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Backpacker Magazine – October 2008

America's 10 Most Dangerous Hikes - Kalalau Trail, Kauai, HI

Killer coastline

by: Kelly Bastone


The Hike Pictures of the dramatic and lush Na Pali Coast stir hikers' wanderlust, but the Kalalau Trail hugging this dramatic coastline also triggers something far less romantic: terror. "People have a hard time with some of the dropoffs," says Kathy Valier, a Kauai resident who's written guidebooks on hiking the island. "The trail bed is narrow and crumbly, and I've talked with many people who have either fallen off the trail or seen it happen." The footing is twice as treacherous after the island's abundant rainfall turns the track into a greasy slip 'n slide–not amusing when you're edging along a 300-foot cliff that spills straight into a rocky surf. But despite such dangers, tons of locals and visitors continue to make the 11-mile (one way) pilgrimage to Kalalau, one of the world's most paradisical beaches.

Exhibit A "Surprisingly, we have not yet had a single confirmed fatality from somebody hiking or backpacking on the Kalalau Trail," says Alan Carpenter, an archaeologist for Hawaii State Parks. But there have been countless close calls: Hiking the trail with his daughter in 2006, a man slipped on an exposed section of trail and tumbled head-first down the slope, gaining speed as he neared the 300-foot cliff that would've dumped him into the surf. Lucky for him, his head smashed into a rock and arrested his fall. "The impact separated his nostrils from his face, but he survived," says Carpenter. Falling rock is also a risk at the various waterfalls along the trail: At Hanakapi'ai Falls, Hanakoa Falls, and near the campground at Kalalau, tumbling water erodes the volcanic rock and occasionally loosens boulders from the chasm's steep walls. On Oahu, the state closed Sacred Falls State Park after falling rocks near the cascades killed eight hikers, and Kauai, the oldest, most weathered of Hawaii's islands, generally experiences even more erosion. Flash floods can turn the many small streams you cross into raging torrents. And the beaches you pass offer no relief from your trials: Nearly 100 swimmers have perished in the dangerous currents at Hanakapi'ai.

Survival Plan Stay steady on the trail by using trekking poles, wearing deep-lugged shoes, and loading heavy items at the bottom of your pack to lower your center of gravity. Stay out of streams when it's raining, since debris jams can burst and release a sudden wall of water on hikers downstream. Floods on Kauai drop as fast as they rise, so wait out sudden whitewater rather than fording it–even if that means missing your flight.




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Reader Rating: Star Star Star Star Star

ALL READERS COMMENTS

Ricky
Feb 19, 2014

I did the trail with a friend last week. February 2014. We took it in sections so we could explore and stare off every so often at all there was to take in. Sure there are dangers (Goats, cliffs, weather, mud and more) but it was worth every step of those 22 epic miles. It was nice to enjoy some humidity and moisture for a change! Cheers!

Skye
Jan 21, 2014

I went to Kauai last February and had an amazing time. The highlight of the Kalalau trail was the highlight of the trip. We packed very light and did much better than others. We started at seven as everyone on the trip were early risers. We began hiking and enjoying the beautiful views. Each step was scenic and we saw new wildlife and plants around every corner. When we arrived at the beach. We went snorkeling and basked on the beach. We ate a lovely dinner and decided to sleep under the stars.That night we watched constellations from our bags. The next morning we watched a beautiful sunrise and got going. At one of the amazing views we spotted the glistening tail of a whale and continued on. It was an amazing trip and we all agreed worth the risk.

Skye
Jan 21, 2014

I went to Kauai last February and had an amazing time. The highlight of the Kalalau trail was the highlight of the trip. We packed very light and did much better than others. We started at seven as everyone on the trip were early risers. We began hiking and enjoying the beautiful views. Each step was scenic and we saw new wildlife and plants around every corner. When we arrived at the beach. We went snorkeling and basked on the beach. We ate a lovely dinner and decided to sleep under the stars.That night we watched constellations from our bags. The next morning we watched a beautiful sunrise and got going. At one of the amazing views we spotted the glistening tail of a whale and continued on. It was an amazing trip and we all agreed worth the risk.

Skye
Jan 21, 2014

I went to Kauai last February and had an amazing time. The highlight of the Kalalau trail was the highlight of the trip. We packed very light and did much better than others. We started at seven as everyone on the trip were early risers. We began hiking and enjoying the beautiful views. Each step was scenic and we saw new wildlife and plants around every corner. When we arrived at the beach. We went snorkeling and basked on the beach. We ate a lovely dinner and decided to sleep under the stars.That night we watched constellations from our bags. The next morning we watched a beautiful sunrise and got going. At one of the amazing views we spotted the glistening tail of a whale and continued on. It was an amazing trip and we all agreed worth the risk.

Skye
Jan 21, 2014

I went to Kauai last February and had an amazing time. The highlight of the Kalalau trail was the highlight of the trip. We packed very light and did much better than others. We started at seven as everyone on the trip were early risers. We began hiking and enjoying the beautiful views. Each step was scenic and we saw new wildlife and plants around every corner. When we arrived at the beach. We went snorkeling and basked on the beach. We ate a lovely dinner and decided to sleep under the stars.That night we watched constellations from our bags. The next morning we watched a beautiful sunrise and got going. At one of the amazing views we spotted the glistening tail of a whale and continued on. It was an amazing trip and we all agreed worth the risk.

KathyK
Dec 19, 2013

My boyfriend and I hiked this at the beginning of rainy season last week (December). We only did the first two miles to the beach. We wanted to do more, but I knew it would take me a while going back. I have some issues with my arches so I take a while negotiating downhill sections, especially the end (or beginning), where the steep incline is with many rocks and boulders. Hiking sticks really helped me and I was (half-way jokingly) offered $300 for them by a passer-by. I would definitely try this again, but only during dry season. I was definitely nervous about falling, but I never did, but probably because I went pretty slow. My boyfriend did have good hiking shoes on and he slipped and fell 3 times. It's probably important to check out the tabis that everyone recommends for this trail in the wet season. Although they have no arch support, they are great for slippery surfaces. One fellow fell in front of us, right near the beach (so 2 miles in) and we later saw him in a cast being wheeled around by his girlfriend. I couldn't help but think that he must have been airlifted out. So, be careful if you are not that experienced. And bring some poles. I think the suggestions for packing light are good as you want to be nimble on your feet for this very technical trail. It's hard to cross the streams with a huge pack that can shift your weight. It is a beautiful trail and we didn't even see the majority of its splendor.

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Anonymous
Apr 23, 2013

My sister died on this hike trying to cross the river, this place is deadly. She was fit and too young to die. How many more need to die before the Parks department seasonally closes these places during winter months? Will you be next, or someone you love?

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Justin
Aug 20, 2012

Just got back from the hike of a lifetime. The most beautiful place ive ever seen. The hike was a 7/10 in my opinion due to the continuous up and downs and mile 7-8 can get pretty scary the first time. Its all worth it when you get there...heven on earth= Kalalau Valley!

