Pihea Trail to Alakai Swamp

MODERATE 22 reviews
#3 of 13 trails in

Pihea Trail to Alakai Swamp is a 5.4 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Kekaha, HI that features a waterfall and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

5.4 miles 1210 feet Out & Back

dogs on leash

kid friendly

birding

hiking

nature trips

trail running

walking

forest

views

waterfall

wild flowers

wildlife

bugs

muddy

old growth

over grown

Combining two of Kauai's best hikes take us from dramatic coastal cliffs to an exotic boardwalked swamp trail. Kauai, the oldest and westernmost inhabited Hawaiian island has a terrain and climate like nowhere else. This hike combines some of the best features of Kauai into an unforgettable hiking experience. Take a westerly drive around Kauai until you run out of road and you'll find yourself at the Pu'u O Kila Lookout marveling at the views of the plunging cliffs of Kalalau Valley on the fabled Na Pali Coast. Exploring beyond this point is achieved only on foot, so strap on those hiking boots. The trail starts at the end of Waimea Canyon Drive (550) at the Pu'u o Kila Lookout. Views of Kalalau Valley. Pihea Trail intersects Alakai Swamp Trail and continues to the Kilohana Lookout. Views of Ha'ena and the North Shore are visible from Kilohana, clouds permitting. Elevation gain: - 2,000ft (from 3,750 - 4,400ft)

5 months ago

Hike it before noon...clouds roll in after lunch. Great views of the valley. Don't be afraid of getting dirty :)

hiking
5 months ago

Fog was rolling in just as we left the trail head so we caught a quick glimpse of the coastline before getting to far down the trail. We had fun anyways and embraced the mud as we went. The terrain was interesting & even w/out the view it was a morning well spent.

8 months ago

Great views of the Ana Poli Coast and valley. Nice and muddy. Admired the hard work to build it all

hiking
11 months ago

Insanely muddy, unique Flora, wild experience. The fog prevented us from seeing any of the amazing views, and still worth it!

hiking
11 months ago

Hiking on the highest swamp in the world is a unique experience you won't want to miss, but don't be surprised if you don't see the amazing view at the end. When we arrived at the "scenic" overlook, we saw a wall of fog. We spoke to another hiker who said he'd been there 8 times and had never seen the view! The trail itself is filled with stairs and boards, which sometimes prevent you from traipsing through the mud, and sometimes not so much. Still well worth the experience!

cross country skiing
1 year ago

It was more of a moderate to HARD trail due to rain and tons of missing boards through the swamp. Hikers will definitely get muddy up to your calf in some areas. There are 6 elevation climbs if you make it to the Hanalei Lookout. It's definitely worth it!!

hiking
1 year ago

A long hike with a swamps beauty and lush greenery. Boards creek and slosh into the swamp and a few are missing. Be sure and go early on a clear day. It was fogged over by the time we reached the vista

hiking
1 year ago

We spent most of our day hiking around Waimea Canyon trails, so we only hiked to the lookout. Spectacular views! Next time I would like to make it to Alakai Swamp. I have heard that the views can be finicky from the Pihea Trail lookout depending on cloud coverage, but if you can wait for the clouds to move (which can be within minutes, or maybe an hour) the views are breathtaking!

hiking
1 year ago

1 year ago

hiking
1 year ago

Hike this trail and it was a beautiful day to start. Made it in about 2 miles and it clouded over and started to sprinkle. Made it all the way out to the lookout and it started to down pour. It was slippery and wet the whole way back. We were covered in mud. Going to try it again next vacation and hoping for no rain!

1 year ago

Definitely a must hike when on Kauai. Bring hiking sticks as the trail can be very slick and footing is already difficult in spots. The swamp area can't be compared to anything I've seen in my life.

