June 2, 2016.
8 mi. | 1800′ ele. gain | 5:30 hr. | Photos
We met up with our friend Milt for this classic hike on Kauai’s northern coast. The Kalalau Trail is the one trail on Kauai that everyone talks about. Quite possibly the only trail in Hawaii that everyone knows. So, we left early in order to get a parking spot and avoid the worst of the mobs.
Much of the Kalalau Trail is reserved for permitted backpackers only. Day hikers are allowed to go a couple miles up the trail and turn inland for another 2 miles to access Hanakapi’ai Falls. That was our plan.
My knee was feeling a little rusty so I packed my knee brace for this hike. I wasn’t sure how treacherous it would actually be. Based on my research I knew it would be muddy with some steep sections. We were nearing the end of my trip and I wanted to leave with intact body parts!
We began hiking around 7:30 am. There were already people in the parking area but it was mostly empty. It was nice to have Milt along, another person to talk to. Aaron and I had been together every second for the last couple weeks and while that was awesome, it was also great to shake things up.
Right from the get-go, the trail was rocky and wet. Rain clouds loomed across the sky. We got a few sneak peeks at the ocean from viewpoints along the trail. Mostly though we walked through thick vegetation.
After an hour of walking we arrived at the trail junction to the waterfall. Here, the Hanakapi’ai River flowed into the ocean. An interpretive sign warned of flash flood possibilities. Although it was a bit rainy there wasn’t much danger of flooding today.
We turned onto the falls trail and started rock-hopping again. Then, the trail criss-crossed the creeks leading into the river and the river itself, many times. The trail just kept getting muddier and muddier. I’d decided to take my shoes off long ago and finish the hike barefoot.
When we finally arrived at the waterfall we enjoyed the mostly crowd-free sight. But, coming from the land of waterfalls (Oregon) I must say I was only mildly impressed. The hike through the jungle was way more interesting than the point of interest in front of me.
But, no matter, we enjoyed the view, had a snack and headed back.
Now the masses were coming in. We had to stop many times to let people through as we tried to negotiate the narrow, slippery trail. By the time we returned to the parking lot it was a full-on circus. I couldn’t believe how many cars there were! Holy cow! What I learned about Kauai is that this is a place that people come in order to go hiking. So, the trails are packed. People don’t go to Maui to hike, so the trails are much less crowded. This “hiker’s paradise” was starting to feel much less like paradise and much more like a tourist trap.
Nevertheless, we enjoyed our walk and I’m grateful for two hiking partners who didn’t mind the early wake-up call!