Pihea Trail to Alakai Swamp

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Koke'e State Park

Pihea Trail to Alakai Swamp is a 7.7 mile heavily 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: 7.7 miles Elevation Gain: 1,620 feet 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
muddy
scramble
2 months ago

hiking
muddy
scramble
2 months ago

Overall, this was a fun but challenging hike that we would definitely do again. We did this hike on a day where there had been significant rainfall over the past couple of days, and at least in such a context there are a couple of watch-outs to be aware of before doing this hike, even for those of a moderate or better fitness and hiking ability (a group we would consider ourselves to also be in): - This trail was significantly more challenging than the Awa’awapuhi trail, which we had done a couple of days before, despite this trail being rated as “moderate” vs. “hard” for the Awa’awapuhi trail… - The first ~mile of this trail was extremely muddy, and you’ll make far better time embracing the mud than trying to go around it - sticks are also a big help, as there are a number of places where you need to scramble. - After the first mile, the trail flattens out and the hike is generally made much easier by the presence of a boardwalk, though this is run-down in parts. It’s well worth pushing on to this boardwalk section as the scenery was fantastic, even on a day like we had where the views were obscured. - Not mentioned elsewhere, but if the water is high you will have a small river crossing where your feet will get wet… Overall, this was an entertaining hike, but at least in the conditions mentioned above, this is a challenging hike in parts, and certainly not family friendly, so I would encourage you to check conditions in advance before embarking on this hike. A final point of note is that we took ~4.5 hours to cover a little over 5 miles, missing the last ~half a mile in each direction through the swamp, predominantly due to concerns in losing the light, hence cannot comment on this last swamp section.

hiking
muddy
2 months ago

This is one of the best hikes in Kaua’i and I think most people overlook it. It’s a different world up on the boardwalk in the swamp. However bring waterproof warm clothes. The day we completed this I estimate it was less than 50 degrees F with driving rain and 30 mph winds. Crazy.

hiking
muddy
3 months ago

you're going to get muddy but the view is worth it, make sure to go early and give yourself about 4-5 hrs for the round trip

hiking
3 months ago

kinda muddy, some slick places of the boardwalk

hiking
muddy
4 months ago

Hiking poles will be your best friend the first ~1.5 miles, and just give in to the mud in the beginning. It’s slick, beautiful, and more trafficked until about a mile and a quarter in, when the slippery clay is slowly replaced with deteriorating wood planks for most of the rest of the way. They’ve done a good job subbing these out for plastic single planks in a few spots, but there are certain areas in desperate need for an upgrade (see photos). We were socked in at the vista, but got a slight glimpse of the beach below and could tell the view would be beautiful if the clouds passed. Bring crummy clothes, solid shoes, and patience and you’ll love it.

hiking
muddy
4 months ago

hiking
muddy
4 months ago

My wife and I did this with our 5 month old. We arrived around 730am and were the first ones on the trial. It’s been the first sunny day this week and even though it was muddy the fact that we didn’t have rain made it so much less slippery. Just embrace the mud ‘cause it’s going to get you if you make it all the way out - it’ll be a lot faster than tinkering around everything. Our 5 mo old was a champ the entire time. Def a must!

hiking
muddy
rocky
4 months ago

This trail was one of my favorites yet on our trip! The Pihea trail was rocky and slick but showed amazing views and the Alaka’i Swamp Trail was very jungle like (many parts of the boardwalk were out or wobbly so strategy will come into play). The lookout was cloudy but still very pretty when the clouds parted. This was 9 miles in total and took us 5.5 hours.

hiking
muddy
4 months ago

There is no need to go much farther than a few steps on this trail for the spectacular views. Be careful standing close to the edge because the wind is strong and the ground can be slick. The trail is pretty steep. We stopped after a little bit because it wasn’t worth going down the steep trail just to get muddy when we already were seeing the amazing view. My brother slid pretty far down the trail because it was so slippery and he was in hiking boots. So Keep that in mind when choosing footwear. I don’t understand why people attempt this trail in flip flops or sandals. Everyone we saw that did that had mud all over their lower half of their body. Tennis shoes seems okay but something with traction would be the most helpful. Lots of people running up and down the trail so be careful.

hiking
fee
muddy
scramble
washed out
4 months ago

There is a $5 parking fee at this hike. We attempted the first half mile but it was extremely slippery on an incline. We talked to a few very muddy hikers that were returning on the trail and they said it only got worse as you went along and not to attempt. We decided not to chance it and headed back. There were a couple nice lookouts in the first quarter mile though.

hiking
muddy
5 months ago

Hiked this trail today - it was pretty muddy and requires a lot of climbing over trees, roots, muddy rocks, etc. It’s an adventure! Hiking poles would help a lot. My group of 10 completed it in about 6 hours. We waited at the lookout point at the end for about 30 mins and we got lucky because the clouds cleared and we did see the view of Hanalei. I’ve done this hike twice now, and the first time it was not as muddy - makes it much easier. Had forgotten about the stairs - they are a butt kicker on the way back! Overall, one of my favorite hikes on Kauai - such a diverse landscape, very unique and incredible views at the start and finish! I would recommend starting early - you have a better chance of seeing the view at the end before the clouds roll in. HIGHLY recommend this hike.

hiking
fee
flooded
muddy
scramble
5 months ago

Awesome trail, with lots of scenic views of the canyon and swamp. High incline in some areas, with difficult footing to climb up or down. In rainy weather, it is very muddy and slippery. We went after a week of rain, and the river crossing to get to remainder of swamp and the lookout point over the Napoli coast had rushing water over the path, so we couldn’t cross. Other than the inability to finish the trail, it was a fun, adventurous hike to see beautiful views and experience the rainforest, swamp, and mountain. If it is raining at all, be ready to get muddy. While it was more challenging than expected, our whole group loved this hike. Note: parking fee based on vehicle size.

hiking
6 months ago

long. wet. great. took 6 and half hrs round trip in a steady drizzle but loved the hike. got to the viewpoint and waited half hr but clouds never left. still worth the effort.

hiking
muddy
6 months ago

The trail has breath taking views. The muddy part of the trail is only the beginning and the rest is fine as you will be on boardwalks. It is one of the most rainy spots in the world but the rain passed for us after about 20 minutes. The swap was amazing. It’s a hike I would do again. The last part seems long on the way there but it’s only two miles and well worth it with the over look. If it’s cloudy you can try waiting for it to clear.

hiking
scramble
7 months ago

We did this trail on 22 October 2019 as described, combining Pihea Vista and Alakai Swamp Trails (turning left at the junction), ending at Kilohana lookout, which gives you views all the way to Hanalei. As described by others, the Pihea section is more demanding as it requires scrambling and tends to be muddy. However, the Swamp Trail is not maintained well and also requires solid concentration all the way through. We tracked the trail, in and out it is 13.5km and 477m altitude without going all the way up to Pihea lookout. You should allow 6h, including a break. A great hike, but considerably harder than we anticipated due to the conditions of the trail, and we did it on a nice day.

hiking
scramble
7 months 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
8 months ago

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