Time: 2-3 HOURS
Distance: 4 MILES
Elevation Gain: 1000 FEET
Foot Traffic: MODERATE
Challenges: Muddy if it's been raining, minor climbing to get to "Head", Narrow ridges at summit
Sights: Wailua, Neighboring ranges, Pacific Ocean
What to bring: Water, Sunscreen
This short, yet rewarding hike takes you from the Nounou East Trail in Wailua, Kauai to the "head" of the Sleeping Giant summit. It's a well maintained trail with plenty of switchbacks that allow you to reach a lookout point right below the summit with relative ease. There is a small amount of climbing required to reach the "head" but the 360 views of the east and center of the island are definitely worth it.
After completing the first hike of my Kauai trip at Hanakapi'ai Falls, I figured I had enough energy to go out for a second hike. I had heard from Hawaii Guide that the Sleeping Giant trail was a shorter hike with some incredible views at the top, so I knew it had to be on my list.
It's easy to find the trailhead for this hike via a map app. There is a small parking lot on the side of the road that leads to the Nounou East Trailhead.
A shot of the Sleeping Giant's head from the parking lot. The best views are supposed to be from on top of his nose (the little hump on the right) or the forehead (the left hump). I just hoped the slight rain that was coming down wouldn't impede my view when I got up there.
Just to the right of the parking lot is the trailhead to Nounou East. And we're off!
The trail is obvious and well marked as you venture through a series of switchbacks that take you up about 1000 feet. This felt like mainland hiking.
But fairly often you would be rewarded with some nice views of the ocean. It still looked pretty sunny at this point, which was a good sign.
I don't always follow these signs, but I did follow this one since I knew it would keep me on the right path. I don't know what's beyond this sign, but I'm guessing it's just a more dangerous path to the top.
The rain started coming down a little bit harder and some ominous clouds were forming in the distance, threatening to block my views.
But nothing you can really do except keep climbing and hope for the best.
A really awesome bench at a nice lookout halfway up the ascent.
The head of the giant is getting closer... Let's just hope I don't wake him ;)
As the rain continued to fall, the trail became a bit more muddy and slippery. But due to this nicely placed mile marker, I knew I was close.
This is the only fork throughout the entire hike. Take a LEFT here to head towards the giant.
And before long you will reach this nice little picnic area. This is not the head of the giant (maybe the chest?), you will have to go a little further to reach the peak (head RIGHT from this picture's perspective).
But the views here weren't half bad despite the rain.
You will soon run into one of these signs. This time, you should go past the sign.
This is the ridge that leads to the head. That peak in front of you is the nose. The trail will veer right to allow you to climb up the head.
This is the only part of the hike that requires a wee bit of climbing.
And once you are on top of the head, there is a little bit of narrow ridge hiking to get to the nose for even better views.
Just don't look down... or do, just don't fall.
And we made it! It was a little cloudy once I finally reached the nose, but the views were still incredible.
And as always, it made for a great snack spot.
After taking in the views for a bit, I decided to head back to the forehead of the giant to see what that side had to offer. It looked like the sun was coming out. Perfect timing!
The forehead had some outstanding views as well, with a different perspective of the island.
So naturally, I had to snap a few shots. But it was starting to get late and I had been hiking all day, so I needed some food. I decided to descend.
And as I turned to start my descent, I was greeted with this, an absolutely stunning and vibrant rainbow. My descent was severely delayed as I now had to take more pictures. The rainbow kept fading and growing in its vividness as I watched it for nearly an hour. This was one of those bliss moments when the magic of the island truly comes to life. It's an experience I will never forget.
Check out my video of this magical hike!
Have you seen any of Hawaii's incredible rainbows? Share your story below!
Also Check Out:
- Hikerly's explanation for how to do this hike
- AllTrails directions for how to do this hike via the West Trail