Go Early in the Morning
The Kokohead hike gets a lot of sun at its location. There is minimal (none) shade along the hike, so you are in direct sunlight for the entire hike. This can make the hike more exhausting. The sun and heat can drain you. This is why I recommend starting the hike at dawn if you’re surviving the Kokohead Hike. By doing this, you should reach the summit before the sun gets high in the sky and can avoid the extreme heat. The hike takes about an hour to get to the top, but plan for longer than that if this is your first time doing it. It takes me 45 minutes to the top, but I’ve done this hike many times. I know how to mentally prepare myself going into the hike and know what to expect.
Lots of Water
Dehydration is no joke. Every year someone comes unprepared, dehydrated and faints on the hike. Don’t mess around with this – bring water. I also recommend tanking a third of a gallon of water before starting the hike so your body is well hydrated. Throughout the hike I take small sips, just like any workout, to prevent my stomach from being over capacity. It can be an uncomfortable feeling. Regardless, bring a full HydroFlask (32 oz) of water for the hike. You’ll want a sip at each of your rest stops, and trust me you’ll want a break every 5 minutes for this hike.
Marathon, Not a Sprint
The hike is about a thousand steps to the top with a 1200′ gain in elevation on the way up. It’s a steep incline, pretty much at a 50 degree angle going all the way up. Be prepared to pace yourself. It is a marathon, not a spring. Exhausting your energy supply in the beginning will only hurt you in the long run. The entire stretch is probably a mile or two up to the top, so it’s a short distance for all that elevation. The last third of the hike is the most difficult, with a severe vertical incline. Plan to use your most energy on this section of the hike. You’ll need several breaks, but it will be less painful if you don’t exhaust yourself in the beginning of the hike. Save your stamina for the entire trail, not just the first half mile. Those first 100 steps will be the easiest, and then it’s all uphill from there – literally!
Downhill is Challenging
Although climbing up the Kokohead Crater is strenuous, the descent can be just as difficult. The steps are steep, and worn out in many parts of the hike. Erosion from hikers and weather have weathered away at the stairs, causing steep drop offs at some points. Be careful of these and take your time going down. I struggle on the descent because of my bad left ankle. It usually takes me longer to walk downhill than it does to climb uphill just because of the difficulty in maneuvering the steps. It can be arduous on your knees, so wear shoes with solid support. Most of the hike is dusty with loose footing so it can be worrisome to do the hike with worn out sneakers. Traction on your hiking shoes is a necessity.