Posted by: Katy Welter | May 2, 2011

Kalalau Trail — An Overview

This is the second time we’ve hiked the Kalalau Trail. The first was late December, 2009. In fact, we camped on Christmas at Hanakapei Beach! Camping at Hanakapei is no longer allowed, perhaps because it’s such a high traffic area. It’s located just 2 miles in from Kee Beach at the Northernmost point of Kauai, and attracts many day hikers.

Looking back on Kee Beach from the Kalalau Trail

Last time, we visited dropped off our packs at Hanakapei and then walked to Hanakapei Falls, another 4 miles round trip. By the time we got back, we were ready to settle in for the night.

First stream crossing at Hanakapei Beach

This time, we skipped the Falls and proceeded along the trail. We expected to reach Kalalau Beach by dusk, but shortly after Hanakoa campsite (the only official midway site), we realized that we were losing the sun. This was shortly after crossing the notoriously steep, exposed area around mile 8 of the trail.

These "Hazardous Cliffs" signs abound on the Kalalau Trail -- we call these "No Fall Zones"!

We pitched our tent at a small bald area on a gorgeous cliff instead.

Morning at our first campsite; gear ready to go.

In 2009, our second day of hiking (covering the bulk of the trail) was dominated by a powerful rain storm. This made for many rainbows, but extremely slick hiking conditions, since the red soil has the consistency of clay when wet. If you’re considering the trail, be aware that a dry day bears little resemblance to a wet one, in terms of difficulty. If you or someone in your group is inexperienced, then a wet Kalalau Trail is not the place to cut your backpacking teeth. However, a dry trail is manageable for any fit person without a terribly heavy pack. Rick took his large Osprey 70L bag, but I just brought a 35L pack.

We pack very light camping gear, and no extra clothes, but we bring quite a bit of food and cooking gear. That’s so we can make amazing things like these beans, rice, and scrambled egg breakfast quesadillas!

Rick has perfected the backcountry quesadilla. Not your average trail food!

With an early start, we reached Kalalau Beach well before noon, since we only had about four miles to go.

Back on the Kalalau Trail, Day 2

A wooden sign ushers you into the magical Kalalau Valley.

Welcome to paradise!

And shortly after, the secluded beach reveals itself, sidled next to the gorgeous green cliffs of the Na Pali coast.

Kalalau Beach tucked between staggering green cliffs and vast blue ocean.

At last, we found the perfect campsite, and set up our luxurious hammock. We didn’t bring a hammock last time; but you really shouldn’t go without it!

Relaxing at Kalalau Beach, Kauai


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