Hawaiian Lady
Jul 17, 2012

Yea did this trail this weekend in on saturday out on sunday. The cliffs shook me up real good going in but like the others say, give it time and extra respect. Hiking out I breezed through it and didn't even realizing it. I asked someone going in how much longer til I get to that part and was told that I was past it. ??? Ok but I still have the same respect for it. Going back soon. Views are fabulous. I couldn't sleep in the caves worrying about falling rocks but slept like a baby after moving out to the beach under the gorgeous starry sky. Yes pack light and bring water filter or tabs. I think summer months are better time to go but many have done it during other parts of the year. A must do for sure. Enjoy and take lots of pictures!

Pete
May 27, 2012

Cool trail, but I definitely wouldn't do it again without hiking boots or shoes (I actually saw some people wearing flip-flops). Even on a nice day, there are so many slick spots that can send you flying off the trail into the trees or rocks. Not for the skittish.

David
May 22, 2012

I did the Kalalau a couple of weeks ago as a dayhike. Took about 3.5 hours to do the 11 miles in, roughly 5 hours to make it out. Definitely not a dayhike if you're not in shape. The secret is traveling light. I passed many people with heavy packs, boots, etc -- I had a fanny pack and trail running shoes. You'll need to refill water at the streams in Hanakapiai, Hanakoa, and Kalalau, so bring a filter or purifying tablets. I was lucky to find the trail completely dry, so was a breeze compared to the more typical wet, slippery surface. I had hiked the trail to Hanakapiai and the falls at least a dozen times, so didn't feel bad about speeding through the first section. Made it to Hanakapiai in about 35 minutes, and Hanakoa in about 2 hours. I wouldn't recommend as a dayhike for first-timers -- you'll miss too much of the scenery trying to hurry. Highly recommended as a dayhike if you're up to it -- an experience I'll never forget. Don't believe the people who say that it can't be done -- I'm fifty years old.

Anonymous
May 01, 2012

I loved the scenery when I was on the trail I think others should hike on it. PS. I was just visiting.

Mike Fallis
Apr 08, 2012

I hiked the Kalalau in 1972 and it was a great experiance. Very few people along the way and not crowded at Kalalau beach. In the years in between I have hiked portions of it again several times. At one time the Sierra Club named it one of their Top Ten hikes for scenery and difficulty. My take on it is that I have seen so many people out there that are not prepared even on the portion to Hanakapiai. If there are only a couple of truthes it would be that you need proper footware (although I have seen at least two people do it barefoot, one carrying a surfboard)sun block and a hat but most importantly, lots of water! The cliff section simply requires patience and paying attention and anyone who has an aversion to heights probably should pass. There is a lot of "up-and-down" and the heat/sun/humidity can take it's toll. When you are on the exposed faces you pick up the breeze but the sun beats down, when you are back in the hanging valleys the humidity shots up. Almost no where is there flat level ground. Like many things in life, you have to choose if this is a hike for you but, if you go, you WILL remember the experiance forever! My first trip was forty years ago and I am returning, again, this summer and hiking the Kalalau at 63 years of age...can't wait!

Anonymous
Mar 18, 2012

David Sherman
Mar 12, 2012

I lived on the Napali coast back in 1973, with my girl Karen Olsen from Ancorage Alaska, what a magical place and time.

Jody
Feb 21, 2012

Just got back from Kauai and a hike on the Kalalau trail. I agree with a lot of the comments. It's a somewhat challenging trail (particularly in the rainy season), but doable and the views are incredible. We also saw whales. I would caution people to pack light but DO take food and water (I'm very glad we did and was surprised that some people didn't), have sturdy, comfortable worn-in shoes or boots with soles that keep their grip on wet rocks, use a hiking stick or two, take a poncho and a first aid kit for scrapes, and don't forget your camera. Next time I go I might take a lightweight nylon rope just for emergencies. The trail is reasonably safe but I have a healthy respect for its potential dangers. I had the time of my life and heartily recommend it, even though it rained on us much of the way and the trail did get slippery. My friend and I are experienced hikers in good physical condition so we had no falls or injuries of any kind, including blisters, but we did use hiking sticks and were cautious. By the way, we're women in our mid-50s.

Rebecca Wilson
Jan 24, 2012

My husband and I hiked this trail last year for our Honey Moon in April, we were extremly well prepared and in great physical condition. I can honestly say this trail is Amazing and incredible. Such an unbelievable experience. I did find it quite a difficult Hike as we had no rain at all, and the Sun was beating down the whole time. There are many, many steep inclines, and declines, as well as very very narrow areas along this trail that were exciting and scary at the same time. We did hike up in the the Kalalau Valley, we saw so many amazing sites, can accross old campsites with animals skulls, old camp spots with cups carved from wood etc.. Old firs pits etc.. really cools stuff to see all along and up int he Valley. We began our hike out of the Kalalau Beach area at 4am as we heard park rangers were coming to remove everyone as hunters would be coming that day to eradicate all the goats. The Hike to Hanakapi'ai took several hours, with many stops to filter more fresh water along the way. We stay the night at Hanakapi'ai falls, it was tough to set up camp as there were so many people camped out there, as well as we were sleeping in Hammocks and had trouble setting up due to all the large boulders everywhere fighting against us while setting up out little camp. My suggestion to any one attempting this trail, pack light, bring a portable but small water filtration system, (DO NOT DRINK FROM THE FALLS AS GOATS URINATE ETC.. IN THE WATER-it can be dangerous to your health) wear excellent hiking boots, bring a small rain jacket or poncho, be in your best physical shape you can be, and be prepared for anything mother nature throws your way. I would definitley suggest obeying at the signs stating that you should not enter the water or swim there, a lady did die, she was swept out to sea while were camping at Hanakapi'ai Falls Beach, very sad, but the signs are there for a reason. Most of all, ENJOY. It's such an incredible journey. If you don't want to hike in and out, there are fishermen out there that charge $100 a head to boat drop you into Kalalau Beach and you can Hike out. Just a thought.

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Jan 19, 2012

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Gerrit Kamps
Nov 04, 2011

Just got back from this trail. Did about 8 miles of it? until I came across a valley with nothing but slippery mud tracks and looked across to find 'the cliff'. A ledge trail with a 200ft drop on jagged rocks to the ocean below. Was wearing sneakers and was in the wet season, too much of a risk for me. So turned around and did the 8 miles back, all in the same day. Most of the trail isn't dangerous and difficult, except for that section, and probably only in the rainy season. My two cents.

Jamie Kosempa
Oct 30, 2011

I just completed the trail last month 10/14/11-10/16/11 with my fiance and I would give it a 7 out of 10 for difficulty. I felt that the Wonderland Trail in Washington was much more difficult day-to-day. I agree that the trail beat me up and the trail does have intimidating cliffs but you just take your time and walk on through. It took 8hrs and 50 minutes there and we did 5 miles the second day in 4 hrs and the third day we completed the remaining 6 miles in 4hrs. It did rain on the last day and we struggled slipping from rock to rock but that was only for 2 of the 22 miles. This trail is breathtaking and you need to see it once in your life. I have over 800 pictures of this trail and I had to make myself stop taking pictures. The reds and the greens and the blues of Kauai are something you need to see in person to understand it's true beauty. I brought good boots but I don't typically use poles because I don't like the feel. As usual we over packed and carried 40lbs each. Look for oranges on the final 10 mile marker. Just be smart and the trail is a 7/10. Ne stupid and yes it can be a 10/10.

