This weekend we take a break from the usual water hikes (although, there are water options if you want to include them), and explore some of the more historical parts of the island that grant hikers sweeping views of the island’s western coast from up high and down below. We also hike along mahogany jungle trails that lead to some of the island's most intact World War II remnants, gateways to the island’s rich history and dark past.
We’re also doing a couple of things different this weekend. One thing is that we’re combining a couple of short hikes in the same area into one! The first hike will take place at the Piti Guns for a set of intact WWII Japanese artillery, hidden in a jungle, and preserved for history buffs and the adventurous alike.
The second hike takes place just a couple of miles down the road at Asan Beach, featuring a ridge line hike over a well-established trail with two destinations and lots to learn from them.
Hike 1: Piti Guns – Original Japanese guns and mahogany forest
To start off our double hike this weekend, travel along Route 1 (Marine Corps Drive) toward the Veterans Cemetery located in Piti village. After you reach the traffic light by the cemetery, whether coming from the north or south, turn onto Route 6 toward the cemetery as if you were going up Nimitz Hill.
Immediately, there will be a turnoff on the other side of the road, just before Jose Rios Middle School. Turn here onto Assumption Drive and follow the road for just a mile before seeing the Our Lady of Assumption Church of Piti. Turn onto the dirt path by the church and park near the large tree beside a small chapel.
Find the trailhead just behind the tree and church, where the informational signs are. The overall trail is just half a mile and takes you over stairs that may be slippery after rain.
In the dense Piti jungle, you’ll find three intact Japanese 140mm coastal defense guns. They had a firing range of close to 10 miles and were intended for use against invading forces, namely ships and landing craft.
Along the short path you will run into each gun, the only WWII guns on the entire island that remain intact in their original locations.
These large guns were never fired during battle, as they were being installed just before the onslaught of the recapture of Guam.
Two decades earlier, the area had been part of the Guam Agricultural Experiment Station, which planted mahogany trees (not native to Guam) in the hillside forest in the 1920s. Today, the mahogany grove stands as a unique part of the small central village.
To complete the second portion of this weekend’s hike, retrace your steps back to your car at the bottom of the hill.
Hike 2: Asan Beach – Serene beach, sweeping views, and historical finds
Follow the inner Piti road back out to the main Route 1 (visible from the church), and head northbound to reach a notable Guam landmark: Asan Beach.
Soon enough, you should see the the beach park's large grassy field and coconut trees. Turn in here and continue left, following the curved road all the way to the parking lot’s end by a large, hexagonal WWII monument. Park here.
Note that this tranquil beach was the site of the initial landing of American forces in the Battle for Guam (Guam’s liberation) on July 21, 1944.
To start the hike, walk toward the large WWII monument, the Liberators' Memorial, which was erected in 1994 (the 50th anniversary of Guam’s liberation) to honor all U.S. forces who recaptured Guam during WWII. Behind it, there will be a nature walk and trail sign. You will follow this established path the whole way, about a mile in its entirety.
Along this first half of this short trail, shade from the overhanging jungle provides an enjoyably breezy walk up the grassy hill, with a few peeks of the ocean and nearby park through the brush.
Soon the trail will split into three. To the left is a different path back to the base of the hill and Asan Beach's large grassy field. We'll take this path later on.
The path to the right leads hikers down a short and sturdy stairwell to a secluded beach and preserved Japanese fortification.
The structure at the bottom of the stairwell was used for Japanese gun emplacements that housed 20cm coastal guns, according to the National Park Service website.
Beyond the jungle-covered fortification lies an isolated beach with a unique rock shelf toward the left end of the beach and neat coral and shell treasures scattered around the shore.
If you prepped for swimming, this would be the place! Shallow waters make for a nice tranquil getaway behind the frequented park.
It’s a stark contrast to think that just a few generations ago, American forces rushed through these calm waters to reclaim the island of Guam from the Japanese. The battles killed 7,400 Americans, 17,500 Japanese, and 1,150 Chamorros – and another 14,721 suffered war atrocities, according to Guampedia.
Up the hill we go
After exploring the area that you quite possibly had all to yourself, ascend back up the staircase to continue the rest of the short and easy hike.
Reaching the intersection again, turn right and follow the rest of the beaten path up the semi-steep hill to reach the top.
This part of the hike is still easy, but definitely requires more stamina. Remain careful and aware of your footing along some of the steep parts and over loose ground.
Once you reach relatively level ground near the top, you should see a very slight opening to the right of the trail that leads to a hidden pillbox fortification from which Japanese troops could shoot at the advancing Americans.
After exploring the pillbox, return to the main path and just a few feet further up is the summit of the hill, with sweeping views of the National Park's Asan Beach Unit, Route 1, Fish Eye Marine Park, and much of the western side of the island. I recommend doing this hike toward sunset for even better views.
To return back to your car, travel back toward the intersection midway down the hill and take the right turn (the only path we haven’t trod), for a shortcut to the park. You'll come off the hill trail right near the park’s restrooms. If you don't want to take the shortcut, just head back down the hill the way you came up, to end up at the Liberators monument and closer to the ocean.
You also might want to extend your outdoor excursion by taking a walk along the Asan Beach and hopping over the large rocks by the end of the beach. If the weather’s nice, consider flying a kite or playing your favorite sport in the large field.