Not too far up the old Pali Road, is the Judd Trail located in the jungly Nu’uanu area. This Oahu hiking trail is a fun 1-mile nature walk through beautiful Norfolk Pines, guava trees, a bamboo forest, and finishes a full loop at the Jackass Ginger Pool & Falls. The Oahu waterfall in the area is one of the easiest to get to, and has some neat features including a natural rock-slide to take plunge into the water.
Elevation Not Much
Length 1 Mile Loop
Duration 30 Minutes
Terrain Forest, Stream, Dirt, Mud
The Judd Trail is a tribute in the memory of Judd family, who were Hawaii missionaries that played an important role in governing the islands in the early 1800’s.
This Oahu hiking trail is not long, but an inspiring 1-mile loop through a peaceful Norfolk Pine Tree forest. The path is a well-traveled trail that starts off with a steady incline once you cross the stream, followed with a slight decline on the return.
It’s not strenuous for most, but can be a little tricky with footing when encountering raised tree roots and muddy patches after it rains in the area.
Your journey begins from the side of the Old Pali Road in Nuuanu, just 150 yards up from the last residential cross street called Poli Hawi Place.
A couple houses past that and Nuuanu Pali Dr becomes a dense jungly road. Keep your eyes peeled for a noticeable opening on the right hand side with a couple concrete barriers, and some posted trail & warning signs.
The warning signs are for car break-ins that take place in the area. Like other Oahu attractions, do not leave valuables or anything visible in your parked car for that matter for thieves to steal.
Once you are parked and ready to begin your hike, simply step off the road and enter the trail at the posted trail signs and let the adventure begin.
This Oahu trail opens up right from the start and leads slightly downhill and to the right. As you walk down the path, you should hear the sound of rushing water almost immediately.
There is an impressive 6 foot waterfall in the area that cascades down a collection of boulder rocks into a small pond below. It’s accompanied with a few streaming water shoots on the sides, making it a fun site to see.
You will discover this waterfall located off to the left side of the trail just as you get started. You won’t miss it… just listen and follow the sound of cascading water. And while this is not Jackass Ginger Falls, it is worth taking a moment to enjoy the beauty and get a nice selfie pic.
The water flows down and parallel to the trail for about 200 feet, until you reach a crossing point in the stream. Here you will need to carefully walk across some rocks protruding in the stream. This section is about 20 yards long, and will take a little navigation and balancing to cross.
It’s not really hard to cross when the stream is calm, but also know your ability before attempting. Also beware of warning to the posted flash flood sign.
Do not attempt to cross the steam when it turns into a rushing river after heavy rains in the area. It can become very dangerous at times.
Most folks I hike with simply take it slow while crossing the stream, and use a bamboo stock as a walking stick to help balance themselves across. There is lots of bamboo in the area, and it’s fairly easy to find some fallen bamboo sticks on the side of the trail.
Once you cross the stream, and hopefully without wet shoes, you will be contemplated with a Judd Trail sign with 2 arrows pointing in two different directions. One arrow pointing to the right, and another arrow leading left (straight up the hill).
The Judd Trail is a loop, so either way will get you around and back to this point but in different directions. The right side will lead you quickly to the Jackass Ginger Pool, but I recommend taking the left side of the trail that leads straight up the hill.
This way you get to enjoy the beauty that the Judd Trail provides first, and then rewarded yourself with an adventurous waterfall and pool at the end of your hike.
The trail is wide and travels up through a bamboo grove. It kind of feels like you’re entering a bamboo forest, but with sunshine streaming through it. And while it starts off fairly clear on the path, make sure to watch your footing below, as there are surface roots throughout that you do not want to trip on.
Some small sections of the trail are almost completely covered with invasive roots. There is a section of entwined surface roots that appear like they were designed as steps leading up the mountainside. Depending on recent rainfall in the area this trail can get quite muddy.
I’ve traveled on this Oahu hiking trail when there are muddy sections along the way. The surface tree roots can become your friend when there is mud. I tend to carefully navigate my footing walking on top of them, while trying to keep my shoes dry and clean.
Not too far up the trail, you will intersect and walk through the Norfolk Pine Trees. This is my favorite section of the hike.
These towering pine trees shine with a beautiful silver sheen to their bark, and they provide lots of filtered sunshine to help keep you cool on the trail.
They also have these distinctive knot rings that start at the base and travel all the way up the trunk.
It’s easy to find yourself in awe when being surrounded by them. Stop for a moment and look up in amazement.
Stay the course when you come upon a Nu’uanu Trail Sign that branches off uphill. This route leads you off the Judd Trail and up the mountain ridge and beyond. Again the Judd trail is a mile long loop that is pretty straight forward.
