Kauai Journal Part 3 – Kalalau Trail, Na Pali Coast
This is Part III of our Kauai 2013 trip recounting our trek across the Na Pali Coast where we tackled what I believe must be one of the 10 Best hiking trails in the world. Seriously. No joke. The infamous Kalalau Trail, located on Kauai’s rugged and remote northwest coast, is simply breathtaking. The beauty afforded by this strenuous 11-mile trek is marvelous, complete with steep switchbacks, river crossings and slippery, exposed cliffs. You literally stop and marvel at each new vista you encounter as you traverse the coastline. The reward after making it the full length of the trail is the fantastic Kalalau Beach, which will be Part IV of this journal.
The first two miles of the Kalalau Trail are well traveled by day-hikers visiting Hanakapi’ai Beach (and falls). Once you push on past the two mile mark the trail becomes significantly less traveled. This small pool sits in the middle of the trail, not far after leaving the throngs behind and venturing ahead.
It wasn’t long until we made our first friend on the trail… a feral kitten!
The Kalalau Trail traverses several valleys as you make your way toward Kalalau Beach, here the trail has turned inland where it will eventually cross a stream and head back towards the coast again.
This is one of my favorite images from our hike, as it really conveys how the trail truly just clings to the side of the coastline with walls on either side (one going up, one going down, way down).
Hanakoa falls is situated roughly 1/2 mile off of the trial, 6 miles into the hike. It really is worth taking the extra time to fight through the dense vegetation and make it up to the falls. Not many make it up here as the trail isn’t well established and you’re adding mileage to an already tough trek, but the reward is breathtaking!
Hanakoa falls is as serene and remote a place as I imagine one can find anywhere within the Hawaiian Islands.
Leaving the Hanakoa Valley and falls behind the going gets a bit more tricky as the lush forest gives way to exposed rock faces and the trail begins to demand your full attention.
Here Clara picks her way carefully along “crawler’s ledge” where a stumble would likely be your last. The Kalalau Trail demands respect.
Happily done with the worst of the exposed area, Clara is making her way along the more luxuriously-wide portion of the trail!
A glance back from where we’ve just been shows the difference between the exposed and rocky cliff faces and the lush rainforest just above. The grandeur of this place is impossible to describe.
While we’ve left the dangerous exposure of “crawler’s ledge” behind, you’d be wise to continue to watch your step as it isn’t exactly a walk in the park the rest of the way.
Here we’re traversing through another valley where the vegetation community has changed yet again with these strange, bare looking trees.
Here is a small stream crossing where you can watch the water cascade down into the ocean. After refilling on water we continue up to the left.
Vertical mountain faces remind us there is only one way through this region, as there doesn’t look to be any possible way to get up and over these walls on foot. We’re content to follow the trail…
We’re nearly there, with only a few short steps left before we will see our goal. These exposed roots are a reminder that erosion is a constant in this region, and there is no doubt the contours of the trail will continue to change with time.
Here is a look up into Kalalau Valley, currently shrouded in clouds. We didn’t have time to explore Kalalau Valley this trip, so we have a good reason to return! Another 1/2 mile and we will find Kalalau Beach and some much deserved rest.
We made it! Kalalau Beach is framed nicely by the Pacific and the towering mountains above. The clouds add to the drama as we venture out onto one of the nicest beaches I have ever seen. Time to relax!