Hiking the Kalalau Trail on the island of Kauai, Hawaii
The Kalalau Trail is a trail along Nā Pali Coast of the island of Kauai in the state of Hawaii. The strenuous trail runs approximately 11 miles (18 km) along the island's north shore from Keʻe Beach to the Kalalau Valley. Expert hikers can complete the round-trip 22 mile trek as a day hike, but the average hiker requires a two-day minimum and will camp along the trail. Camping is only permitted on the beach at Hanakoa Valley (6 mile mark) and Kalalau Beach.
The trail is notable for its remoteness, beauty, difficult terrain and dangers. Backpacker Magazine listed it as one the "10 Most Dangerous Hikes" in the US. Outside magazine rated it as one of "The 20 Most Dangerous Hikes" in the world.
For those with weak ankles or a bad sense of balance, perhaps this isn't the best trail for you. And, you can forget about bringing a baby stroller with you and leave your pets at home! But for those hikers willing to brave the occasional sheer cliff that drops hundreds of feet to the rocky, crashing ocean shore below, they're rewarded with some of the most stunning vistas anywhere on the planet. From azure and turquoise ocean waters to thick, green forested canopies, almost all who hike the trail will say it was well worth the sweat and fears. I recommend starting your hike early in the day so that you needn't worry about running out of daylight. There are countless places along the trail where you'll want to sit, relax and enjoy the breathtaking scenery. Some sections of the trail are easier to navigate than others, especially if the weather has been dry for the previous couple of days. As anyone who has hiked this trail will tell you, bring plenty to drink! It gets very hot and muggy along the trail as much of it is shielded from the cooling breezes that offer respite, and there are no water fountains or springs from which to drink, along the path. This is not a trail one should attempt with their everyday sneakers. It's highly recommended you wear sturdy hiking boots, securely laced, they may save your ankles and balance more times than you'd expect! Simple, flat dirt sections are easy enough in dry weather, but shortly after a rainfall even these segments of the trail can become treacherous, especially when you consider that a steep cliff awaits you on one side! So, if you get a chance to visit Kauai and if your physical abilities permit, I highly recommend giving the Kalalau Trail a try. It's an experience you'll remember for the rest of your life. Kauai and the Kalalau trail awaits you!
(All photos shared in this article are from the author's personal trip to the Kalalau Trail in February 2015 and may be re-used without permission.)