There is no limit to the number of trails you can explore in Kauai. Everywhere you go, you will find one trail or the other, waiting to be trodden upon.
Kokee State Park, which is regarded as a hiker’s paradise, is home to a myriad of intriguing trails, ending with sensational views that reveal Kauai in all its grandeur.
The popular lookouts along Kokee road, have more for people who wish to explore further. Similar to how Pihea trail originates from the Puu O Kila lookout, the Kalalau lookout gives birth to a less frequently used and unofficial trail – The Kalepa Ridge Trail.
Kalepa Ridge Trail Hike
This is mainly recommended for experienced adventurous travellers as it’s a difficult hike along the Kalepa ridge, over Kalalau valley. The stretch is known for beautiful flowers and wildlife and is used as an access route by hunters. You might even notice a few goats walk past you during the hike.
Since this trail is unofficial, don’t be surprised if you have to jump over the fence. There are warning signs in the area informing hikers not to proceed further, but they often end up neglected. The trail is unmaintained and you’ll have to relocate the path whenever you miss it.
Kalepa ridge trail runs along the ridgeline splitting the Kalalau Valley and Honopu. It is a downhill hike with a 500ft descent. The exact length of the trail is not accurately measurable because of its high level of difficulty.
As the trail nears the edge of the cliff, there seems to be another one extending further down the precipice. Most hikers hike down a mile and enjoy the spectacular views of Kalalau Valley and Napali coast before heading back.
The initial section begins with a very steep downhill stretch lined with thick bushes. You’ll be passing through many endangered plant species along the way.
The ecosystem here is considered feeble and it would be risky to grab on to branches for support. Get ahold of tree trunks for balance in tricky portions. It helps to have good footwear and hiking poles. Also watch out for the loose red soil which can be dangerous during the wet season.
Once the bushes begin to clear out, you’ll be accompanied by panoramic views all along the remaining stretch of the trail. After trodding upon a grassy patch, and taking some time to relocate the trail, you’ll have to decide how far you want to go. The further you wander, the better the views and the deeper you walk into the Kalalau valley. The trail gets steeper, narrower and more dangerous with every step.
Like the Kalalau trail, you’ll come across portions where you need to course over the edge of 1000ft cliffs, with nothing standing between you and the steep valley. If you manage to venture far enough, you can catch a birds eye view of the Kalalau beach and valley in all its splendor.
There are many lookout points along the trail where you can see waterfalls, rainbows and the ocean. Make sure you carry enough water for your trip. Once you’re done savoring the views, the return hike is all uphill and requires stamina.
Other Popular Trails to Explore Near Kalepa Ridge Trail
- Awa’awapuhi Trail: This is the most popular Napali coast hike in Kokee State park. This is a 6.2 mile out and back hike with epic views and mind boggling drop offs.
- Honopu Ridge Trail: A 5 mile out and back trail leading to stunning views of the Napali coast. The trailhead is located just past Awa’awapuhi trailhead.
- Nualolo Ridge Trail: A 3.8 mile out and back trail ending with views of Nualolo valley and Napali coast. It involves a descent of over a thousand feet and is worth every ounce of effort.
Kalepa ridge trail is best suited for people who want to catch a good glimpse of the Napali coast without having to hike long trails. Although this is a difficult hike, most hikers swear it to be a once in a lifetime experience.
Visit early in the morning to get the best view by staying clear of the clouds. Wear long pants to avoid getting cut by the bush. If the weather turns bad, rush back to the origin point. It would be a grave mistake to forget your camera and not be able to capture your many magical moments along the hike.
Before starting, visit the Kokee Natural History Museum for up to date information on the trail and it’s ecology.
So, are you ready to get out of your comfort zone and have a heart pounding experience?