Hiking the trails in Kauai

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of October 23-29, 1997
Hiking the trails in Kauai
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Hiking the trails in Kauai
Question: Kalalau trail along Kauai's Na Pali coast is temporarily closed due to trail conditions. What other overnight hiking and camping options do I have on Kauai for this weekend?

Aiea, HI

Adventure Adviser: Believe it or not, I just happen to have the book Kauai Trails by Kathy Morey (Wilderness Press, 800-443-7227) on my bookshelf.

Leafing through this, it looks like you have approximately 50 other trails to choose from, all of which sound spectacularly scenic. A bit south of the Na Pali Trail is the strenuous 11-mile loop trail Nualolo-Awaawapuhi. With some of the same views as the Na Pali Trail, it gains 2,980 feet in elevation and promises to really kick your butt in a five-hour day hike.

As this is a loop hike, you can start in one of two places, but the guidebook recommends you begin north of the Kokee State Park Headquarters (off of Highway 550) at the Nualolo trailhead.

Before you start your hike, you'll want to check in at the headquarters and at least sign in and see what kind of shape the trail is in. From the trailhead, you'll travel north for a few miles, taking in dizzying views of Nualolo Beach and the remote Nualolo Valley.

The trail will climb and level out, then climb, then drop steeply, and then start that succession all over again. At approximately 3.5 miles — after you've passed the Anaki Hunter's Route — you'll want to turn east on the Nualolo Cliff Trail. This will bring you into dense forest at first, but as you emerge from the forest you'll hit a steep switchback that takes you to a grassy ridge and picnic shelter with dazzling views of the Na Pali coast.

After you climb through another valley, you'll reach the junction with the Awaawapuhi Trail; there you'll need to turn south. You'll hike approximately 5 miles through orange-flowered ginger and see some exceptional views of the Awaawapuhi Valley to the north.

The end of this trail will spit you out on Highway 550 about a mile or two south of your car, so you'll either need to hike the narrow two-lane highway back to the starting point or arrange a shuttle before you leave.

Kauai Trails does a great job of describing these trails in detail, you may want to pick up a copy before you undertake this endeavor, especially because it sounds like some of the trails can be pretty tricky in wet or foggy weather.

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