Rusty
Oct 29, 2011

I did this trail last Thanksgiving by myself. It was a spiritual experience for me. Yes I was battered & blistered but, I'm heading back in a month to do it again. This time I am bringing my Brother & Sister-in-law & a much lighter pack. I hope they find it as amazing As I.

nancy
Oct 17, 2011

It always surprises me to see such vast opinions on this trail. Some swear they can run all 22 miles in 5-6 hours (yeah right), and others swear it is the most difficult and dangerous trail there is. I think the truth lies somewhere in between. I found nothing unnerving about the trail, and this is coming from someone who up until an Angel's Landing hike 2 years was deathly afraid of heights. The cliff section, as well as many portions with uneven/wet/rocky footing, just requires extra time. And yes trekking poles are an absolute must. So where I might not agree it is all that scary, I will agree it is very physically demanding. I did the trail in one day, and sunrise the next morning I headed back out. That was a little brutal. I did the 9.4 mile Cape Alava trail in Washington this summer and could have done that 3 times in one day and not been as tired. So for anyone who hasn't done the trail, it's not scary but it does deserve respect and extra time because it is very tiring and relentless.

Pappa Berry
Oct 06, 2011

Just returned from this "Bucket List" trail (10/2011). It is for advanced, intermediate backpackers with excellent route finding skills, and not out of shape novices (though that is the majority of the bumper-to-bumper throng you will encounter). Comparing it with the Grand Canyon NP trails, which I know quite well, it is slower going (allow 1/mph), more difficult/impossible footing (at frequent, obvious spots) and the soil is especially slippery and sticky when wet, like clay. Your "Survival Plan" is on target: Poles (yes, both), and giant lugged boots are essential. It is hot as blazes and seemed like 110% humidity, which should lessen the pack weight, but promote blistering and slow healing of abrasions. You will fall frequently, so plan for bruises, cuts or worse. Plentiful water sources are present (use a filter). There are not many signs along the way, so bring the most detailed USGS topo. Overall, I would have to say the scenery, though very beautiful, failed to measure up to the extraordinary hype. Don't expect solitude (it's crowded,like Yosemite Valley) or a life-altering experience and you will be happier.

Heidi
Sep 22, 2011

How long is the cliff section? Miles? Minutes? Hoping to hike this trail in February, but the cliff section has me nervous! Thanks!

josh
Sep 07, 2011

I don't know how this trail made this list but I've seen some of the most out of shape people complete this trek in and out. And about not running and taking it slow, check out the Kalalau Challenge where people do just that. This trail has hundreds if not thousands trekking along the Napali each year with a near to nil deaths per year. Can you fall of the cliff? Yes. I would give the trail a 10/10 for spectacular views, 8/10 for maintenance, but a mere 5-6/10 and that's purely due to the fact that it is quite a climb throughout the 11 miles up and down as well as having to pack for the usual overnight stay. I have had friends run this trail in at night and return by sunrise. Clearly not a top 10 most dangerous trail in the entire Country.. maybe the Island but not even the State.

josh
Sep 06, 2011

I don't know how this trail made this list but I've seen some of the most out of shape people complete this trek in and out. And about not running and taking it slow, check out the Kalalau Challenge where people do just that. This trail has hundreds if not thousands trekking along the Napali each year with a near to nil deaths per year. Can you fall of the cliff? Yes. I would give the trail a 10/10 for spectacular views, 8/10 for maintenance, but a mere 5-6/10 and that's purely due to the fact that it is quite a climb throughout the 11 miles up and down as well as having to pack for the usual overnight stay. I have had friends run this trail in at night and return by sunrise. Clearly not a top 10 most dangerous trail in the entire Country.. maybe the Island but not even the State.

josh
Sep 05, 2011

I don't know how this trail made this list but I've seen some of the most out of shape people complete this trek in and out. And about not running and taking it slow, check out the Kalalau Challenge where people do just that. This trail has hundreds if not thousands trekking along the Napali each year with a near to nil deaths per year. Can you fall of the cliff? Yes. I would give the trail a 10/10 for spectacular views, 8/10 for maintenance, but a mere 5-6/10 and that's purely due to the fact that it is quite a climb throughout the 11 miles up and down as well as having to pack for the usual overnight stay. I have had friends run this trail in at night and return by sunrise. Clearly not a top 10 most dangerous trail in the entire Country.. maybe the Island but not even the State.

surfer chris
Aug 24, 2011

you better be ready ,i've hiked the trail over a hundred times and it still kicks my butt,lots of uphill climbs ,steep muddy,slippery,dry ,hot windy,muggy, rainy it can have all of the above in the same day , but it is the most spiritual trail ever

Nelly Real / Plantation, FL
Aug 11, 2011

We hiked the trail in January 2008, it was wet and muddy. Very hard, definitely need trekking poles. You need to take your time, so it's not something one can do running, but I can tell you it is spectacular. On one of the high switchbacks we saw whales playing near the coast, and as if nature was welcoming us a giant Rainbow spread from the beach at the start of the trail to the other side where we headed. It took us approximately 4 hours to get to the water crossing, and it was harder than we thought. The hike is worth every hour, every minute, every muddy fall. Just be prepared and cautious, Aloha!

Roger
Aug 11, 2011

I'm heading back to Kauai next month for my 4th trek into Kalalau Valley. Anyone interested in making this trek should check out the following blog. It is full of great information on the trail and tips on making this the hike of your life!
http://www.kauaiexplorer.com/hiking_kauai/kalalau_hike.php#confirmation

rosey
Jun 20, 2011

I hiked the trail in June 2011 and I must say, it was the most challenging backpacking trip I've done yet, though looking back, I wasn't as mentally prepared as I should have been. the constant switchbacks are what killed me. it took us 11 hours to go one way, dont believe the people that tell you it only takes a few hours to go the whole 22 miles.. that seems like total insanity. There is no way I would have made the whole round trip in one day. The views were breathtaking, the beach was fantastic, the waterfall shower made all the blisters worth every ounce of pain. The friends made while hiking and camping are priceless, and the experience gained from nearly having a mental break down is quite valuable! i recommend this hike, but travel with caution and a water filter!

KawaiLehua
Apr 05, 2011

As Kaua'i resident born and raised, I urge people to always bring with them caution and respect for the trail. It is not an easy hike. It can be easier at some times than others, but never really liesurly. As far as the permit issue, it is very much true that there are enforcement officers there to check permits. :( You must always take your time and respect other hikers. This hike cannot be done in one day (both ways) you will need to camp if you do the whole 11 miles. Please do not come to Kaua'i with out respect and such a special place as Kalalau trail should not be taken lightly. Above all respect the land, respect your bodies and embrace it.

Thank you.

