Napali Coast Conquered via the Kalalau Trail
For two years, I have wanted to hike The Kalalau Trail in Kauai. This November, I had the opportunity to do the hike! I went solo, had a wonderful experience, and can’t wait to do it again. The next time I go, I’m dragging friends with me! This post recaps some tips I have about the hike.
For more information about the hike itself, there are many websites that go into detail (e.g., http://www.kalalautrail.com).
Keep reading for my thoughts after a quick disclaimer and trail map!
DISCLAIMER: Please do your research to make sure you buy the supplies that best suit your needs. I provide this information and these references for informational purposes only. I assume no liability and provide no warranties for these products, the use of these products, the characteristics of the hike, or any other information provided herein. The links I have provided take you to Amazon.com, and I may benefit financially from purchases made using these links.
From the official Hawaii State Parks page:
YOU MAY BE EXPOSED TO THE FOLLOWING HAZARDS WITHIN NAPALI COAST STATE WILDERNESS PARK:
- FALLING ROCKS
- FLASH FLOOD
- HAZARDOUS CLIFFS
Photo credit to www.hawaii-guide.com.
And now, here are some tips I want to share with you about the magnificent Kalalau Trail!
- Make sure you are well packed (consider size and weight). Bring a proper hiking backpack with a sturdy internal frame, and make sure you’ve packed your load so it’s well balanced on your back. My North Face Terra 65 Backpack worked very well for my packing needs. I chose to sleep in a Aqua-Quest waterproof bivy sack because rain is commonplace, and zipped up in a reasonably priced ultra light sleeping bag (it was under $50).
- Make sure you consider your own needs and pack all the equipment you will need throughout your hike and stay on Kalalau Beach. Remember your toilet paper- there are self composting toilets on the beach. Additionally, remember that you should leave zero footprint on your exit. Everything you carry in should be carried out! That includes all equipment and waste!
- Put reasonable thought into the food you’re toting. You’ll be eating at least two meals a day, but remember you’re packing everything in, and out, in your backpack. Freeze dried meals are a reliable food source as long as you have a way to boil water to cook them. I brought enough Mountain House pro-paks to last 3-days given my appetite and the calorie drain from the hike.
- Get yourself a reliable water purifier. You will be hiking 11 miles in and 11 miles out. If you choose to hike to the Hanakapi’ai Waterfall, you’ll be adding 4 miles to the hike. My choice was the Camelbak All Clear Purifier. It is expensive, but it did the trick. Note: you will still see floating particles in the water you purify! If you want to pre-strain the water, you can always get the CamelBak All Clear Pre-Filter.
- Wear quality hiking shoes/boots. Buy them if you don’t have them. I purchased my waterproof Merrell Moab mid shoes shortly before my hike, and the money was very, very well spent. The hike includes stream crossings, loose dirt, and slippery terrain! Your boots will keep your feet properly planted in the toughest spots on the trail.
- Consider bringing a telescoping walking stick! Your walking stick will be a very handy tool. It will serve as a third point of contact throughout your hike and over water crossings, where it may come in extra handy. Some people prefer hiking with one stick, while others prefer using two.
- DO NOT PUSH YOUR LIMITS. Take the trail at your own pace, and NEVER, NEVER cross terrain (including streams) where the difficulty level exceeds your skill level.
- Start early! This means leaving your hotel before dawn. I started the hike at 6:30am, in the dark. This meant leaving my hotel at 5am. The hike begins with a few hours of steep, endless switch backs. This is my least favorite part of the hike! It tries your will and assaults your legs!
- The Hanakoa Campground at Mile 6 is the only sanctioned campground before Kalalau Beach, for those who can’t hike any further on day 1. Hanakoa is, unfortunately, a mosquito haven! Make sure you have your bug repellent/protectant if you intend on stopping for an overnight here.
- Miles 7-9 will test anyone with a fear of heights. Hike safely and conquer this section of trail as many have before you. The trail runs pretty close to the edge and has sections of loose gravel. This isn’t the part of the hike to be social and playful! Instead, pay attention to the trail and everyone will be safe.
- Don’t stop hiking when you first see camp sites at Kalalau Beach! After the infamous Red Hill, you will be tired and relieved by your arrival at Kalalau Beach. For the best camping, and best access to fresh water for purifying and drinking, don’t stop yet! Hike about 10 more minutes to get to the “better” side of the campgrounds.
Last trip, I was not able to visit the Kalalau Valley. When I visit next, I’d like to venture out into the valley for a few hours on one of our rest days!
On the way back, start your hike around 7am. It begins with an early stream crossing, and then a steep ascent over Red Hill, which will remind you how difficult a challenge you will overcome by the end of the day! Use this early challenge as inspiration, and kick some Red Hill butt!
Finally, I must tell you about your arrival at Haena State Park, where you officially finish your hike. You will see Ke’e Beach on your way down the last descent, and you may be overcome with emotions! You will have just conquered a very, very tough hike. I found myself singing aloud, with some small, joyful tears in the corner of my eyes. It was that good.
Take some time to reflect and appreciate all the beauty you encountered along the way. The hike was well worth it. I hope you’ll agree.
Photo credit to Wikipedia.
Additional resources for your research: