“If at first you don’ t succeed; try, try, try again.” – W. E. Hickson
And, that’s my motto for my favorite hiking trail in Kauai, the Alakai Swamp Trail. Having attempted the eight-mile roundtrip hike twice before once in the summer (too wet) and once this winter (started too late and too wet), I finally accomplished the trek by starting bright and early with epic dry trails, for a swamp that is.
In Kauai, a successful hike is a combination of conditions, choice of trail, and preparation. With the Alakai Swap trail in particular, you will want to have dry conditions and ample daylight. The trailhead starts at the Puu Kila Lookout of the Kalalau Valley, which is the end of Waimea Canyon Road passing through Koke’e State Park. You will descend a mogle filled hill of red packed clay and mud along the valley’s rim for views of the beautiful Napali Coast on one side of the trail and Mount Waialeale and the Alakai Swamp on the opposite. Although it is difficult to watch your feet and take in the amazing views, I suggest taking five from the ever slippery trail to bask in the Utopian scenery as well as listen for mountain goats.
After you follow the Pihea Trail about two miles, you will reach another lookout. From this point on, you continue down both wooden stairs and metal grate covered planks to the Alakai Crossing for another couple of miles.
At various points along the descent from Pihea and along these stairs and boardwalk, you will see vistas of the Alakai Swamp, a beautiful, tree-filled, lush natural playground. When I passed this vista, I couldn’t help but to capture the wipsy clouds. I felt like I was parts of the movie Gorillas in the Mist.
After the Crossing sign, you will have primarily boardwalk and descending stairs for another hour. Be careful as with the swamp environment all of the boards and stairs can be slippery even with the protected metal grates. Additionally, many of the boards are partially decayed leaving room for error and stepping into a mucky mess. Along this part of the trail, you will spot a couple of old, forgotten about telephone poles. They were a failed attempt. However, they are a sign that you are minutes away from the Kilohana Lookout, another heavenly vista.
From the Kilohana Lookout, you can seen the Wainiha Valley, Hanalei Bay, Princeville, Tunnels, and Lumahai Beach. It is unbelievable that by starting at the end of Waimea Canyon Road that you can see Hanalei Bay. By car, you would need to circumnavigate the entire island, about two hours and twenty minutes. By skirting the Kalalau Valley rim and cutting through the swamp, you reach a unique vantage point of the North Shore in about the same amount of time. Now this is ALOHA!
Have you hiked in Kauai? Have you done the Alakai Swamp Trail? I’d love to hear from my fellow adventureros/as and about adventure travel to Kauai.
Here’s to more good times and good stories. Aloha!