John Henderson
Jan 30, 2011

I had no idea this trail had such a reputation. I hiked it a couple times in the mid to late seventies as part of a Boy Scout trip. I'm surre we didn't attempt it during the rainy season though. I would love to go back someday before I am too old, it is like Eden.

starr
Jan 26, 2011

Im not sure why people are exagerating this trail so terribly. Just hiked it last month during the rainy season. I hiked it at the worst time, and still found the trail to be hospitable. Youd have to be very slopy, or drunk to risk falling off of it. The bugs where not bad, it was surprisingly less slick than many Idaho trails Ive traversed. If youve backpacked in the mountains ever you will be easily prepared for this trail. It should not be rated as a hard trail. Use your common sense and you will be fine. Enjoy. P.S. saw no park rangers either.

Kalalau Joe
Jan 14, 2011

Some guy said that the police arrived every morning at 6:30 checking for permits. That is complete bullsh*t. He also said that people were given $500 fines. That is also a lie. If a ticket is issued there is no amount. One has to go to court where the judge determines the fine.

You can go months without seeing an enforcement ranger especially in the winter.

He is just trying to scare you.

Rich

Chris
Jan 10, 2011

I just returned from makig my first hike into the Kalalau Valley and it was everything I'd been promised. Spent four nights, two at Honakoa and two in kalalau. There are signs of settlement everywhere, mostly old retaining walls built ages ago for growing taro but I was surprised just how extensive they were. The old walls extended two miles back up into the Kalalau Valley. These took generations to build and many of the stones are quite large. Hiking poles and good boots are a must if you're caring a pack. Nothing dries out in Honakoa. A side trip to Honakoa falls is a must!

jeff
Jan 10, 2011

did anyone see any old ruins or early signs of settlement?

Louie
Dec 30, 2010

Knocked three teeth out on this trail back in '04. Try finding a dentist on Kuaui on a Saturday night? Should of used trekking poles. I was an idiot and was hiking with a Gatorade bottle in my hand. Slipped, blew out my teeth and never let go of that stupid gatorade bottle! Trail is very slippery...

Karen
Nov 02, 2010

Aloha,
I was hoping to offer my services to your readers who may need a lift to the Kalalau Trail, I am available for a small donation.
contact me at hikekauai@gmail.com

Mahalo

Sagada1
Oct 26, 2010

I made it to the 1st beach with hiking boots and a hiking stick. That was my whole plan. It rained on & off the whole way. I was afraid of sliding off. Be extremely prepared!

Sagada1
Oct 26, 2010

I made it to the 1st beach with hiking boots and a hiking stick. That was my whole plan. It rained on & off the whole way. I was afraid of sliding off. Be extremely prepared!

Brad
Oct 07, 2010

I hiked this trail several times back in the late 1970s. I then convinced my brother it would be a good idea to get inflatables and paddle in. It was a great idea and we did it 30 years ago. No trash and I hunted freshwater shrimp in the streams. Nude hiking was common.

Mp
Oct 07, 2010

We hiked this trail recently (June 2010). I think its danger is underrated. I heard the goverment was going to close it down for some much needed repairs, which is a very good thing. The erosion is what got me. I did not (gasp!) hike with poles but even those that had poles at some points during the trail (right before the bluffs if you've done it before) had to crouch low to maintain balance so we would not slip and possibly tumble all the way to the rocks of the surf. I think the most disappointing aspect of it all was that we did meet a couple on the trail who slipped (~800 ft above sleep level) off the trail, was able to catch her footing but ended up breaking her foot. If it weren't for the 'indigineous' people who live in kalalau and there boat runners...I dont know how she would have gotten out. There were no rangers to be seen within our 5 day stay. Don't get me wrong, it's breathtaking. But next time, I'm taking a boat!

TylerB
Oct 06, 2010

I'm happy to say that we did not consider the trail the least bit dangerous. True, the infamous cliff section was eroded, steep and the wind was blowing at least 25 mph, but if you simply pay attention and proceed with relative caution ( trekking poles are a must for this trail), it is alot of fun and the views are breathtaking. As far as difficulty, we were pleasantly surprised that we finished the 11 mile, (4000 foot and 4000 foot loss) without incident and in about 8 hours. ( plenty of time was spent taking pictures, eating lunch, and just taking in the scenery). We are in our late 40's, in good shape, and definitely had trained hard. I carried 35 lbs and my wife carried about 25lbs, including water. Water was plentiful along the way, and two liters at any given time was plenty to carry. Not a hike to take lightly or a beginning hike by any means, but if your used to this mileage and some elevation changes, definitely consider this trip. On the way out we stayed at Hanakoa ( about halfway) and did not encounter even one mosquito. The area was reasonably clean and definitely not too crowded. Unfortunately, the crowds were in full force at Kalalau beach, 90% of which were kayakers. We had a small spot right off the trail and within a couple hundred feet of the waterfall ( shower). It was a nice area with plenty of shade. In early August, the temp was about 80 and humid, but the occaisonal shower made the overall weather almost perfect. Tremendous sunset!

Leighann
Sep 10, 2010

My husband and I (both in our mid-30's) have hiked many challenging trails in New Zealand, Peru (15,000ft+), Canada, Colorado, Oregon, California, Washington and the Kalalau trail was definitely one of the more difficult for us. But I blame it on our heavy packs and the heat and humidity we're not used to (my husband's still incensed I made him carry a hammock and a liter of wine). Pack light, use a water bladder and poles. We fashioned a few poles out of bamboo.
Being from the Pacific Northwest, we're used to packing out our trash which made the massive amounts of debris at most of the campsites all the more disconcerting. I'm not sure much, if any, trail maintenance or clean-up is done on this heavily-used trail, but there are precipitous areas of erosion, high winds at times and penetrating sun.
And contrary to an earlier comment, I would get your permits! Hawaii police swooped in at 6:30 every morning, jumping out of helicopters, to catch anyone without a permit. We met one guy who was given a $500 ticket and two others who were given $1500 tickets and had their gear confiscated. According to locals, this doesn't happen all of time...but, personally, I'd rather spend $20/night than risk a $1500 ticket.
Despite the Hawaii 5-0 greeting every morning by gun-and-machete-toting cops, the Kalalau is spectacular and worth every dramatic moment along the way.

Leighann
Sep 10, 2010

My husband and I (both in our mid-30's) have hiked many challenging trails in New Zealand, Peru (15,000ft+), Canada, Colorado, Oregon, California, Washington and the Kalalau trail was definitely one of the more difficult for us. But I blame it on our heavy packs and the heat and humidity we're not used to (my husband's still incensed I made him carry a hammock and a liter of wine). Pack light, use a water bladder and poles. We fashioned a few poles out of bamboo.
Being from the Pacific Northwest, we're used to packing out our trash which made the massive amounts of debris at most of the campsites all the more disconcerting. I'm not sure much, if any, trail maintenance or clean-up is done on this heavily-used trail, but there are precipitous areas of erosion, high winds at times and penetrating sun.
And contrary to an earlier comment, I would get your permits! Hawaii police swooped in at 6:30 every morning, jumping out of helicopters, to catch anyone without a permit. We met one guy who was given a $500 ticket and two others who were given $1500 tickets and had their gear confiscated. According to locals, this doesn't happen all of time...but, personally, I'd rather spend $20/night than risk a $1500 ticket.
Despite the Hawaii 5-0 greeting every morning by gun-and-machete-toting cops, the Kalalau is spectacular and worth every dramatic moment along the way.

