A healthy dose of dense rainforest, combined with bird songs and ocean breezes, just a pinch of switchbacks and steep ascents, topped with sweeping views of neighboring islands and coral lagoons, and you’ve got a recipe for the perfect tropical island hike.
Tumu Mountain Trail is a challenge that you won’t want to miss.
Tumu Mountain Basics
Distance: 5.5 miles/8.9 km
With an additional .25 mile extension, to reach Leolo Ridge
Hiking Time: 2-5 hours
Area: Village of Ofu, on Ofu Island, in American Samoa, found outside of the National Park of American Samoa
Start Point: At the base of the mountain on the western tip of Ofu, across from the harbor
End Point: Same as the start point
Parking: There is space to park at the harbor, although there are no rental cars, so you’ll most likely be walking or getting dropped off and picked up by your host
Hiking the Tumu Mountain Trail
Hiking the Tumu Mountain Trail is not for the faint of heart. I didn’t conduct my usual research before embarking on this adventure with our boys, Holden (8 y/o) and Kip (5 y/o). I knew I wanted to do the hike and they asked to come along. So, of course I let them.
We started at the base of the mountain that rises up behind the village of Ofu, with a trail marker letting us know we were in the right place. It didn’t take long before the elevation rose and I found myself holding the boys’ hands, pulling them up the mountain.
There were a few places where the trail split off, alternate local trails made to connect different areas of the island. The main trail was clear though and easy to follow.
Time for a Change
After pulling the boys up for what seemed like forever (maybe a quarter mile), I started a game of truth or dare, which helped take their minds off of the challenging hike and gave my arms a break. We started making better time amidst the dares and extra challenges we created for ourselves.
The trail was thickly lined with foliage, blocking the ocean views most of the way up, except for a few spots where the tree line paused and allowed us to look out as far as our eyes could see. Then the trees would converge upon us again, sometimes forming full leafy, viney tunnels that blocked the sun, allowing only spots of sun to dance on us and the ground. All along we could see the diverse flora and fauna of the island, with ivy growing up the towering coconut trees, set amid feathery ferns. Young coconut trees sprouted from the corpses of fallen coconuts, ensuring the regrowth and survival of the life-giving tree.
We had been told to take the trail to the left at the top, but when we started down the extension, it seemed like it was leading us back down, instead of to the rocky outcropping that I was looking for. Just as we were going to turn around and try the other trail, Holden saw a trail-marker on one of the trees and we decided to push on.
The trail took us to a rocky climb, where we had to use a rope to help us get to the top. Just a few steps further and the view completely opened up. I haven’t been everywhere in this world, but the view from Leolo Ridge on Ofu Island was one of the most incredible I’ve seen in my life, definitely my favorite in all of American Samoa! From the ridge, we could see the turquoise coral lagoons below, all three Manu’a Islands, and then nothing but ocean beyond them. These pictures can’t quite do the view justice. You’ll just have to plan on seeing it for yourself someday.
We stayed on the ridge for about half an hour, letting the boys rest their legs and eat a snack, while I took a ridiculous amount of pictures. I just didn’t want to miss a single view or angle.
As we turned to head back down, I took one last look, not sure if I’d ever be back to see the sight again.
Coming Back Down
The way down was much faster, as the boys ran ahead and I maintained a quick pace. The nice thing about hiking in American Samoa is the safety. As long as the kids have a hiking buddy and they stop occasionally for me make sure they’re still alive and well, I give them quite a lot of independence.
With them ahead for most of the time, it gave me the chance to observe my surroundings more closely and appreciate the natural beauty of the island. From the green overload of the rainforest to the intricate design of the ferns. The songs the birds sang carried me down, down, down, the steep declines that we had so recently pushed ourselves to ascend.
Once we reached the bottom, the boys (with their endless stores of energy) climbed the sea wall, running and jumping from end to end. I, on the other hand, took the opportunity to stretch my tired legs, so as not to be sore the next day.
Hiking on any tropical island can mean high heat, higher humidity, and possible rain storms. You’ll want to bring plenty of water and nutritious snacks. There’s no fresh water available along the trail (although you’ll probably see at least a few coconuts that you could crack open, if needed). You’ll find yourself sweating more than usual, as you make your way through the humid rainforest and you’ll want to make sure to stay adequately hydrated.
Plus, it’s always good hiking practice to bring extra snacks, just in case you end up taking longer than anticipated because of injury or simply enjoying yourself too much.
Weather in American Samoa is unpredictable. You can wake up to clear skies and be in the middle of a downpour by lunch. And vice versa. Being prepared for both can ensure you don’t get caught by surprise. Waterproof/resistant or quick-dry clothes are best. To protect against the hot rays of the sun, bring plenty of sunscreen, a good hat and sunglasses. Consider a light-weight long sleeve shirt and long pants to protect your skin from the sun as well as overgrown brush.
Finally, the Tumu Mountain Trail is closed on Sundays, in observance of the local Sabbath.
Tumu Mountain Trail Wrap Up
Tumu Mountain Trail is a challenging hike with steep sections and one place where you’re literally using a rope to pull yourself up to the top of the mountain. The climate is hot and humid. The views are blocked most of the way up, but…
The view from the top is unparalleled!
The trail is mostly wide and well-marked, just don’t second guess the trail to the left at the top. The plants are other-worldly and beautiful to see up close. It’s the kind of trail I wish I had nearby, so I could hike it again and again, discovering different bits to appreciate each time. As it is, I’ll just have to cherish the memories that I made with the boys and catalog the mental pictures along the way and from the top in my brain forever, relying on the shots captured on my camera to keep them fresh in my mind.
If you ever get the chance to visit Manu’a and are of sound body, promise me you’ll take on the challenge (prepared with plenty of water and snacks) and receive the pay-off of the most perfect panoramic views from the summit.