazine.
There is another trail leading down to a lower lookout point where you can soak in the panoramic views in solitude.
Hiking back down the Crouching Lion Trail
As you make your way back, I would recommend taking the shorter trail down.
From the summit, follow the trail around under an overhang and continue to a small opening and viewpoint.
From here you’ll see a worn trail and most likely other hikers coming up and down. This is the most popular trail because it is so short (about 0.4 miles roundtrip), but I would still recommend going up the longer route so that you can take in the spectacular views.
It should only take you about 20 minutes to get down to the road from this point. Take it slow as there are a few tricky spots that can be especially slippery when muddy.
Once you make it down, take some time to cool off at the beautiful isolated crescent beach at Kahana Bay.
The shores of this beach are not as crowded and less touristy than many of the other Oahu beaches. The surrounding beauty is serene, but the water can be a little murky from the Kahana stream runoff. Where the Kahana Stream enters the bay, you can find an ancient Hawaiian fishpond called a Huilua.
A campground is also located at the bay, along with picnic and barbecue sites. Ka’a’awa Beach is also a nearby scenic beach.
Things to note before hiking the Crouching Lion Trail:
- This trail is officially closed and not maintained by the state so hike at your own risk.
- This trail is not appropriate for young children.
- Wear proper footwear with good traction.
- Pack plenty of water. Even though the hike is relatively short, it is steep and you’ll find yourself working up a sweat.
- Wear sunscreen, much of the trail is exposed.
- If you are short on time, take the shorter route up and back. For a more scenic route, take the longer trail.
- Know your limits and it’s always best to hike with someone else.
We hope this guide has helped you know what to expect when hiking the Crouching Lion Trail in Oahu!