Leighann
Sep 10, 2010

My husband and I (both in our mid-30's) have hiked many challenging trails in New Zealand, Peru (15,000ft+), Canada, Colorado, Oregon, California, Washington and the Kalalau trail was definitely one of the more difficult for us. But I blame it on our heavy packs and the heat and humidity we're not used to (my husband's still incensed I made him carry a hammock and a liter of wine). Pack light, use a water bladder and poles. We fashioned a few poles out of bamboo.
Being from the Pacific Northwest, we're used to packing out our trash which made the massive amounts of debris at most of the campsites all the more disconcerting. I'm not sure much, if any, trail maintenance or clean-up is done on this heavily-used trail, but there are precipitous areas of erosion, high winds at times and penetrating sun.
And contrary to an earlier comment, I would get your permits! Hawaii police swooped in at 6:30 every morning, jumping out of helicopters, to catch anyone without a permit. We met one guy who was given a $500 ticket and two others who were given $1500 tickets and had their gear confiscated. According to locals, this doesn't happen all of time...but, personally, I'd rather spend $20/night than risk a $1500 ticket.
Despite the Hawaii 5-0 greeting every morning by gun-and-machete-toting cops, the Kalalau is spectacular and worth every dramatic moment along the way.

Julie
Aug 24, 2010

I hiked the Kalalau trail for the 3rd time July 2010. Stayed 3 nights, so my pack was heavy and I was hiking by myself. Only problem I had was overheating, took off my hat and felt much better. I nearly blacked out on mile 8, on a narrow crumbly part, found a boulder to rest on until some other hikers came by and I hiked with them to mile 11. I thought, "I better rest up and I don't want to die out here"-seriously. Broke up the hike coming back, overnighted in Hanakoa and was able to see Hanakoa waterfall-spectacular! This trail is dangerous, I hiked it in March of '09 and it was a slip-n-slide mess due to rain. Part of it was washed away and I had about 50% control of my hiking boot on some parts with each step. Rivers were gushing and at one point running brown, whiched I crossed-not a good idea. My biggest fear wasn't heights or washed out trail portions, but river crossings. And I like water! I get in the river instead of trying to rock hop due to weight and balance of my pack. This trail is dangerous and there are some unsavory characters at Kalalau, but most of them are helpful and kind. You'll find that everywhere in the world.

Pauly D
Aug 01, 2010

Great hike mile 7 was scray. lol. gud hyk 2 do with tha family sorta eazy..alryt peaczzzzzzz out homies from hawaiiiiiiiii.i lyk gurlsssssssss....go jersey shore

Amber
Jul 24, 2010

For those who are considering going on this hike, or any overnight hike known to be "difficult" PLEASE go on AT LEAST one hike before you jump in head first. Many of the issues hikers run into are sourced from inexperience. Confident steps, good packing skills, and general technique come with practice, get the practice in on a smaller-scale, easy hike, and work your way up to something renowned to be challenging.

Rich
Jun 05, 2010

I just returned from this hike with my kids. It was our first hike ever and we weren't sure what to expect. We made it there and back, camping at the beach for two night. One word....amazing. It was a physical challenge and spiritual experience. Water and poles are key but when you get there, you feel great. When you get back to civilization, you want a cold drink. The people along the trail and at the beach were wonderful. It was well worth it.

Derek
May 29, 2010

I've been board surfing and body surfing since 1962 & in Hawaii since 1967 and found Hanakapi’ai Beach to get currents that quickly take you west away from the beach even though the surf was small. If you can't overpower the current back to the beach, your faced with cliffs being hit by waves and probably no where but cliffs to get ashore for a long way, maybe miles. A friend & I once paddled surfboards to Hanakapi'ai Beach from the end of the road. There was no where to get ashore without climbing cliffs battered by waves, till you got to Hanakapi'ai. We had to paddle against the current the whole way back. Currents almost always increase with an increase in wave size. If you see large surf, currents will probably be strong. If you swim at Hanakapi'ai, 1st figure which way the current is going. If going west, swim out at the east end and if can't stay at that end, swim in well before get to west end. Napali coast gets biggest waves in winter, smallest in summer. In Hawaii the surf can increase in size very quickly. Consider swimfins if only hiking to Hanakapi'ai, or hide them in bush till back from further down the trail.

Eddie
May 22, 2010

Just came back from this trail and had a wonderful time. My wife and I saw a few folks who were having an issue with the exposure, but the trail itself is not in bad condition; I've certainly hiked much worse. Go as light as possible, too. When I do it again I think I'll leave the sleeping bag at home, bring a tarp and hammock and call it good. I used UV light to purify water, just brought one water bottle to use on the trail and one collapsible water bladder for camp.

It's a beautiful place - please be respectful to the other folks back there and leave the mainland attitude behind :)

Danimal
May 16, 2010

is everyone on this site 50+? this hike was one of my greatest, and I have hiked thousands of miles. This hike is a bit unnerving at some points but it is in no means the hardest hike ever. Kalalau is one of the most amazing and spiritual places I have ever been. I feel sorry for those of you (all?) that did not make it the whole way to the valley. and BTW F*** permits

Danimal
May 16, 2010

is everyone on this site 50+? this hike was one of my greatest, and I have hiked thousands of miles. This hike is a bit unnerving at some points but it is in no means the hardest hike ever. Kalalau is one of the most amazing and spiritual places I have ever been. I feel sorry for those of you (all?) that did not make it the whole way to the valley. and BTW F*** permits

Peter
May 15, 2010

I've done this trail 7 times, the last 3 have been in/out in one day. Like any situation this far into a natural setting, things can get dicey very fast. My advice: don't pack heavy, use hiking poles and good shoes, be in very good shape, take your time, and keep very hydrated by taking a filter and iodine tablets and using the 4 to 7 streams that you cross. Like the article said, don't cross storm swelled streams. I did this once (very stupid) and got very lucky. Not worth it. The cliffs are really not a problem if you take your time and stay focused. Stay friendly with the locals too. They can really help with cool advice and good food.

Fred Darvill
May 06, 2010

My wife and I walked the first 6 miles and back out in a day. She 53 and I am 55. I am in good shape, she not as much. We did real well until the last mile (mile 12) on the way out when my wife simply ran out of energy. We started at 0930 and were back out at 1800. It was a great hike and one we will always remember! We brought our light hiking boots from home which was a smart move as the trail is rocky and requires steady footwork. We did not encounter any areas we considered "scary" or over exposed-maybe because the trail wasn't so different from the ones we hike on at home. We highly recommend doing the first six miles, don't forget to get your permit!
And do bring decent foot wear. Bring a snack for the cats at the beach two miles in-they appreciate it. Bring a lot of water for yourself. The week we were on Kaua'i there were two persons lifted out of the trail by helo, one for asthma and the other a broken arm brought on my poor footwear and a fall.

Nicole
Mar 25, 2010

On March 1st my husband and I set out on the Kalalau Trail. It is an amazing trail. The first 2 miles are a piece of cake. The wind was wicked and very gusty. For those who are on the fence about whether they think they can do this trail read on.

