I had signed the toddler into hourly daycare here. It is so competitive to get into a spot that I call weeks ahead of time, so I forgot about this spot until a few days before it. I began planning all the errands and tasks I could accomplish alone, but then I stopped and realized, I am never alone! Why not do something fun? There are several hikes that I would not like to carry Leo with me, and I want to become more skilled at hiking before I really lug him around the hills. I picked the Ehukai Pillbox trail because, 1) it is not too far of a drive from my house, 2) it is less popular than Diamond Head or Koko Head, meaning less chances for embarrassing my inexperienced self, and 3) I could stop for coffee at my favorite spot on the North Shore after competing the hike. Did you honestly think I would not factor in a reward for my endeavor?
First off, what is a pillbox? I had no idea. I did some research (i.e. Google) and found that a pillbox is similar to a bunker in construction. Some theorize that their name derives from the shape of the structure or from Scottish heritage. A pillbox was primarily used for reconnaissance and defensive purposes, and there are several World War II remnants of pillboxes on the island.
This trail takes you to 2 pillboxes with excellent views of the North Shore and ocean. It is only 2.1 miles and a little over 800 feet in elevation. It is a little difficult to find, as there are no signs or clear markings of the entrance. I read to park at the Sunset school or public bathrooms, but I parked across the street at the Bonzai Pipeline parking and park area. I literally walked right by the entrance! However, if you see the Sunset Elementary school sign, look straight across into the trees – the parting in the grass is your entrance. The trail starts off level, with only rocks and tree roots to obstruct your path. Unfortunately, this does not last long.
The rough trail inclines sharply. There are some areas with planks for “steps” and a rope strung on trees to help climb, but these are not consistently placed. It is rocky and can be slippery along the rocks. This was the point where I wondered why I was doing the hike, as I always do in the first 10 minutes of any hike. I pump myself up and am excited for a hike as I get to the destination. Once I start, I immediately start wondering why I am hiking. I do not enjoy being in nature. I am not an avid or experienced hiker or outdoorsman. My legs start burning, my muscles are working, I sweat profusely because I always sweat profusely, and I curse myself for this athletic endeavor. EVERY SINGLE TIME. However, if I can make it past those first 10 minutes (and I always push myself past it), my attitude flips. Suddenly, I love hiking. I am one with nature and all its beauty. Everything is interesting and new, and I feel like nothing can stop me as I explore the earth. Okay, so I’m not running barefoot with a daisy crown on my head, but you get the point – push myself a little, and my hippie side shines through.
Anyways, you push through the incline. It seems like it is forever, but I did it rather quickly. Take some time to stop here and there to see the plants and trees, as this hike feels like you are delving into the forest. For the most part, the trail stays close to the ridge line. After the incline, the trail widens and takes a more relaxed up-and-down. Before you know it, you will see the first pillbox. You could stop here and enjoy the gorgeous view, eat a snack, and just catch your breath. Alas, I said there were 2 pillboxes, so there is further to go.
Unfortunately, I cannot show you the second pillbox because I didn’t make it there. I put myself at some disadvantages. First, I continued following a clear, wide path; I assumed that this was the trail. After about 15 minutes, I realized that I could not hear the ocean anymore and was walking further into the forest and mountain. I had read on another travel blog that the second pillbox is along the ridge, and I knew that this was the wrong direction. Pretty and peaceful, but the wrong direction. I turned back and found the first pillbox again. Second, I did not wear the right shoes. I mistakenly threw my running shoes into the car instead of my sturdier outdoor shoes. My lightweight, flexible running shoes could not gain traction as I tried to continue on the trail. To reach the second pillbox, you must find the trail after wading through all grass and climbing down along a slick, rocky decline. I attempted it, but after a few slips, I decided that falling was not in my itinerary. I headed back again to the first pillbox, took some pictures, talked to some other hikers, and saw a few whales breaking the surface of the water. After a short time, I started the climb back down and to my car. Why does the climb down seem just as hard if not harder than the climb up?
Even though I had some disadvantages, I look forward to trying the Ehukai Pillbox trail again. In the future, I will bring my good shoes, use bug spray, and pack a book to read at the top. With the absence of dozens of tourists and the ample shade from the trees, the pillboxes would be a great reading or yoga spot! If you would like more information on the Ehukai Pillbox trail and other hikes, check our AllTrails.com. This is my go-to site for information and reviews on different hikes on Oahu. Enjoy my pictures!