• Video of Pihea Trail to Alakai Swamp Trail Loop, Kauai Hawaii
  • Video of Pihea Trail to Alakai Swamp Trail Loop, Kauai Hawaii
  • Photo of Pihea Trail to Alakai Swamp Trail Loop, Kauai Hawaii
  • Photo of Pihea Trail to Alakai Swamp Trail Loop, Kauai Hawaii
  • Photo of Pihea Trail to Alakai Swamp Trail Loop, Kauai Hawaii
  • Photo of Pihea Trail to Alakai Swamp Trail Loop, Kauai Hawaii

Technical difficulty   Difficult

Time  4 hours 51 minutes

Coordinates 3785

Uploaded January 1, 2012

Recorded September 2009

4,387 f
3,437 f
11.11 mi

Viewed 2656 times, downloaded 70 times

near Hā‘ena, Hawaii (United States)

Pihea Trail is located at the end of the road at the top of Waimea Canyon past Kokee State Park and by the Pu’u O Kila Lookout. There is a trail sign along with a well faded sign saying - ”Mt. Waialeale Wettest spot on earth”
The Pihea Trail is among the premier hiking paths in the Kokee/Waimea Canyon area. The trail traverses the narrow ridge in the Na Pali Kona Forest Reserve between the Kalalau Valley and the Alakai Swamp. The views extend 4,000 feet down the mossy, fluted cliffs of the Kalalau Valley, which drops sharply into the ocean. The views inland extend over layers of folded forested canyons and ridges to Mount Waialeale, the wettest spot on earth with an average of 450 inches of annual rainfall. Alakai Swamp is an incredible, atmospheric area like nowhere else. Swamp weather can cause no views at all and is typical weather.

What an enjoyable day hike across the highest swamp on earth. The trail begins at the Pu’u o Kila Lookout 4176 feet above the ocean below. The trail follows the rim of the Kalalau Valley. The first 1/2 mile will take you some time do to all the great views of the valley below. I suggest that you arrive before 9:30am because the valley tends to fill up with clouds around 9:30. The valley can be perfectly clear and 10 minutes later all you see is the top of a cloud.
The trail begins as an old red clay road which is now well rutted and in sections and very muddy. In spots the trail rises and you have to climb using roots and worn foot holes. At the first junction there is a sign to follow the trail or go left to the Pihea Vista. If the valley has already started to fill with clouds, skip the vista because you won’t see anything. Continuing a short distance on the Pihea Trail you will reach the boardwalks. The boards are raised, 2 abreast, connected with a wire mesh. The boardwalk makes for an easy hike and was built in the late 90’s. There are sections that have numerous steps. You reach the Alakai Swamp Trail intersection 2 miles from the Pu’u o Kila Lookout. Follow the sign to the left. The Alalai Swamp Trail will continue another 2 miles along the boardwalk. There is a section in the center that contains no boardwalk and you have to cross a stream which you can bolder hop.
The bogs along the flat top sections are very deep. The pools look like they are only inches deep but are several feet deep. I poked my hiking stick in and it continued down in the loose mud until I had to pull it back out. I never found the bottom so I wouldn’t recommend getting off the boardwalk. The ferns, moss, and shrubbery are worth the trip.
Hopefully when you arrive at the end of the trail there will be a break in the clouds at the Kilohana Overlook. The Wainiha River and Valley is so lush with numerous waterfalls. On a clear day you get a great ocean view of Hanalei Bay. Plan on sitting on the bench for a good 30 minutes to allow for the fog to roll in and out to get several views of the valley in front of you.
Retrace your steps to the intersection. You can turn left and follow the Pihea trail another several miles down to the Kawaikoi Stream Trail, Sugi Grove Camp, and Kawaikoi Camp. You can then follow the road up to the Alakai Swamp Trail and follow it back up north to the intersection you just left 3 ½ miles ago. For my time and views, there are several much more scenic trails available than this side trip.
From the Pu’u o Kila Lookout to the Kilohana Lookout off the Alakai Swamp Trail is 8 miles round trip and will take you just under 4 hours.

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