Pihea Trail to Alakai Swamp

MODERATE 202 reviews
#4 of 15 trails in

Pihea Trail to Alakai Swamp is a 12.4 kilometer lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Kekaha, Kauai, Hawaii 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.

Distance: 12.4 km Elevation Gain: 494 m Route Type: Out & Back

dogs on leash

hiking

nature trips

walking

bird watching

running

forest

views

waterfall

wild flowers

wildlife

bugs

muddy

over grown

scramble

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.

hiking
scramble
9 hours ago

This is a great hike! We arrived at 9 am and there was still plenty of parking. We had clear skies with great views along the Pihea trail. The boardwalk through the Alakai swamp was a nice change of pace after the scramble along the Pihea trail, plus the plants and birds in the swamp are pretty magical.

hiking
muddy
over grown
scramble
washed out
1 month ago

hiking
1 month ago

Stunning views along this trail. Wide path.

hiking
1 month ago

Muddy and slippery on some part but it's all worth the hike. Beautiful view of the Kauai forest and part of the Napali coast line.

hiking
1 month ago

If you want to see the views of the Napali Coast, the first mile is all you'll need. The first mile is almost entirely straightforward with a wide safe trail. There are some sections that might get slippery if it rains but largely you should be fine. Beyond the first mile you start entering the forest and eventually get on the boardwalk. At 2 miles, you'll see a fork (Take left for the Alakai Swamp trail and I think the right takes you to a view of the falls). We took the Alakai Swamp trail and the next 2 miles was just walking over the boardwalk in the middle of the swamp. The swamp is bewitchingly beautiful. It's super humid out there and it can get hot (so carry enough hydration and salts). Some of the boardwalks are rotten/broken, but nothing that's crazy. The trail is very very similar to the Pepe'opae Bog Trail. At the end of the trail is supposedly a great view of the Napali Valley, but all we could see were clouds. If possible, wait for a few minutes for the clouds to clear. Carry bug spray and wear light pants/full sleeves if you don't want to be scratched by the brush.

hiking
muddy
1 month ago

hiking
muddy
over grown
scramble
1 month ago

Moderate-hard out and back hike, really enjoyed it, beautiful views. Started around 9:45am, plenty of parking. Pros: scenic, diverse landscape (swamp, rocky, muddy, stream crossing, forest), lightly trafficked trail, challenging but doable, fun scramble around the rocks. If it’s clear you can see a waterfall in the far distance at the turnaround point. I am pretty fearful of heights so I was happy there were no areas where I had to teeter on the edge of some drop off to access the views. Cons: quite muddy and slippery but manageable with hiking shoes, very foggy on our way back and scenery no longer visible, have to time it right or wait and hope it will pass, wooden slats/stairs several loose, slippery or broken but ok if you take your time and use caution. I am fairly short so I did have to do more climbing to get up or a sit and slide down to reach the next rock in a few areas. Took us a bit longer than expected but we took a few breaks and went slowly through the steeper muddy parts. Bring plenty of water. All in all a fun, adventurous hike!

hiking
muddy
over grown
1 month ago

hiking
private property
2 months ago

R

hiking
muddy
over grown
2 months ago

A beautiful trail but seemed a bit harder than a moderate hike. there were no distance markers, so be prepared to track distance yourself

hiking
2 months ago

Amazing trail with beautiful views. Very muddy after rain but worth it if you’re wearing proper footwear. Bring plenty of water and some food to enjoy at the lookout!

hiking
2 months ago

Low effort and very high reward. Great views of the Kalalau Valley. Definite must hike in Kauai. Do be careful as the vistas are undercutted.

