Honokoa Gulch is an extremely deep, classic slot canyon located on the western slopes of Mount Kohala. Typically a formation found in the desert southwest of the United States, this canyon in particular is unique to the area. There are no other canyons like it on the Big Island. Over eons of flash flooding, the rain water has cut a dramatic gorge deep into the base of Mount Kohala, revealing ancient lava flows as old as the Island itself. There are a few ways to approach this canyon; there is an upper highway, and in combination with a car shuttle, will grant you an all downhill route. The second is to park a car down near Kawaihae and hike up along the rim for a couple hours to a obvious suitable drop in point, which will be quite easy to identify as the only route that you can simply walk down into the canyon floor. Both of the approach methods have questionable legal access as we have come to find out and attempting this hike you must be aware of this. This is a true, immense gorge and remains incredibly narrow for a number of miles. From the rim’s edge it is a formidable slot canyon, yet once in the creek bottom it yields quite easily and features only a handful of rappels, which was remarkable for how much elevation it drops. You will be faced with a whole lot of downclimbing and boulder hopping. We came across one dirty pool that was bypassed with a short climb around. The biggest rappel is the first one which weighs in around 120 feet. Natural anchors yield well on the first two drops, but you must come prepared to replace them as flash flooding will easily wash these out. The final rappel is off two bolts on canyon right. One thing to be aware of as well are goats and sheep on the canyon rim, and both times we did this canyon we had rocks being pushed down upon us below the final rappel. Definitely come prepared with a helmet on this hike, and be prepared to dodge rocks by hugging either side of the canyon wall.
-> Honokoa Gulch – April 14, 2012