Pihea Trail in Koke'e State Park

Pihea Trail in Koke'e State Park

Description

The Pihea Trail curves along the back of the Kalalau Valley providing access to of one of Hawaii's most picturesque views. Be prepared for hiking in the clouds, at this elevation cloud mists blow through the native forest  obscuring and revealing rare windows into the natural world. In the mountains of Kaua'i there are trails that reach portions of the mountains that are usually inaccessible, except by helicopter on most of the Hawaiian islands. The Koke'e State Park has many trails to explore, but the Pihea Trail to Alakai Swamp Trail combination makes the list for the most unique mountain hike on Kauai.

At a Glance:
Highlights: A unique opportunity to explore an area rich with native species and a swamp area that has boardwalk trail. Full of incredible views!
Location:  Koke'e State Park above Waimea town.
Activity Level:  Moderate to strenuous depending on hike length.
Equipment: Sturdy shoes, layers for chilly temperatures, rain gear, water and food.
Warnings!: Follow all posted warnings within park grounds. The trail is very slippery for the first mile due to muddy conditions. The boardwalk has some weathering and aging and parts have rotten through. Be prepared for hiking in slippery conditions and where sturdy shoes.
Reservations: None needed.
Cost: None

The Pihea trail stretches 3.75 miles, but the link to the Alakai Swamp Trail is just prior to the 1.75 mile distance. At this point the trail becomes a wooden boardwalk with stairs, descending then climbing eventually winding through a high mountain swamp to the "Kilohana Lookout" with spectacular views of Hanalei Bay and Wainiha Pali. The clouds appear and disappear quickly at the lookout, but it is worth waiting around a bit for the view to appear.
 
At the end of Alakai Swamp Trail the Kilohana Lookout reveals Hanalei Bay in the distance.

Where to Start:

The Pihea Trail begins at the Pu'u O Kila lookout at the end of the Koke'e Park Road/HI-route 550. The stunning view of Kalalau Valley highlights the first mile of the trail. The trail runs the upper rim of the valley then takes a turn into the forest eventually coming to a boardwalk "cross-roads" from here you will take the left turn onto "Alakai Swamp Trail". You are now in a bastion of native Hawaiian forest where every insect, bird, or plant around you is most likely endemic and adapted to living specific to this environment. Trips like this usually require a helicopter and in this case you are hiking in on your own foot power, entering a rarified natural world.

Local Tip:
Give yourself 4 to 6 hours to do this hike and plan accordingly. It may honestly be one of the best hikes of your life, as long as you are prepared. The elevation plus weather conditions on this trail can make for colder weather. Bring layers, and be prepared for rain, though at this elevation fog and cloud mists are more likely.
Gauge your excursion level when the trail turns away from Kalalau and toward the forest, keep in mind that you will be hiking the same trail out. IF clouds or rain are heavy this trail is not very enjoyable and should be avoided. Drop to a lower elevation and explore some of the Waimea Canyon lookouts instead.

The Lodge in Koke'e is the only amenities, food and snacks in the area. They are open 9 am to 4 pm 7 days a week. The charming restaurant inside is a great place to warm up and dine while up in the park.

Contact the Koke'e Museum and Park Headquarters for weather or info:
Phone: 808-335-9975
Website for Park amenities: http://www.thelodgeatkokee.net

Koke'e Park Trail Map Link:
http://www.hawaiistateparks.org/parks/brochure_pdfs/hsp_trails_of_kokee_-_kokee_state_pa15.pdf

State Park Website for Koke'e:

http://www.hawaiistateparks.org/parks/kauai/index.cfm?park_id=7

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