The Mount Alava Adventure Trail is an alternative and more challenging route to the summit using ladders is some places which has additional outstanding views not seen on the regular trail as it climbs and descends two northern ridgelines. Difficulties encountered on the hike include avoiding hiking during times of rainy weather, dealing with heat and humidity, showing extreme caution when using the extensive installed ladders, being careful when taking in views along the Maugaloa Ridge because there are vertical cliffs with no safety railings, dealing with some vicious dogs in Vatia village, and not carrying out the hike on Sundays (not allowed due to local customs). A topographical map of the hiking route can be found by clicking on the button above. GPS coordinates for the parking area are -14.248492, -170.661776.
My solo hike of the entire length of the Mount Alava Adventure Trail was the final hike that I did during our trip to American Samoa in September of 2017. My first hike had been the regular Mount Alava Trail before our group flew to Ofu and hiked the Tumu Mountain Trail and Oge Beach Trail (see my other published American Samoa reports for more details). Upon returning to the main island of Tutuila, I had enough time for one more major hike. And thus I chose the Mount Alava Adventure Trail. For those unfamiliar with the two different trails leading to the summit of Mount Alava, let me briefly recap the main differences. The regular Mount Alava Trail begins (and ends) at Fagasa Pass and follows a 4WD maintenance road to the summit. It has an elevation gain of about 1,000 feet and is 7 miles round-trip in length. The Mount Alava Adventure Trail begins a short distance down the road (west) from the Lower Sauma Overlook parking area and climbs the Sauma Ridge all the way to the top. From there, the Maugaloa Ridge is followed west until the Mount Alava summit is reached. Upon reaching the summit, you must then backtrack about halfway along the Maugaloa Ridge to a junction passed earlier, where you turn north and follow a traditional route down into the village of Vatia, ending on the shoreline of Vatia Bay. From there, you must either catch a bus or walk back to your parked vehicle. It has an elevation gain of about 1,750 feet cumulative (my estimate) and is 5.6 miles round-trip. However, the Mount Alava Adventure Trail is much more challenging than the regular trail due to the need to deal with 56 ladders and 783 steps during the hike. While these ladders and steps are somewhat maintained, with so many of them, there are bound to be some which are loose, missing, and extremely slippery. Extra time must be allowed for climbing up and down the ladders while using extreme caution. I did get slightly injured (cut by the frayed end of a cable) while on one of the ladders but that was my fault for not going slow enough. As far as comparing the scenic quality of the two trails, I do feel it is important to hike the regular Mount Alava Trail first. However, the Mount Alava Adventure Trail is a far superior trail in my opinion. There are several reasons that I prefer the Adventure Trail: (1) The entire hike is on an actual trail rather than a 4WD road. (2) With the exception of the short portion which is backtracked, it is a loop hike which allows you to experience brand new scenery throughout. (3) There are multiple amazing viewpoints along the way, while the regular trail has only limited views until the end. And (4) you pass through a more beautiful portion of rainforest with more unique trees and more extensive greenery.
My experience in hiking the Mount Alava Adventure Trail began with parking our rental car at Lower Sauma Overlook (approx. 275 feet in elevation). The beginning of the trail was not clearly marked, but eventually I walked a short distance west (in the direction of Vatia village) and found the starting point. The trail enters into the rainforest and begins climbing the Sauma Ridge by way of switchbacks and steep terrain. Every once in a while, though, there is a flat portion to give you a break and a view of either the Matavalu Ridge to the west or the Olo Ridge to the east. Many false summits were reached and I began to wonder if I would ever reach the summit ridgeline, which is known as the Maugaloa Ridge. When I finally did, it was a great feeling, because the heat and humidity really take a toll on my body when I'm hiking in the South Pacific. I soon could peek through the brush and see the face of Rainmaker Mountain as well as the road going over Afono Pass. Maugaloa Ridge was an enjoyable portion of the hike with several great viewpoints of Pago Pago Harbor and the surrounding mountains, some very steep ladder climbs and descents, very heavy brush on both sides of the trail at times, and entertaining birdlife. The hardest portion of the entire hike is just past the junction with the trail which leads down to Vatia (which is used later in the hike). From the trail junction to the summit of Mount Alava, many steep (somewhat vertical) ladders are climbed in quick succession. If you can handle these and make it to the top, the rewards for reaching the summit of Mount Alava are great. To learn more about what can be found at the summit (such as the Samoan Fale, tramway ruins, and truly breathtaking summit view), check out my report for the regular Mount Alava Trail. After visiting the summit, I backtracked to the trail junction and took the traditional trail down to Vatia village. This is the final portion of the hike, but it is another outstanding section of trail. Once again, there are some great views and there are some neat things to see along the trail. Upon reaching Vatia at the bottom, caution is once again in order. I would suggest maybe picking up a large stick or some rocks if you can find them because the trail connects with a small road which must be walked down in order to reach the main coastal road. Some vicious dogs live on this road and several of them came out and began surrounding me while barking fiercely. I managed to move quickly and get safely away from them, but it wasn't pleasant. So be careful and be prepared for an encounter if at all possible. My hike ended in the best possible way once I reached the coastal road. About one minute after reaching the road I saw a bus approaching and it pulled over right in front of me. Thus, I was able to hop on and catch a ride back to my parked vehicle a ways down the road. That certainly was a relief because the heat was really starting to get to me and I don't think I could have handled another 30-45 minutes walking on hot pavement. In summary, the Mount Alava Adventure Trail was an outstanding adventure and I was happy that my time in American Samoa had ended with such a great hike. Remember, I do not recommend this hike if it has been raining recently or if the trail conditions are muddy. My hike took place on September 15, 2017.
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