My dear wife, in her infinite wisdom, arranged for me to fly alone into Kauai nearly a full day early before meeting her and friends for a Hawaiian vacation. My task: get in an extended adventure of my choosing so I could enjoy a relaxing vacation the remainder of the week.
It didn't take long to pinpoint the perfect adventure: the Kalalau Trail along the Na Pali Coast. This trail has emerged as one of the most-sought-out backpacking destinations in the world. The 11-mile (22 round trip) trail accesses some of the most formidable yet beautiful terrain you'll ever see. 4000-foot cliffs covered in green fuzz and cloaked in clouds, ubiquitous ribbon-like waterfalls, tangled jungles, and white-sand beaches bounded by wave-battered sea cliffs make the Kalalau Trail unforgettable. And the scene surrounding the campground at trail's end truly is a slice of heaven on earth. Note to self: next time you make it out this way, spend a minimum of one week at this campground, and for heaven's sake, share the experience with your wife!
Adding to the excitement factor, is the fact that the trail has garnered the reputation of being one of the most dangerous trails to play on. The Kalalau Trail rated as one of Backpacker magazine's 10 most dangerous hikes in America and Outside magazine included it as one of the 20 most dangerous hikes in the world. I think the hazard here is a little overblown. Just stay out of the ocean if the surf is high, don't cross the rivers if the water is too high, and watch your step on the narrow parts of the trail, and you're good to go.
I had perfect weather the entire hike. I completed the run, complete with many breaks for photos/ water treatment in less than 8 hours. Even though I had GPS for backup, navigation was not an issue.
Here are the pics:
|The Kalalau trail surface varies from boulders to sticky mud to exposed bedrock, but all of it is very much runable.|
|The rugged Na Pali Coast. I could literally feel the huge waves crashing against the cliffs below. The ocean is particularly angry here during the winter months.|
|The first two miles of trail to Hanakapiai Beach can be a bit crowded, but beyond that (where your supposed to have a permit) are just sporadic groups of backpackers.|
|The KalalauTrail traverses wild and deep canyons that beg further exploration.|
|The secluded Hanakapiai Beach is reached just two miles in. Despite its inviting appearance, strong rip currents have claimed many lives here.|
|Hala trees and their aerial roots wait to trip up unsuspecting runners along the Kalalau Trail.|
Backpackers make their way out onto an exposed ledge above the Pacific.
|The Kalalau Trail is not flat. In fact, you'll climb more than 10,000 feet roundtrip -- this elevation gain is similar to the Grand Canyon Rim 2 Rim 2 Rim, and the Kalalau Trail accomplishes that gain in 20 less miles!|
|Narrow trails carved into cliffs and loose scree fields leave a very small margin of error along the Kalalau Trail.|
|Poking my way across "Crawler's Ledge".|
|Descending the Red Hill to Kalalau Beach.|
|Campsites in paradise at Kalalau Beach.|
|Westward travel along the Na Pali Coast is blocked by impassable cliffs.|
|Barefoot beach running along the Na Pali Coast -- does it get any better than this??|
|Hippie hangout at Kalalau.|
|Kalalau Falls -- also known as "the shower" if your are camping nearby.|
|A nap on this comfy-looking hammock was hard to resist!|