Nualolo trail and Lolo Vista Point view

This is Part I of our 2013 Kauai Trip Journal which recounts our trip down Koke’e State Park’s gnarly trail known as the Nu’alolo Trail.  The Nu’alolo Trail is located in Koke’e State Park on the Hawaiian Island of Kauai.  Starting adjacent to the Koke’e Lodge and Museum at an elevation of 3,660 ft. the trail descends nearly 1,600 vertical feet in 3.8 miles.  The trail traverses through the Kuia Natural Area Reserve and Koke’e Forest Reserve crossing through several vegetation communities from temporal forests to lush rainforest.

While the hike itself is beautiful, nothing will prepare you for your first peak into Nu’alolo Valley as you near the end of the trial and approach the Lolo Vista Point.  From the vista, which sits at an elevation of 2,234, you can gaze up the Na Pali coastline and peer straight down into the Pacific.  Those who are as ambitious as I was and wish to turn this hike into a ~12 mile loop will need to backtrack 1/4 mile from the Lolo Vista Point and continue onto the Nu’alolo Cliff Trail (the loop is best tackled in this order: Nu’alolo – Nu’alolo Cliff Trail – Awa’awapuhi).  Here a great resource on the Nu’alolo Trail, complete with a map.

Kauai rooster

After camping in Koke’e State Park the night before our hike, our opinion of roosters soured. For some reason, roosters in Kauai have determined the sun rises at 2:30 in the morning (it doesn’t).

Kauai chicken with chicks

We had read that Kauai has a large number of feral chickens running around the island. This turned out to be abundantly evident, although my little buddies here were clearly habituated and keen on being fed by humans.

hiking Nualolo trail trees

The first 1 mile of the hike is along a well established hunting route and is well maintained.

Nualolo trail meadow

A little ways further in and we get our first real sense of rainforest. Entering this clearing the humidity immediately increases and flowers and grasses are abundant.

Nualolo trail dense trees shade

As quickly as the lush meadow appeared, it transitioned back into forest, and with it slightly cooler temperatures and plenty of shade.

Nualolo trail deep ruts

Is that the ocean? We begin descending more steadily now through deeply rutted sections of trail. There must be some torrential rains in these parts, fortunately today is beautiful and clear.

Nualolo shurbs and trees trail

The sheer number of micro-climates one encounters while hiking in the tropics is astounding. This section is mostly stubbly trees and low-growing yet lush vegetation.

Nualolo Trail ferns

Somewhere along the way we discovered this meadow of ferns. I was captivated by how lush the undergrowth is in this area, a stark contrast with somewhere like Costa Rica where the rainforest floor isn’t nearly as green.

Nualolo hiking trail ruts

Another deeply rutted section of trail engulfing Clara!

Nualolo deep roots ruts

Clara is navigating a steeper section of the trail, fortunely the exposed roots make for solid and appreciated hand holds. This trail would be quite treacherous when muddy, and I’m not sure you could make it back up if it was raining!

Nualolo steep slippery

Here you can see just how sketchy the trail is becoming as we near the end. if it were muddy we would be sliding all over the place.

Nualolo first view of ocean

As we round a nondescript bend we are hit smack in the face with this view. Amazing! We just stood at this point and marveled for a while. The cliff walls are sheer and the ocean is as blue as can be. Well worth the effort to get this far!

Nualolo view Cliff Trail turn off

We’ve just passed the junction with the Nu’alolo Cliff Trail and have continued toward the Lolo Vista Point which lies another 1/4 mile ahead on this finger of a trail.

Nualolo valley view from top

Clara (upper left) gazes down into the Nu’alolo Valley. Stunning! The Na Pali coastline is visible and the way the sunlight is piercing the clouds makes for almost a spotlight effect on the valley’s floor.

Nualolo trail and Lolo Vista Point view

The Lolo Vista Point is just around the bend. Clara, please watch your step! I love the island of vegetation holding the top of this plateau together. Erosion has been a major contributing factor to shaping Kauai, and it hasn’t stopped!

Lolo Vista rock face

This rock formation looks like a person’s profile watching a catamaran skirting the Na Pali Coast.

Lolo Vista point drop off

Not a bad place to stop for a snack (assuming you don’t suffer from vertigo). While this place is amazing, it commands respect. That’s 2,200 feet down and you’re not going to stop until you’re on the beach.