I'm sure 99.9999 percent of people who are attracted to this trail, will do just fine. I couldn't get past mile 6 and luckily caught a ride out with the helicopter that was picking up the trash at Hanakoa on March 3rd. Does anyone know what company does the garbage pick up? I'd like to send him my thanks again and some more money for the trip out.

I figured I could let the percentage of people that might have problems on the trail know how I went wrong.

I've skydived, ziplined, bungeed no problem but I'm afraid to walk on ice, drive, cross a river on a log etc.

I'm happy to put my life in someone or something else's hands, but not in my own. I didn't trust my own two feet. I thought I would trip each and every step.

You do need to have confidence in yourself for some of the trail past mile 2.

If you are unsure, you could maybe stand near the edge of a cliff and picture a narrow trail. If you are comfortable, I bet you are good to go.

I have a small fear of heights, which became a huge fear of heights as I progressed on the trail.

I was my own worst enemy. I couldn't overcome my fear but it was too late to go back, and I was too afraid to go back.

If you encounter a part of the trail early on that makes you nervous, it might be a good idea to look behind you after and make sure that you are comfortable crossing back.

I should have clued in that I should have turned around, but I'm stubborn too. I figured I would get used to it and overcome. Instead by mile 5 and hour 5 I was becoming tired and fatigued, and because of that had even less control of my fear.

Usually I would be very disappointed in myself if I didn't complete something, but, for me, I just made a mistake.

Looking down at just my feet on the trail did work to get me through the last 4 miles to mile 6.

Again, this trail for most people in moderately good shape, will have a blast. I had no problem physically or cardio-wise on the trail. The only work out I get is kickboxing twice a week and I'm 38. So you don't need to be athletic.

We met a pregnant women on the trial, her husband had a knee brace. They did the whole trail in a day no problem.

I saw many people who I initially wouldn't think they could do it. They had no problems.

The trekking poles were a great help, but sometimes I think I was putting way to much pressure on them during my difficult spots which had the potential to make it dangerous for me. I say use them as aid, but depend on yourself more.

They were so right about just needing a 'confident step'. ie. if you can walk normally across a log that crosses a river, no problem. I take sideways, baby steps while holding someone's hand and I don't look down, problem.

I tiptoe across a patch of ice and fall down, other simply walk with a 'confident step' and have no problem.

My husband's only problem was me. He kept me alive and moving. I love him more than every now. He said the views were fantastic everywhere. His favourite was the last exposed cliff area before descending into Hanakoa.

If we get a chance, we want to kayak to Kalaulau Beach....except my husband's a little afraid of deep water.

Phillip
Mar 23, 2010

My wife and I hiked the Kalalau Trail in Kauai. It was very beautiful and we had a blast. But I must admit it was a challenge. I had forgotten to pack enough bottles of water and it was very hot. But overall, the experience was amazing and definitely worth it. Next time we go, we will make it a full overnight trip and hike further. Our original intention was to hike to the waterfall but instead we stopped at the beach and relaxed. You can read more about it in our review of our honeymoon vacation on our website at centralbeat com. We include some pictures as well.

J
Feb 23, 2010

We Just got back from our first hike on the kalalau trail. We were warned of the difficulties so we took our time going in. Unless you are a die hard hiker don't try to do it all in one day or even two or three. Take your time. Camp at Hanakoa. Pack light because it is much easier to manuever around the cliffs. Hiking poles REALLY helped. I did it in a good pair of running shoes. We didn't have problems with the river or rain - but I think the river can be hectic and the trails very slippery if it is raining. Don't go if it is raining. I am an amateur hiker and my boyfriend is a novice. His knee gave out at mile 6 but still hiked through to the end. We had heard about how scary mile 7 was but didn't expect that the rest of the trail would have narrow paths with exposed cliffs as well. Oddly it was easier (not for him because of his hurt knee) coming back. We found the crumbling dirt hills between the cliffs of mile seven and 8 to be the most frightening. Sadly the state does little to upkeep some of these really scary parts and there is a military guy and another man who live out there and just work ok the path to make it safer. If you see him at mile 8, please give him a few bucks in thanks for making the trail easier for you.

As for the people who live at the beach - they are very nice and they were very helpful. We hired a young man living there to help us carry my boyfriends pack out. Without his help we would have had to be helicoptered out or dive through heavy surf to get to a tour boat, all of which seemed extreme.

This trail is not for the inexperienced hiker, don't go if you have a fear of heights, vertigo or little endurance. If you plan to go train, take lots of long hikes or walks with packs, read about the trail and the plants and talk to as many people who have experience as you can. Be VERY careful and stay focused on the trail.

Deb Billings
Jan 25, 2010

I did not do the trail but my husband did. He does a lot of mountain hiking, but I have never seen him comne back from an adventure spitting mad! He went in in one day stayed overnight and then back out. He traveled light and ended up starving and freezing at night. He filtered his water so that was no problem. He told me that at one point he was chanting "watch your feet, watch your feet" and said if he hadn't had poles he would probably be dead on the cliffs below. Despite that he said it was the most awesome thing he'd done and couldn't begin to describe the beauty. At 62 he can now "cross that off my bucket list." Moral is: take enough food, be prepared for a cold wind at Ke'ee beach and don't under-estimate what you are going to do.

kelly
Jan 19, 2010

hands-down the most dangerous hike i have ever done. mile 7-8 is the worst, particularly a stretch of crumbly red dirt on a steep slope - use a walking stick and (if you trust them) the roots sticking out of the ground above you. i thought i was going to die. i wore keens, which were the right shoe for the most part, but you'll slide at this point regardless of shoe.
recommend a light tent or just a hammock, tarp, and blanket. don't forget iodine tabs or a filter...plenty of water, but you can get leptospirosis. anyway, it IS a gorgeous, isolated area! glad i did it, but likely won't do it again!

Robert R.
Dec 15, 2009

We did the trail 3 times. It is dangerous but just take it easy, think about what you are doing, do not be over confident or inattentive and you should be fine. We wore tennis shoes to hike it in, they worked fine. Mud toward the start of the trail was a bit of a problem, slippery rocks and all. There were guards posted at the beach on the 3rd hike, that took a lot (well, all actually) of the fun out of it which seemed to be the point of them being there. The scenery was incredible. Do be in good shape for this hike. We used no poles, we were anxious to keep weight down which, we think, is a good idea. Good luck, enjoy.

steve
Oct 09, 2009

hiking into Kalalau Valley June 28, 29, 30 2009
I found a digital camera with a couples vacation pix. I would like to get this to them.
redross@bluemarble.net
Beautiful hike!

Scott McFeely
Sep 30, 2009

Left Poipu at 6:15 AM Tuesday Sep 22 and arrived at the trail head at about 7:45. Hiked approximately six miles in then returned to the car by 11:30 AM. Comments: This was the first time hiking this trail in TEVA sandals and I was wishing I had brought my Vasque Sundowners! The trail is much too slippery for even lugged sandals. Second: a hiking staff is essential to maintain balance on this trail, which can be very narrow and extremely muddy. LAstly: I did not really sense much in the way of danger on this trail, but I hike in the Westesn US routinely. It is a most spectacular trail!

