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The Kalalau Trail


Aaron Zagrodnick

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Aaron Zagrodnick

I pride myself on being overly prepared. I know I can’t prepare for everything, but I certainly try to. I thought I was prepared for the Kalalau Trail in Kauai. I screwed up big time. I lived in Hawai’i for many years and my husband Nick has never been. As soon as we were able, we booked our trip. Upon researching possible destinations and hikes, Nick set his hooks into the Kalalau Trail. It’s a life list hike – you’re rewarded with amazing views and the ocean by your side. The trail climbs 11 miles in and out of valleys, eventually ending at an inaccessible (to most) beach. Nick and I have hiked upwards of 15 miles in one day, but those 11 miles were said to be grueling. This would be my first overnight trip and the destination seemed perfect…

Sarah Tiedemann hits the trail in Hawaii, read the full article below in Issue 16:

Lost and Found on the Kalalau Trail

Issue 16 Page 1

Hiking and Backpacking the Kalalau Trail, Hawaii

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Dogwood

Sarah, I'm trying to get a grip on where you stayed your first night. Maybe, I'm either missing something or you have something amiss. It's 2 miles from the KT TH at Ke'e Beach at roads end to the Hanakapa'ia Beach/Hanakapi'ai Falls/KT junction where you mistakenly went left mauka side(inland) where you hiked the 4 mile RT to the waterfall and back to this junction. The hike to Hanakapi'ai Falls is an out and back trip on rough uneven meandering tread where you crawl over tees, rocks, through mud, and water at times. That's a total of around 6 miles so far. From Hanakapi'ai to Hanakoa where there's a covered picnic shelter and camping area in the woods and not on the beach is another 4 miles, about a total of 10 miles you would have hiked. But, you said you hit a beach, I assume at the end of Day 1, after hiking 9.5 miles? What I'm getting at is IF you stayed on night 1 somewhere on Kalalau Beach it's an additional 5 miles from Hanakoa to Kalalau Beach for a total one way distance of 15 miles once you figure in the additional 4 miles RT to Hanakapi'ai Falls. If you indeed stayed on Kalalua Beach on night 1 and I'm confused about something in your trip report forgive me. BUT, if you have miscalculated your mileage congratulations your husband and you hiked a good 15 mile day starting kind of late in the day! Hopefully you had clear skies at night and the stars kept you company. How did your ankle hold up the rest of the hike? Did you get over to the Kilauea Lighthouse? I work in Kilauea mauka side and live in Kapa'a.

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sarahtied

Hey Dogwood,

We didn't make it to Hanakoa or Kalalau Beach, just Hanakapa'ia Beach. I had Endomondo running, and that put us at about 9 miles for the day...we ended up hiking all the way back to the car that night. We started so late and had so many mishaps that we decided to just turn back and get out. We saw a friend of mine in Paradise Park on the Big Island later that week and all she was talking about was how that area has a very strange vibe, real chicken skin stuff. The whole trip was pretty odd. Nothing was going right and it all felt very unwelcoming...we later had a doctor's visit, an emergency room visit, and we were sick in a hotel for the last 5 days of our trip. It was a HUGE bummer but that gives us a reason to go back :)

My ankle ended up being okay.. there were two guides from Colorado staying at our B&B and the one woman made sure I iced it...she was literally hovering over me to make sure I did it (I'm glad she did! I was ready to just go to bed) so that definitely helped.. I think I just twisted it a bit. We went to the lighthouse after it closed at 4..but we still stayed at the lookout there at the parking lot and got to watch some seabirds so that was pretty cool!

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Dogwood

OK. So you never got permits which you wouldn't have needed anyway if you just day hiked from Ke'e to Hanakapa'ai Falls and back out to Ke'e. The hike you did is by far the most popular and, at times, crowded part of the KT. It's what time strapped visitors to Kauai opt for. The beginning 2 miles or so of the KT can be the muddiest and beaten down if it has been raining. Once you get past the Hanakapa'ai Falls/KT/Hanakapa'ai Beach trail junction the crowds fall of precipitously and the scenic aspects get better.

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sarahtied

We did get permits because we were planning on hiking the entire trail. Unfortunately, we didn't need them hah.

Yeah, it seemed like a popular hike based on how many people were at Hanakapai'ai, but it was so late in the day that the trail itself wasn't very crowded. That hike was killer. If we had planned on a day hike it wouldn't have been as bad, but we had some serious weight on our backs. I was surprised at how hard it actually was. The first two miles the trail was nice and dry, which was fantastic because I've read about how sketchy it can be when it's wet. Part of the reason we decided to push on after I twisted my ankle was because the first two miles were gnarly, and we thought we were on our way to Hanakoa where the trail wasn't as bad. Such is life! Next time!

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Aaron Zagrodnick

Thanks for sharing the story of your hike Sarah! Great scenery. Sounds like a few of the trips I've been on that didn't go quite as planned... :D

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Dogwood

Glad to hear your ankle was OK. I hope you didn't have to stay 5 days laid up entirely inside a hotel room in Hawaii. If you did you have luau on the room service menu? ;) You did get to hike the Kalalau Tr though and see a really neat waterfall. It gets better though in many respects after the junction. Spending a night or two on Kalalau Beach under the palm trees and exploring can be a slice of heaven.

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