Time: 1-2 HOURS
Distance: 2.4 MILES
Elevation Gain: 450 FEET
Foot Traffic: HIGH
Challenges: Some muddy and slippery scrambles, Uneven Footing, Socked in Views
Sights: Napali Coast!
What to Bring: Water
Located at the end of Koke'e State Park, this short trail leads you to the Pihea Overlook, the highest rimpoint in the Kalalau Valley, which gives you some magnificent Napali Coast Views... if you aren't socked in by the clouds. Simply drive to the Pu'u O Kila Lookout and start walking, taking in that coastal beauty. For those who are feeling more ambitious, you can connect this trail to the famous Alakai Swamp, the world's highest rainforest and swampland. While you may have to deal with a bit of mud, it will be worth every second as you experience this magical place.
Our last full day on Kaua'i and the fam was still going strong. Today's adventure included a long drive all the way around the island from Princeville to the famous Waimea Canyon and Koke'e State Parks, followed by a boat trip along the Napali Coast. This is my third trip to Kaua'i and also my third trip to Waimea/Koke'e (batting 1,000). It really is that amazing! Not wanting to waste an opportunity to explore another trail, I convinced my Mom to take a short tramp up the Pihea Vista Trail.
The trail is a short out and back from the Pu'u O Kila Lookout in the back of Koke'e State Park. This trail has the potential to link up with some other trails in Koke'e, so be sure to check out the Visitor Center (or the internet) to find some other alternative routes.
This is the Pu'u O Kila Lookout, all the way in the back of the park. It takes a bit of time to get here and you lose cell service when you enter the park, so plan accordingly. Unfortunately, when we arrived, the lookout was socked in by the clouds. We decided to wait it out a bit to see if the clouds would clear. Another fun fact (if you can't read that sign), this is one of the wettest spots on earth. All that rain is what helps make this place beautiful. Once the clouds cleared a bit, we began. Simply continue down this dirt road, which is the Pihea Trail.
In case you didn't believe me, there's a little sign just off the right side of the path. Only 1 mile until the vista!
Ah there's that view! The clouds opened, giving that gorgeous perspective of the Napali Coast. Something about those colors with the blue back drop is just so mesmerizing. I think those lingering clouds even add some character.
As you continue along the trail, you can get numerous different viewpoints and angles. It's hard to resist taking hundreds of pictures here.
But we did have a destination, the Pihea Vista. Making it to the vista isn't necessary. It's higher in elevation than the lookout, so it's even more likely to be covered in the clouds. But sometimes it's nice to have a destination when hiking. Otherwise, who knows how long we'd be up here...
About 30 minutes into the hike, the mood of the trail changes a bit as you become more engulfed by the trees. While the views disappeared, it created a new sense of mysticism which added to the experience.
Unfortunately, more trees also equals more mud. Hopefully you left your clean white shoes at home.
This is the part of the hike where it gets a bit tricky. Depending how much rain there's been will dictate how slippery it is. You will also have to get your hands a bit dirty for balance.
Almost there. This is the junction that will lead you to the Alakai Swamp Trail if that is your destination. To reach the vista, I went straight. This ended up being the hardest park of the hike because it was extremely muddy. I ended up shimmying along the fence to avoid ankle deep mud.
But it was worth it to reach the vista. 4284 Feet, the highest point on the rim of the Kalalau Valley. And...
... absolutely no view! Oh well! Luckily the views were stellar on the way up. Besides, we would be doing a boat tour of the Napali Coast in just a few hours, so I'm sure it will give us some more eye candy.
Now back down the muddy trail to the lookout.
And through those looming clouds.
And just one more view before meeting back up with the rest of the fam at the car. An awesome, short, and unique trail that gave us exactly what we needed to satisfy that hiking itch. Now it's time to see some of those views at sea level...
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Also Check Out
- Hawaii Guide's writeup of the hike