There are also some pink or red ribbons tied to tree branches along the way to let you lead you in the right direction. Although, there is one section with a path of pink ribbons that lead down to the stream.
You’ll hear the sound of running water, but take note that this does not lead to the Jackass Ginger Pool, but to a small waterfall. This side trail is a little steep, and I recommend saving your energy for more the more impressive waterfall that are close by.
I would say you’re just 50 yards away before arriving to the Jackass Ginger pool and waterfall. You will know it once your there, from the sound of cascading water, and likely noise from others playing in the area.
This is a popular well-traveled trail, where you most likely to encounter others hiking around the Judd Trail and hanging out by the mountainside pool. This natural pool is surrounded by large boulders that form a rock wall where the water cascades over a few sections.
Although the falls are not tall like other Hawaii waterfalls, I would say it’s one of the most beautiful waterfalls and surroundings on Oahu. Because of its location being close to where you started, and technically still in a residential neighborhood (even though it feels far from that), and neighbors someone’s backyard and home.
The property is fenced off, but you can see through the chain linked fence to an expansive green lawn, tropical plants and a row of palm trees that skirt the area. They even have a stream path that runs down the middle of their lawn and empties into the Jackass Ginger pool below.
Be warned that walking on or jumping off the rocks, and swimming in the water can be hazardous and dangerous. The pool water is murky, which does not allow you to see rocks below and the different depths.
Like many mountain streams, pools and waterfalls, the water can sometimes be contaminated with parasites and water borne diseases like Leptospirosis. Do not drink the water or enter with open scrapes or cuts that could easily get infected. Also note that there are no life guards in the area.
The intensity of the waterfall volume and pool depth can vary based on recent rainfall in the area.
The best way I can describe the Jackass Ginger Pool, is that it’s like a natural waterpark. You are most likely to encounter others in the area swimming or jumping into the large pool of water from the boulders above. The surrounding rocks vary in size and heights.
I’ve seen some daredevils climb to the highest points to make a grand leap or splash into the water. There’s even a natural slippery rock-slide on the side of the pool. Careful if you dare to sit on it, as the running water pushes you down the shoot and into the pool.
Finally there is another collecting pool of water above the main pool that is the size of a small Jacuzzi tub. Folks treat it as such and sometimes sit in it. This rock-tub is full of running water from the running stream and cascades into the large pool below.
Note that you do not need to swim in the water to enjoy the pleasure of the Jackass Ginger Pool. The natural beauty of this Oahu waterfall is captivating from afar. You can easily find a rock to sit on and enjoy the surroundings.
Once you’ve had your fill of fun, you have two ways of exiting the area. You can simply hike back up to the Judd Trail loop and proceed forward to complete this hike.
It’s about a l000 feet before you reach the stream crossing juncture, where you started the hike. From here you simply walk back up the trail to the highway where you entered.
There is a second path leading out to the Old Pali Road from the Jackass Ginger Pool. From the top area of stream where the water cascades into the pool, you can carefully cross the stream walking across large protruding rocks.
Know your ability and conditions of the stream before attempting crossing. From here you follow a short trail back up to the Old Pali Road. Once you exit, you will need to walk up the road about a 1000 feet to where you parked your vehicle.
Parking: There is some parallel parking available off the side of the road on both sides. Please note that are a lot of car break-ins in this area. Thieves are looking for easy targets with visible valuables. Do not leave ANYTHING visible or unattended in your vehicle!
Take the number 20 Oahu bus from Waikiki to the Aloha Tower. Transfer onto the 57 downtown (at Aloha Tower) towards Kailua. Get off at the beginning of Nuuanu Pali Dr, where you will have to walk up to the cross street called Poli Hawi Place. The Judd trail is about 50 yards further from this residential intersection.
Drive a little further up the highway and check out the famous Pali Lookout, where King Kamehameha fought one of his final battles in the tall cliffs.
Today you can visit the lookout and admire one of the
most amazing views of the Windward Coast…that is if the whipping winds
don’t blow you off the mountainside.
Lulumahu Falls is an impressive 50 ft plus waterfall located close to King Kamehameha III's summer home.
It's quite an adventure getting there, as you'll need to travel across some old hunting grounds, through a bamboo forest, along the Nu'uanu Reservoir, and up a narrow stream to get there.
Better known as King Kamehameha III summer home, these ruins are
close to the Lulumahu Falls entrance.
The Kaniakapupu Ruins are a
nice bonus and an incredible find! There’s not much
left to the 1847 structure, but a strong presence where 10,000
Hawaiian once gathered.