Time: 1-2 HOURS
Distance: 4 MILES
Elevation Gain: 500 FEET
Foot Traffic: MODERATE
Challenges: Could be muddy
Sights: Mountains, trees, valleys oh my!
What to Bring: Water
Located near Kapa'a, the Kuilau Ridge Trail is a nice gradual ridge that ends at a beautiful lookout overlooking the surrounding valley, Mount Wai'ale'ale, and the Makaleha Mountain Range. Throughout your journey, you will be surrounded by lush green foliage and massive trees, coupled with the beautiful chirps and songs of local birds. If you ever fantasized about what it might be like to visit Jurassic Park in real life, this is the hike for you!
A few days into the family island hopping trip, we weren't sick of each other yet! In fact, we'd gotten a lot done in our two days on Kaua'i, including a hike to Sleeping Giant, a unique tubing experience through an old irrigation tunnel, and quite a bit of shave ice. With nothing planned for our Monday, we decided to knock out a morning hike before exploring Kapa'a. We headed to the Kuilau Ridge Trail, a hike I had been eyeing for some time. This nice and easy trail definitely exceeded my expectations.
The hike is very straightforward. It's a long gradual ascent to the summit, located in the lush green Wai'ale'ale Valley. You can actually connect this ridge to the Moalepe Ridge Trail which will parallel that right mountain range.
Getting to the trailhead is the most challenging part of this hike. It is located deep on Kuamoo Road, west of Kapa'a. That road is a narrow and windy one, with lots of ups and downs and speed changes. Hopefully nobody in your crew gets carsick!
The trailhead is located off the right side of the road. You will see a gate and sign (pictured below). There is some space available off the road by the trailhead, or you can drive just around the bend to this nicely painted bridge, where you will find legit parking spots. I have actually been to this area over two years ago, when I made an attempt to hike to Blue Hole and the Famous Weeping Wall. At the time, this bridge didn't exist. Good to see the area is now a bit more safe and accessible. Maybe I'll have to come back to find the Weeping Wall in the future...
But we will save that for another time. We parked and made our way to the trailhead. Kuilau Ridge time!
The first thing that stuck out to us was just how green everything was. I mean this place was lush! We also noticed how loud all the local birds were singing. It was basically all you could hear as you walked along the trail (and maybe a rooster every now and then). I sometimes hear birds while hiking on Oahu, but that is usually drowned out by the cars passing by on some nearby highway. There is no doubt much more seclusion in hiking around the Garden Isle.
As we made progress, we started getting some glimpses of the surrounding valley. It really felt so fresh and wild.
I was half expecting a Dinosaur to sneak out of the bushes. It's no wonder this is an area that was used to film some of the Jurassic Park movies.
The farther you get on the trail, the more expansive the views get. I love that yellow and green contrast.
And some of the trees you see along the way are just mesmerizing.
After about 40 minutes of hiking, we reached a "summit". Really it is just a flat grassy area with a picnic table. From here you can go two ways. Follow the trail past the table to the left and it will lead to a short ridge with beautiful views. If you head right, the Kuilau Trail actually continues for a bit until it intersects with the Moalepe Trail.
My mom and I checked out the left path first. A nice grassy ridge with expansive views. Great spot for photos if you're into that sort of thing.
After a few photos, we decided to check out the right path. The ridge my mom and I were just standing on is actually just above us on the left.
While there weren't really views on this path, it did have some unique things to see, such as this massive uprooted tree. In case it wasn't obvious by all the green, this area receives a TON of rain. And with all that rain comes some natural erosion and destruction like this.
That rain also brings about some other natural beauties. Look at the leaves on those things!
10 minutes after leaving the picnic area, we reached this bridge, marking the end of Kuilau. After a few minutes taking some photos, we decided to start making our way back. Pono Market was calling our names...
But not before one quick little flight around the summit. Here's a shot looking north towards the Makaleha Mountain range. Can you spot me?
There I am! While these weren't the best drone photos I've taken, they help revitalize the sensation I felt on the little ridge. Complete awe, surrounded by unbelievable beauty. And I got to follow that feeling with some delicious pork and poke. Is there really any better way to spend a vacation?
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Also Check Out:
- Journey Era's post about this trail
- This write up about Kuilau