Up one level Kauai, 13-17 May 2009 » Kalalau Trail

Kalalau Trail

The Kalalau trail is about 22 miles round trip with an elevation change of around 4500 ft each way. The reason for all that elevation change is because you have to traverse through a number of valleys on the way to the Kalalau valley, each of which involves a moderate amount of elevation change. Hikers typically tend to do the Kalalau trail as an overnight backpacking trip where they hike in the first day, camp overnight on Kalalau beach, and then hike out the next day. A permit is required to even dayhike the trail, and we weren't able to secure permits in advance before leaving on the trip. We decided to day hike the trail because none of us wanted to camp overnight in hot and humid weather, and we also thought it would be easier to get a permit for one day rather than two.

On the day we arrived in Kauai, we showed up at the permit office, stood in line, and managed to secure the last permits for the next day --- our luck in securing permits at the last minute was probably directly related to the low prices (i.e. low demand) that enticed us to Kauai in the first place.

The hike lived up to our expectations, with interesting flora on the first half of the trail, and spectacular views in the second half of the hike. The views only started getting really good after Hanakoa beach when the trail emerges from the vegetation and becomes more exposed.

For this hike, we brought about 24 gels each (1/3 caffeinated), and a bar of chocolate for the rest break at the end of the beach. After too many long alpine climbing days in the Sierra where I hit the wall after 10 hours or so, I discovered that you had to eat every hour despite not feeling hungry, and so you should just bring food that you can stomach. Forcing yourself to eat is a more serious problem at altitude where you lose your appetite, but a similar kind of appetite suppression occurs in hot and humid weather. As a result of the constant eating and hydration, Serene and I felt great throughout the day and maintained a reasonable pace without feeling tired on both sections of the hike.

We were also lucky with the mud and we only encountered one small muddy section on the trail (we'd read trip reports complaining about horrendous mud along the trail). The reputed narrow section called the Balcony was actually quite wide and wasn't bad at all. The main problems on the trail was dealing with the heat and humidity, which we were prepared for by wearing very thin synthetic long sleeve tops, running shorts for me, and trail runing shoes. Hiking poles weren't as useful as I anticipated because the trail was frequently too narrow to effectively use them. Shorts weren't the greatest idea either because the trail was quite overgrown at many sections and it would have been nicer to be wearing pants then. The only equipment snag on the trip was that the batteries in Serene's headlamp were completely drained when we turned it on about a mile from the trailhead. I gave Serene my headlamp and used a keychain emergency light that worked, but made for slow going. I thought that light was pretty bad until we ran into a couple about half a mile from the trailhead who were slowly making their way back using the light from the guy's watch. We bracketed them with our two functioning headlamps and we all made it out to the trailhead safely.

img_0930 Trailhead to the start of the Kalalau trail. We took this photo the day before we hiked the trail. _mg_1003 We were quite fortunate in that this section of the trail was the muddiest that we encountered during our hike. _mg_1006 Eu-Jin and Serene taking a break in a vegetated section early on the Kalalau trail. _mg_1014 The early part of the trail before Hanakoa was lined with native Kauai flora _mg_1036 Warning sign at the first beach that we encountered _mg_1049 We wore the same thin synthetic longsleeve shirts on this hike because of the humidity and sun. _mg_1053 A little later in the trail after Hanakapiai beach, the vegetation thins out a little, and we started seeing boat tours running along the coast. img_0957 Eu-Jin starting on a narrower section of the trail near Chivalry point. This might be the start of the area known as the Balcony. It's not anywhere as narrow as it looks in this photo. _mg_1096 Kayak tour group off the Na Pali Coast, Kauai. _mg_1134 A couple hiking back out to the trailhead. They were carrying their gear in a cotton sheet folded into an over the shoulder satchel. _mg_1140 Kalalau trail winding through the rich red volcanic soil. _mg_1154 The views get better the further along the trail you are. _mg_1157 The views were only really good after Hanakoa. _mg_1161 Rock formations along the Kalalau trail, Kauai. _mg_1163 Thickly vegetated pali seen off the trail. _mg_1171 The Kalalau Valley is the next valley over from here. _mg_1174 Ray coming up along a narrow section of the Kalalau trail, Kauai _mg_1184 Serene having a good time along the Kalalau trail _mg_1187 Looking back at the valleys that we traversed _mg_1188 Serene and Ray along the trail _mg_1195 Kalalau valley and the beach are in sight _mg_1197 There is a little red cinder cone shaped hill just off the trail before you start dropping down to Kalalau valley. From this place, you can see all the valleys that we have traversed so far. _mg_1209 Sign marker for Kalalau Valley. The beach is perhaps another half a mile away. _mg_1215 Serene heading down to the entrance of the Kalalau Valley, Kauai _mg_1227 Ray and Serene descending down to the entrance of Kalalau Valley. _mg_1234 One last stream crossing at the mouth of the Kalalau Valley. I don't remember this crossing to be too bad. img_0973 We saw a bunch of passion fruit flowers near Kalalau beach. Taken by Serene. _mg_1244 At one end of Kalalau beach, near the waterfall. We saw some people camping right under the chossy rock cliffs, which didn't seem like a great idea. _mg_1250 Serene and Ray fixing their feet on Kalalau beach before we started heading back. _mg_1256 The pali behind Kalalau beach. It gets clouded in every afternoon when we were there. _mg_1265 Climbing out of Kalalau valley. _mg_1273 It started to get really hot and humid on the way back. Ray looking a little tired. _mg_1282 On the way back, I made the detour to the red hill again to get more of the views while Serene and Ray continued back. _mg_1283 Ray and Serene on the trail with the pali of Kalalau valley behind them. img_0988 Eu-Jin checking out the cliffs along the balcony section. img_0990 An example of the typical narrow path along the trail. Some of these vegetated sections were quite a bit narrower with steeper drop offs than the balcony section. When reading trip reports beforehand, we read about the balcony section being narrow, but in reality, some of these vegetated sections were quite a bit more dangerous. _mg_1298 Serene starting to traverse into yet another valley. _mg_1302 Part of the balcony section. Not as bad as we read about. _mg_1306 For perspective, here's Serene along the balcony section. _mg_1307 Sometime around now, it started to get extremely hot and humid. _mg_1310 The last photo I took of the coast before sunset. It got dark about 1 mile from the trailhead.