HAWAII KAI, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - It's a message officials say is falling on deaf ears: if you're planning a hike, stay on one of the state's sanctioned trails. This weekend two hikers died exploring O'ahu in areas not accessible via public trails.
Some of the most stunning views of O'ahu are just a hike away, but officials say there's no reason to put your life in danger – or the lives of first responders who may be called to rescue you – when there are so many scenic hikes on maintained trails.
70-year-old Paul Yoon of Honolulu died Sunday after falling about 20 to 30 feet while hiking Mariner's Ridge – an unsanctioned trail in Hawaii Kai.
"Mariner's Ridge is an okay hike, but it goes to the top of the Ko'olau and you've got a sheer drop there all the way to Waimanalo— so that's not safe, but that's not the trail," explained Richard McMahon, an experienced local hiker and member of Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club.
Yoon was with a group of about 8 other people with the Honolulu Korean Hiking Club. According to one member, Yoon had just joined the club about a year ago.
The Medical Examiner says Yoon's death was accidental and caused by cranial and cervical spinal injuries resulting from his fall.
23-year-old Elizabeth Tarpey also died over the weekend. She was injured after falling 300 feet from the Pu'u Manamana trail above Ka'a'awa on Saturday morning. Several hiking blogs and travel sites list Pu'u Manamana as one of the most dangerous trails on O'ahu. It is not state-sanctioned.
According to the Medical Examiner, Tarpey died of multiple internal injuries caused by her accidental fall.
Friends say she moved to Kapolei about 8 months ago.
"This is an eroding island and erosion means that our trails, our rocks, our cliffs – everything is unstable. And you've got to be very, very careful where you put your foot. You've got to be very, very careful in choosing a trail. Trails that have steep drop offs on both sides, so you have nowhere to go if your foot slips, are not safe options," described McMahon.
But there are dozens of trails that officials and local hiking enthusiasts say are safe.
"We have a program called Na Ala Hele, and so within the Forestry Division we have this program which has trails that are properly maintained by either our employees or volunteers," explained William Aila, the Director of the Department of Land and Natural Resources.
Officials say the problem is people choose to hike in un-sanctioned areas, and although the state is aware of these trails – it's impossible to monitor their access.
"We're not going to sign every trail every hazardous condition. We can't. The State of Hawai'i is too big to enter into that kind of program," said Aila.
Officials have said it time and again – hikers need to exercise good judgment, even if it means turning down an opportunity to seek thrills off the beaten path.
"It's okay to say no and live another day to tell the story," said Aila.
For more information on state-sanctioned trails, click here for the Na Ala Hele website: http://hawaiitrails.ehawaii.gov/home.php
Related story: Woman hiker dies after 300-foot fall