hiking
muddy
rocky
3 months ago

My son (17) and I (45) ran this 8 mile out&back trail June 27 2019. The day was rainy and overcast. We were soaked 30 min in, not from the soft rain, but from brushing up against wet vegetation. It was great! Since it was so cool, we each brought 16oz of Skratch (hydration mix) which was more than enough. The weather scared most people away and we had the 8 mi mostly to ourselves. We left at 11 and returned at 1. Many parts of the trail were not "runable" as the muddy, steep terrain limited us or the boards were not in a condition to support running. Also, even if conditions were perfect, our fitness levels were just not strong enough (we are from CO and consider ourselves fit). We only fell once. The best running sections were on the boards as we could stretch out the legs and go. But be ready for many hiking sections. We avg 16 min/mi. We climbed over 1300' total. The view at the end down to Hanalei was incredible. Can't describe it. The thin clouds hanging in the valley were slowly moving away providing an eerie effect of "zooming out". Running through the swamp made us feel like we were in the Dead Marshes from LOTR. "Don't follow the lights" my son quoted in his best Gollum voice as we ran through the bog. By far the best trail run!! Highly recommend this adventure!!!

hiking
scramble
4 months ago

The trail was nice and dry today (not always the case, it is often muddy...real muddy). I logged it at 7.9 miles and started recording a little late. Some of the planks have been replaced, but others are still damaged and/or missing, but easily managed on a relatively dry trail. The description in this app says there is a waterfall at the end, that is not the case if you follow the highlighted trail map given on the app. You will come to a sign that designates the swamp going both right and left (I posted a picture). We turned left which is what the map shows, so perhaps you need to go right to hit a waterfall. We came to a beautiful vista and the view was amazing, but just not what the description says.

hiking
4 months ago

Lots of change in elevation. Boardwalk was fun and view at end of hike was great.

hiking
4 months ago

Beautiful trail with vistas of Napoli - we didn’t see waterfalls

hiking
muddy
over grown
5 months ago

Muddy but fun! Get there early for amazing views at the beginning. We started at about 7 am. Average pace, lots of stopping to take pics, and a lunch at the end --> about 4.5 hours for the whole thing. Too cloudy at the end for views unfortunately.

hiking
muddy
5 months ago

hiking
muddy
5 months ago

Hiked this trail today, and I have to say I'm a little surprised it's rated moderate. My wife and I might be older than most of the people here, and although we managed it, I would call it difficult. In some sections, I would call it dangerous. If the mud in the climbing sections is the least bit wet, it's not a moderate trail IMHO. The Hawaii parks people are replacing a lot of the boardwalks, but in my opinion they're doing it a little on the cheap. Where the boardwalk was previously two planks (2x12's maybe) wide, they are replacing that with one plank wide. Fortunately we didn't cross paths with anyone on those secions. I observed many places where the new boardwalk was pulling apart due to only using one lag bolt where they had previously used two. And, those lag bolts were not long enough! I'm glad we did the trail, even with the fog at the end, but we won't do it again.

hiking
muddy
5 months ago

5/5, trail still a bit muddy but drying out. Really nice trail hike with great scenic views of Nāpali Coast and ending with views of northern coast. Staff is working on fixing old board walkways but use caution with some of the steps where boards are missing.

hiking
5 months ago

We hiked this trail about a week ago and luckily the trail was dry and not muddy. Under the conditions we hiked it in, I would definitely just say it's a moderate hike - the uphill parts through the roots and boulders have plenty of convenient "footholds", the sections of incline are gradual and interspersed throughout, and the section on the boardwalk/planks is pretty well-maintained. There is no unavoidable exposure for those fearful of heights and the trail is easy to follow apart from one spot edger the sign is a little worn in the first half mile where you should go right rather than straight. I would highly recommend this trail as it's strenuous enough to get your blood pumping but not torturous like some nearby hikes. You have beautiful views and diverse scenery throughout the hike as some of the forest and swamp sections are otherworldly. Despite it being foggy and misty at the end and not being able see the Hanalei Vista, luckily on our way back the fog cleared and we could see the breathtaking Napali coast. In dry conditions we easily did this in four hours with stops for photos.

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