Kalalau Trail

This was some time in the planning. First of all I decided to spend my 70th birthday in Kauai and then I started searching for thing to do. The Kalalau Trail was one of them but due to it’s popularity the State Park bureaucracy jumped in and to get a camping permit for this overnight hike you had to be up at 12 am Hawaii time, that’s 3 am in California, and request a permit 30 days ahead. The limited availability go in a matter of seconds.

I got lucky so the hike was on. We decided to travel light and packed our day packs with a tent, summer bag & sandwiches for breakfast, lunch & dinner. 7:30 on the allotted morning we showed our passes to the attendant and headed up the trail.

Trailhead parking lot.
Raised walkway through the gardens.
Official start of the trail.

The trail heads up straight out of the gate and you quickly realize it’s rocky, uneven and muddy.

We’re on our way. Note the liquid mud on the trail.

Half a mile in I check my pack and realize I’d left the permit in the car. Shit. What a start. I was petrified of getting confronted by a ranger and get told to turn around so I leave my pack with Rose and quickly add an extra mile to my already full itinerary. Turns out enforcement is lax and I needn’t have worried about it after all.

Up & down all the way. Trail is pretty good here.
1.5 mile marker with a helipad for the rangers.
First view of Hanakapi’ai Beach.

We had about three major river crossings, ones where you had to perfect your jump & balance to get across. Swollen rivers are major problem for hikers as a sudden downpour can make them impassable and the associated panic of being unable to get home.

First major river crossing.
Hanakapi’ai Beach from ground level.
Kalalau Trail continues, day hikers must turn around.

Now it becomes more of a jungle hike, narrow trail and overgrown. We each had a hiking pole which became invaluable for balance and stability on the slippery sections.

Trail gets noticeably narrower and more overgrown.
Mud on the trail that gets covered with leaves.

The trail constantly changes with a lot of it undercover, humid and sweaty. Then you breakout for a fantastic view of where you are you get to bask in the sun for  while.

Nice view point.

Now that we’re back at our vacation rental and I reflect back, look at the photo’s like one above, I get mixed emotions between the beauty in the photo and the sweat filled tiredness of me on the trail.

More trail.
Sunshine and a dry underfoot.
Andre coming into view.
Could be a summer hike!
My boots and we’re hardly halfway.

If you read up on the hike  a lot of attention is given to the section referred to as Crawlers Ledge. Now the majority of the trail is undercover with no sensation of exposure so when you get to an exposed section all the newbies freak out as if some physiological force is going to claw you away from the, admittedly, narrow, trail.

Start of the so called Crawlers Ledge.
Trail skirts down and around to the left.
The most exposed section.
Andre coming out of Crawlers.

The attraction for me was the incredible forceful wave activity below me but there again watching that is likely to freak you out even more.

Then we come around a corner and see this guy performing balancing poses in front of a camera, must be a YouTube channel. Later on the next day he came past our campsite, also heading back after only one night. Nice & friendly as most of the Kalalau hikers are.

We nicknamed him Hot Pants because he was wearing bright red shorts and making video’s of himself.
Getting close to the beach.
One of many little waterfalls along the way.
Cliff side viewing.
Mr Goat watching us go by.
Entrance to Kalalau.
Down some more of the infamous red dirt.
Kalalau Beach.

The beach was almost deserted and hard packed as the tide was out. Spectacular views, especially up to the fins in the mountain behind.

Stunning backdrop to the beach.
Waterfall on the beach.
Camp under the trees.

We could walk 30 feet from our tent and onto the rocky shore to enjoy our baguette dinner and watch the sun slowly drop into the horizon.

Start of the sunset.
End of the sunset.

Into the tent as soon as it got dark after 6 pm and it felt like I tossed and turned for the next 12 hours but Rose said I snored so I guess I slept pretty well.

Relaxed start to the next day with two groups out ahead of us but we were walking at 8 am enjoying the freshness of the morning.

Next morning on our way out and taking a last look back.
Getting water at the river.
Strong swell rolling in from the north.
Morning shadow contrasting with white surf looking back.
Approach to Crawlers which is around the far corner.
That’s mist from the crashing waves far below on the left.
Trail side color.
Wild guava ripe for the tasting.

There are plenty of guava along the trail, the trick is to find the ones that have recently fallen (are ripe) but before the flies get to them. Split them open and eat the soft flesh inside.

More water at the lunch stop.
Same viewpoint as on the way in.
Andre on the trail.
Heading out, the spires on the horizon signify the trailhead.
Colors abound.
Hanakapi’ai beach from the west side. 2 miles to go.
Rose’s boots.
Hanakapi’ai River is flush with day hikers.
That’s rain in the forecast for the last mile or so.

We hike out in a steady rain and are thankful that it is now and not before when we might have had to pitch a tent in it. Relaxed exuberance that the car is just around the bend.

Categories Trips

4 thoughts on “Kalalau Trail”

  1. What beautiful pictures! Not sure I could have done that stretch of hike along the cliff with the waves crashing below…. Wow, you both are so brave. Looking forward to seeing you next week! Yay!

  2. Great blog Andre,
    I felt like I was on the trail with you,
    with a lot less work.

  3. This trail has long been on my “bucket list,” but I am starting to think it lies beyond my reach. So I was really glad to see this blog post so I could experience it through your lens! I am afraid I might live up to the namesake as a “crawler!”

    I loved your term, “relaxed exuberance.” That pinpoints that feeling so well of being exhilarated that a challenging hike is near completion! That feeling makes the challenging bits worth it.

    1. There is still time but the hike is best done with a buddy even though we saw a number of solo hikers. The weather gods also play an important role!

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