Randall Wallace
Aug 22, 2009

I just got back from anout and back day trip n the trail on August 9th. I hit the trail at 6:30am and made it out at 6:30pm with an hour break at kalalua beach. I had been training for the hike and was very prepared for the elevation gain/loss. The trip out was just another 11 mile hike, however the trip back was a little more of an effort. This is only because I was running low on water and cramping up as a result (my purifier malfunctioned). If it was not for the mistake in gauging the amount of water needed I would have considered this a difficult but doable day hike for serious hikers (and only serious hikers). To my blessing I was able to "beg" for water. The streams/rivers were low and it did not rain for most of the trip. I have read the stories about high winds and water and I am thankful that I experienced neither-- after all it's all about timing! Any questions, please look me up on Face book.

Randall Wallace
Aug 22, 2009

I just got back from anout and back day trip n the trail on August 9th. I hit the trail at 6:30am and made it out at 6:30pm with an hour break at kalalua beach. I had been training for the hike and was very prepared for the elevation gain/loss. The trip out was just another 11 mile hike, however the trip back was a little more of an effort. This is only because I was running low on water and cramping up as a result (my purifier malfunctioned). If it was not for the mistake in gauging the amount of water needed I would have considered this a difficult but doable day hike for serious hikers (and only serious hikers). To my blessing I was able to "beg" for water. The streams/rivers were low and it did not rain for most of the trip. I have read the stories about high winds and water and I am thankful that I experienced neither-- after all it's all about timing! Any questions, please look me up on Face book.

steve
Jul 25, 2009

I hiked the last week of June 2009. I think the posts accurately reflect the trail. Conditions were dry, loose and dangerous in gravel slide areas. The trail can be fatiquing and hot, but it was worth the effort. There were times from late afternoon until next day mid morning when I encountered no others. Any mistakes made here, would leave you on your own. When you go, dont whine.
There are a gnarly bunch of "inhabitants" who we enjoyed meeting, some who regularly hike this trail barefoot and drink out of the streams(not recommended)
A week later in Lihue I met a detective who told us that Kalalau is a refuge of sorts for sometimes very unsavory characters. The Kalalau Valley is a remote and fairly inaccessable place, full of food, water, a subculture, and ideal conditions to grow pot. You wont find many cops out there.

Todd
Jul 24, 2009

I've done this trail about 5 times, in all sorts of weather. As in, blazing hot to all out downpours. I think in general the trail is not overly dangerous, more than anything it's just a tiring journey with all the switchbacks up and down the whole way there. It's a beautiful ride though, so there are worse places to be tired. I've learned that the trail is as much of the journey than the final destination at the beach. When I first started doing this trail I use to try to get all the way in in one shot, thinking of only the end-game, now a days I take it easy and enjoy the views and embrace the journey in as much as anything. 8mi has a great bluff to camp out at where you can watch whales breaching, so usually I make it to there, camp the night and then hike all the way in, in the morning.

Now, back to the danger aspect, where you will find the most danger is around the 5mi mark, there is a river to cross there and after a rain storm or a couple of wet days the river can be high and finding footing in the river can be difficult. Oh, did I mention that there is a waterfall about 10 feet away? This will be your sketchiest moment. The river can be low on the way in, and high on the way out.

My wife who is a non-backpacker did the trail, cried the whole way. If you talk to her now about it, she'll tell you it was one of the best experiences she's ever done(and then tell how she cried the whole way)
T.

Todd
Jul 23, 2009

I've done this trail about 5 times, in all sorts of weather. As in, blazing hot to all out downpours. I think in general the trail is not overly dangerous, more than anything it's just a tiring journey with all the switchbacks up and down the whole way there. It's a beautiful ride though, so there are worse places to be tired. I've learned that the trail is as much of the journey than the final destination at the beach. When I first started doing this trail I use to try to get all the way in in one shot, thinking of only the end-game, now a days I take it easy and enjoy the views and embrace the journey in as much as anything. 8mi has a great bluff to camp out at where you can watch whales breaching, so usually I make it to there, camp the night and then hike all the way in, in the morning.

Now, back to the danger aspect, where you will find the most danger is around the 5mi mark, there is a river to cross there and after a rain storm or a couple of wet days the river can be high and finding footing in the river can be difficult. Oh, did I mention that there is a waterfall about 10 feet away? This will be your sketchiest moment. The river can be low on the way in, and high on the way out.

My wife who is a non-backpacker did the trail, cried the whole way. If you talk to her now about it, she'll tell you it was one of the best experiences she's ever done(and then tell how she cried the whole way)
T.

chris
May 31, 2009

Did this hike with 50 pounds of gear (enough for my 3 weeks of travel) in chacos and foud it a little scary, but all in all not that bad. The exposed section is definitely the scariest bit, but if you are steady it is not an issue.

MJM
May 14, 2009

This place is serious business. Don't make the mistake of believing that it is "no big deal." If you get in trouble, (which you easily could) your only salvation might be that so many people are coming through to dump trash in Hanakoa Valley. If you do go, stop to look up and around once in a while. Enjoy the beautiful walk!

Big Daddy
Apr 08, 2009

way more people drown on the beaches then fall off the cliffs !!

Ti Conkle
Apr 02, 2009

Just returned from hiking the Kalalau and Nu'alolo Trail, Awa'awapuhi and Nu'alolo Cliff Trail. My husband and I backpacked the entire island for ten days and logged close to 50 miles of trail hikes, canyon hikes, and all-around trekking. As a result, we carried packs and gear for ten days, and averaged 45 pound packs on all of the trails. Best piece of gear? Hands down, it is the Handpresso Wild. Care to brew a double shot espresso on the trail on the Napali Cliffs? I did! Check out my blog at http://titaniumpersonaltraining.blogspot.com and read all about it. :) Suffice it to say, we are experienced hikers, climbers and backpackers- and we did not find the trails daunting in the least. We explored the side-hikes to the waterfalls on the Kalalau and found it to be well worth the extra miles. The million dollar 360 degree views from our campsite at Kalalau Beach made the whole trip worthwhile. Tips for happy trail running: take a trekking pole. No need for two, because it's nice to have one hand free to grab for rocks on the cliffs in the ferocious headwind. We travel with a Mountain Hardwear Air Jet tent, and it has proven its worth, versatility, durability and usefulness in the tropics and the snows of glacier fields in Alaska. As for sleeping bags? We like Big Agnes sleeping systems, and the Lost Dog bag (mostly a lightweight sleep sheet) worked well for this climate. Packs down to the size of my fist, when compressed. Bring a good water filter- we met hikers who were airlifted off the trail after foolishly drinking straight from a waterfall. Our rating for the difficulty of the Kalalau Trail: 7 out of possible 10. Nu'alolo? 5 out of 10. Danger? Hey, I'm a mom with a small child. I wouldn't risk my life. Danger meter on the Kalalau never exceeded a 7.5, in my opinion. I am no adrenaline junkie, just a well-conditioned, strong Alaskan with a good perspective of what danger really is.