2 years ago

We loved this hike! We did it in about 5 hours with a few breaks for lunch and snacks. for us it was not very muddy... but I can see how it can be an issue after rain. we took our 2 1/2 month old with us in his sling carrier all the way to the end with no problems, but I really don't recommend it. We didn't see another kid the whole day except for a few teens. we also carried sandwiches and drank 9 bottles of water between the 2 of us. I had to drink a lot since it was hot and I was breastfeeding.

hiking
2 years ago

We planned to hike to the swamp, but only went to the lookout. The only view was white fog. If the weather were clear this would easily be a 5 star hike. Just be sure to go on a day less cloudy.

hiking
3 years ago

Like no other hike we have been on. So many cool views and things to see. Most pictures ever taking because of the beauty and amazement. 2nd favorite hike ever, after the Napoli coast water fall one.

hiking
3 years ago

Check the weather and pick the day least likely to be cloudy. The views of Napali Coast at the beginning are amazing. Be sure to take walking sticks as the trial is slick and muddy and has ruts. You pass through brushy vegetation and wonder if that is what the swamp is, but when you get to the swamp, you know it. It is really otherworldly. If you can see down to the beach at the end, take a picture immediately because the clouds can swirl around, and you can lose the chance in a nano second.

hiking
4 years ago

Fun trail. Depending on rainfall, could be very muddy. There's boardwalk on a good portion of this hike making it simple to traverse but the elevation changes prompted steps to be built. In some spots they seem like they go on forever. This is moderate to difficult. Be prepared to get a little dirty, expend some energy climbingstairs and small hills. 50/50 chance you'll have some light rain and dense clouds towards the end of the trail at the Kilohana Lookout. Beautiful none the less....

hiking
4 years ago

Such a foreign terrain but when you reach Kilohana Vista it's all worth it.

hiking
4 years ago

Park at the end of Waimea Canyon drive and begin your hike down the Pihea Trail. On your left you will see great views of the Kalalau Valley. Alaka'i Swamp is the highest swamp in the world, however, you're insulated from the mud most of the time by wooden boardwalk. The trail ends at the Kilohana Look-out over the Ha'ena on the north shore. Well worth the hike.

hiking
4 years ago

We started around 11AM in the morning at Puu o Kila Lookout which is 1.5 miles past Kalalau Overlook and a short walk from the parking lot in Kokee State Park, which is past Waimea Canyon State Park. It is best to get there early to get the full view of the valley and surrounding ridge, as we've been told the clouds move in at 10AM. If it is cloudy, wait a while before you leave. If clouds are coming from the ocean, it probably wont clear up, but if from interior just be patient. There may be some sudden clearing. We hiked from this lookout down the Pihea Trail which is ragged at the start from constant erosion (and slippery if wet), but gives you the famous postcard views of the Kalalau Valley and leads to Alakai, the highest swamp in the world - some of the hike is on a boardwalk that keeps you out of the mud. In some places, you'll need all four limbs to negotiate the trail - over sections of mud steps cut into hard-packed, greasy dirt - though it is not hazardous for the cautious hiker (be extra careful if wet). Much of the trail is flat along the ridge. A mile into the trail, a very short but steep spur trail leads to the Pihea Vista (Overlook). We took this because we were already in the clouds, couldn't see much, and the trail was very muddy. It was tricky to walk up to the Pihea Vista on the spur trail. The spur was very slick and steep but holding onto roots and some logs across the trail provided hand and footholds. The rest of the Pihea trail (if you keep going past the spur trail) intersects the Alakai Swamp Tr at 2 miles; if going to the end, go left at the junction, as the trail is about 2 miles to the end from there. The Alakai Swamp Trail leads to the edge of a cliff where the Kilohana Lookout gives a great view of Haena on the north shore, clouds permitting (totally fogged in the day we were there, with the clouds just rolling over us). At 4,280 feet, the Pihea Overlook is the highest point along the rim of the Kalalau Valley. The trail gives you hours of viewing on foot what tour helicopters see for a few seconds. Some of the scenery and giant ferns remind me of Jurassic Park. I'd recommend a hiking pole to navigate the very slippery spots. On the way back down the road stop at the Kokee Museum. Added some pics.