A hike from Pihea Vista through the Alakai Swamp gives a rewarding view.

Kalalau Valley from Pihea Vista. Photo by Adrian Sear

Kauai’s jagged mountain top ridges are home to incredibly vibrant rainbows and the terminus of stunning emerald cliffs, which also shroud some of the most exceptional hiking trails in the state. The multitude of ridge trails that stem down from Koke’e State Park are spectacular and offer unforgettable vistas of the world famous Na Pali cliffs. Almost unknown though in this remote area, lies a hike that not only offers you stunning views into not only Kalalau Valley but also into Wainaha Valley. If that isn’t amazing enough in itself, you will also get to venture through deep fern covered forests, adorned with perfume scented blossoms along the trail. The icing on the cake is the opportunity to hike through the highest altitude swamp in the world, the Alaka’i Swamp.

Boardwalk over the Alakai Swamp. Photo by Adrian Sear

The Pihea Trail begins where most visiting our island come to a stop. This destination spot is Pu’u o Kila Lookout, which is the second and final stop overlooking the picturesque Kalalau Valley that you can reach by car. It is the culmination of a 4000′ plus ascent, up the winding road that originates in Waimea. Interestingly enough, even though you have driven into the mountains that directly overlook into the Na Pali and North Shore areas, you cannot get further away from the North Shore by car. If you reach this area and it’s cloudy, have some patience. With luck, it will clear to a magnificent view of the once inhabited valley thousands of feet below you. This is the broadest of all the Na Pali Valleys and this amazing view will stay with you for a lifetime.

Amazing views of Wainiha Valley and Hanalei from Kilohana Vista. Photo by Adrian Sear.

The good news is that this is just the start! As you start down the trail, you will be leaving the lookout behind you. The trail edges along the rim of the Kalalau Valley on one side and the high country that you will shortly be venturing into on the other. There are some great points along the way to snap some great pictures, so make sure your camera is fully charged. As the trail starts to narrow, you will start climbing up a more technical section and come to junction. Go right here and after another short but technical section, you will descend gradually down along a ridge into the interior of the island. Another junction will present itself – this one you go left on and head to the Alakai Swamp. There will be a steep descent, a creek crossing and a steep climb back up and onto the swamp. This is an area that is seldom visited and truly a unique and special place. The climate up here is extreme and plants are all stunted in growth. You will be traveling through the swamp over a boardwalk that keeps you elevated and safe. Be aware that some of the planks and sections are in disrepair. There is a stillness and peacefulness in this very remote of areas and it has to be witnessed firsthand to be really appreciated. The trail culminates at the Kilohana Lookout. A view that can make you appreciate the height and remoteness of your location and the 3.5 miles to reach it. On a clear day, you can see down into Hanalei and all the way over towards Kilauea!

The trail is approximately 7 miles round trip and even though it doesn’t have the altitude gain/drop of most of the ridge trails in Koke’e, it is still quite technical and concentration is a must. Utilize this link for more advisories and info: http://www.hawaiistateparks.org/hiking/kauai/index.cfm?hike_id=7.

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  • Lois

    says:

    The Kilohana Vista is a great hike! The views are epic. On a clear day you can see the Kilauea Lighthouse.

    During one of our hikes up there, a group of young boys were frog hopping in the mud – which would go all the way up their legs – quite the sight to see.

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