Pihea Trail to Alakai Swamp

MODERATE 146 reviews
#3 of 15 trails in

Pihea Trail to Alakai Swamp is a 7.7 mile 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: 7.7 miles Elevation Gain: 1,620 feet Route Type: Out & Back

dogs on leash

hiking

nature trips

trail running

walking

bird watching

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
rocky
24 days 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
1 month 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.

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

hiking
1 month ago

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

hiking
muddy
over grown
2 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
2 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
2 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
2 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.

hiking
muddy
no shade
2 months ago

We were fortunate enough to see the views on a clear day. It’s a very unique hike! The swamp trail is definitely worth it!

hiking
muddy
3 months ago

The hike was challenging since we did it on a very wet, misty day. Our shoes kept getting stuck in the mud and could not see any views the whole hike. I had hiking shoes and waking poles, which made it sightly easier, but still kept slipping. I’m sure it would be a very different story during a dry and clear day.

hiking
4 months ago

This is a wet hike, fittingly, your hiking to one of the highest wetlands on the planet. It's mysterious and amazing. I felt like the rain added to the hike. Chances are you will get rained on up there at least a little! Highly recommend it, get low and look closely at the little mosses and plants.

muddy
scramble
4 months ago

Very wet today. The swamp was amazing surrounded in mist, but if you want a view, do as others suggested and wait for a clear day. Absolutely take a waking stick from the parking lot if you don't have trekking poles. Bring a change of clothes, including shoes, and a big bag for dirty/wet ones, leave them in the car.

4 months ago

Pick a clear day to do this hike. We couldn't see a single thing from any of the viewpoints. There was a steady rain all day, and the stream was flowing pretty intensely. Made the call not to cross it. If the flow picked up any more we would have been stranded and didn't want to risk it. Based on other reviews it sounds like we picked the worst possible day to go. We still had an absolute blast though. It was a ton of fun navigating the trail with water flowing all over the place across the walking paths. Made for a very challenging hike.

4 months ago

Loved my hiking poles for this one. Even with that both of us eventually slipped and fell. Foggy the whole time, so no view this time. I have done this before in June with a timid 6 year old. In winter, when it's this muddy, I'd skip this for a less muddy/slippery hike. If the view is clear I'd hike to the first view point, maybe 0.5 miles any day. Winter tip - think about what you're going to do with your mud-caked shoes, socks and pants. We changed in rainy parking lot.

hiking
muddy
4 months ago

Not a bad trail. EXTREMELY muddy on Feb 21,2018. Make sure it’s a clear day over to Hanalei or you’ll end up with a beautiful view of straight fog like we did. Let down!! It’s still a nice trail though. When you come to the first split go right if you want to continue to the actual swamp trail (although to the left is a night lookout that isn’t too far away) and when you come to the next split (4 way) head left. When you get real close to the end there are two dogs at the end that seem a bit vicious. They weren’t too bad on the way in, but on the way out we ended up having to throw them food off the path to get them off the boards. No collars. Not sure where they came from but keep a look out.

5 months ago

Mud, mud, mud. I have hiked in snow and ice but never wet clay. Very difficult for someone with questionable knees but we made it. The payoff at the end of the swamp trail is unforgettable. Do it!

hiking
muddy
5 months ago

We hiked first couple mikes or so of this trail on Friday, Feb. 8, turning back because we got a late start. We were really glad we had our hiking poles because the clay underfoot was quite slippery. We were covered in it, but I still rate this trail 5 stars because of the absolutely spectacular views! We were told that you have to wait until the end of many of the other trails for a view. Not so with this one!

hiking
muddy
5 months ago

Hiked this trail today. A few really muddy spots in the first half - take it slow and you can do it. Later on, it gets much worse. Take it slow. Be prepared to hose down your boots. Spectacular views at every lookout - worth it!!!!

hiking
bugs
muddy
5 months ago

Gorgeous views but extremely muddy at the moment

hiking
5 months ago

This was so much harder than I expected, albeit my luck brought rain the day I hiked. I saw only one other hiker. It was otherworldly amazing and one of my greatest hiking experiences. However, I’m in average shape and middle aged. Solo hiking made me nervous and I probably only made it 1.5 miles before turning back. My fear of injury overcame the enjoyment. It was just too slippery and when wet, I rate this extremely difficult. I was taking almost an hour per mile! If you can catch it in drier weather I’m sure it’s stunning. Even with the challenges - which also included zero views and steady rain- it was a once in a lifetime experience. Easy parking lot and trail is well defined. So glad I tried.

hiking
5 months ago

I loved this trail! It is beautiful from start to finish even if you didn’t get amazing vistas of the Napali coastline (although you do!) It wasn’t difficult if you are in decent shape, however I think it would’ve been hard if it had been raining at all because the trail is red clay all the way and has several areas with steep “stairs”. But if you want a truly extraordinary hike you should give this trail a try!

hiking
6 months ago

Incredible views of the Napali coast along the beginning, and at the end of the hike, where you can actually see Hanalei Bay & Princeville. Very technical in areas, but most of it is on boards, many of which were recently replaced. Very long hike (Took us 7 hours RT with lots of stops and a long lunch), but a big payoff at the end. Fortunately, it hasn't rained in Wimea for many days, so the trail is probably about as dry as it has ever been. No problem for my well worn Crocs. Very clear all day. If you are in Kauai now, you should do this hike ASAP, as the conditions are perfect - especially if you have questionable footwear like me. There were only 2 patches of wet mud which were easily crossable on boards without shoes sinking in.

hiking
6 months ago

Beautiful views. Cool swamp. Interesting vegetation. Not too crowded once you get away from the lookout parking lot.

hiking
6 months ago

This was a great hike! Took us longer than expected with the muddy terrain (it hadn't even rained recently). A lot of variety along the trail which kept it interesting. Beautiful views along the way and at the end. Highly recommend it!

7 months ago

Very memorable hike.

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