The Mechanic
Mar 20, 2009

Did it in February in the rain....yeah it was tough but not as bad as some proclaim. I've seen some guys go 11 miles in and back in under 7 hours.

mike
Mar 03, 2009

Attempted the hike in late February 2009. I blew an ankle on a root at about mile 6 so we set up camp, waited a few days until I could walk, and then hiked out.

Although I only did the first 6 miles, I would say this trail was the most dangerous thing I have ever done by about two orders of magnitude. There were regular downpours while we were there so everything was slick and/or muddy. Some of the ledges were more streambeds than trails.

In my opinion, the "difficulty" of this trail really comes from its dangerousness. The trail isn't maintained and is literally sliding into the Pacific. Although a lot of people talk about the mile past Hanakoa as the dangerous part, there was no shortage of unprotected paths in the first 6 miles. I really couldn't believe it was considered safe to backpack. (And hiking out with a bum ankle was worse).

I really can't imagine that the risk v. reward calculous works out in favor of doing this hike. Granted, I never saw the "paradise" at the end. And, although the many scenic views I did get were good, they weren't worth the infinite increase in the likeliness of death. I think this trail is really the stuff for adrenaline junkies or mountain climbers.

A couple of other points: First, we really overpacked. We were set to be in for 5 nights and had 35lb backpacks. I would say skip the luxury items and use a superlight tent or tarp.

Second, even in winter, there was NO need for sleeping backs. Pick up a .25lb sleeping back liner and that should be enough.

Third, this is a jungle... It is going to rain. Sure, you might get lucky, but probably you will not. Take rainproof stuff.

Fourth, although everyone keeps saying to take lugged hiking boots, I think heavy boots might not be the best option. A lot of this hike is scrambling-ish, and I felt my Vasque Sundowners really inhibited my dexterity. Granted, I needed them for my pack weight and they probably save my ankle from surgery.

Fifth, poles. We did not take hiking poles. I did blow and ankle. I was terrified much of the time. I can't say for sure, but I bet poles would have helped.

Final thoughts: if you have a spouse or kids, this isn't the trail for you. If you absolutely have to do it, make sure your life insurance and disability insurance is in order. Seriously.

John Nichols
Mar 01, 2009

My wife and I hiked the first 3 1/2 miles of this trail. The trail was wet, muddy, and a mass of tangled roots, made even more dangerous by the mud. One friend lost his footing, fell off the trail, dropping faster and faster toward a cliff. By the grace of God, a tree limb impailed his forearm,which later required multiple major surgeries,but the limb help arresting his fall before he plunged off the cliff.

Chuck
Feb 23, 2009

Actually I feel the most "difficult" hike on Kauai is down to Wailua Falls.The most dangerous, Kalalau Trail. The Nualolo Cliffs Trail may be higher, but the dangerous part last maybe 50 feet. The Kalalau Trail almost a mile of tricky hiking. I have lots of pictures and videos at...
http://www.condosinkauai.com/All_Kauai_Sites.html

gayle
Dec 11, 2008

read the comments ..all were there just after us.. the last comment...thats the part we did twice...the cliff trail we got lost on!!!!!!
***sorry I thought this was going to the above address... please ignore...

gayle
Dec 11, 2008

read the comments ..all were there just after us.. the last comment...thats the part we did twice...the cliff trail we got lost on!!!!!!

BJ
Nov 19, 2008

We just completed the trail last week (Nov 8-12, 2008). It was absolutely amazing. I read the article about the 10 most difficult hikes after we had purchased our airfare and permits for the trip and my wife gave me a hard time about it. I was cautiously optimistic about the ability of each of the members of our four-person party. I had completed several moderate to difficult practice hikes carrying 35-40lbs (60lbs when I carried my wife's pack). My wife, who doesn't have quite as much time, or desire, to dedicate to hiking, did 3 practice hikes (3-5 miles) with a 20-25lb pack on easy to moderate trails. She was the least physically prepared but, with some great conversation to keep her mind off the difficult trail, she was able to complete the hike without serious pain. The wife of the other couple had never backpacked except for a few practice hikes and had extremely minimal camping experience. We convinced her that she could be comfortable sleeping on the Exped 7 Downmat ~$140. She runs quite a bit so she was physically able to do the trip. Just make sure your backpack is fitted to your body by a professional. What a trooper.

The most important piece of equipment we took were the trekking poles (we had Leki Ultralight poles ~$110). The poles greatly increased our stability and confidence as we crossed the trail.

We were extremely fortunate that there was no rain the entire time we were there and, although the trail was slick the first mile or two, it wasn't the mud bog we were warned about. Also, none of the rivers were impassible as we have read horror stories about high waters.

I was concerned about the narrow trail on the cliffs because of what I had read. That part of the trail (mile 7-8) is on the dry side and not slick at all when we were there. What was interesting is that my wife felt comfortable enough to take out the camera and snap pictures of us coming up behind her. That made me nervous as she was turning around with her pack on, but it just pointed out that there was more room on the cliff than I was led to believe. The most difficult part, in my opinion, was the portion where the trail is sloped, loose dirt just before the "balcony". I was grateful for the trekking poles. I never feared for my life, I just knew we had to be careful. This part of the trail seems to be receiving care by volunteers.

Another great piece of equipment I was grateful for was the Sea to Summit ultralite microfiber XL towel ~$32. The sand is easily cleaned off of it and it dries very quickly.

I would not have even tried the hike had I not read about it in Backpacker magazine about 6 months ago. What a great place to visit. ENJOY!

soran
Nov 19, 2008

can u give me some info about the most dangerous island in America

Neil Okuna
Nov 15, 2008

I went with my son's Boy Scout troop when they hiked Kalalau in 2005 and I consider it to be the very best hike in the state. There is really only one spot that I thought was dangerous; where you are contouring along the above-mentioned cliffside about a mile past Hanakoa. The rest of the trail is fairly strenuous, but I don't consider to be very dangerous. I agree that trekking poles and lugged soles are a must, especially if carrying a heavy pack. To me the Waimano Ridge trail on Oahu has far greater exposure to falling off trails with 500 foot-plus sheer drops.

Elizabeth Ray
Nov 15, 2008

I hiked a part of this trail this summer. (The rest of the family didn't want to do more, so we did not complete it - darn it!) Besides the sheer drops to the sides, and the slipperiness of the muddy trail, the winds were unbelievable. At one overlook, we felt like we were going to be blown off!

joe
Nov 14, 2008

it's just that exposed section that's dangerous. The rest is beautiful.

Brad Peebles
Nov 14, 2008

I hiked the Kalalau Trail numerous times. It is one of the ten best trails I hiked in my life. It is not a technical hike and like any hike it helps if you have brains between your ears. You do need to cross streams. So if you cross and camp and then return after a rain you may need to wait until the volume of water in the stream is reduced. So allow some flex time on your return.

MCR
Nov 13, 2008

The most dangerous trail on Kauai is probably the Nualolo Cliff Trail, part of the Nualolo "loop." It's terrifying, you can fall 2000 vertical feet in some parts (with the trail washed out sometimes and cliffs you can't grab because the cliff face crumbles when you grab it). Anyway, people actually do die on that trail, so when publishing about "dangerous trails," maybe publish about trails where people actually die.

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