Kalepa Ridge Trail

The Best Kalepa Ridge Trail Alternative Hikes

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An obvious highlight of our trip to Kauai was hiking the Kalepa Ridge Trail.

It just recently came to my attention that the Kalepa Ridge Trail is closed due to heavy erosion and unmaintained trails. This is truly unfortunate for anyone looking to experience a once-in-a-lifetime hiking adventure on the Nāpali Coast.

The Napali Coast - Kauai Hiking

The 5 Best Kalepa Ridge Alternative Hikes

I wanted to fill this void and give a few hiking alternatives to the Kalepa Ridge Trail.

All of the following hikes have some of the most spectacular views of the Nāpali Coast and I highly recommend adding them to your Kauai bucket list.

Here are the 5 best Kalepa Ridge Alternative Hikes:

1. Nu’alolo Cliff Trail

In my opinion, the best alternative to hiking the Kalepa Ridge Trail is completing the Nu’alolo Cliff Trail. We did the Nu’alolo Cliff Trail the day after hiking Kalepa Ridge and found that the views were very comparable.

Start by trekking through the woods and over rolling hills for the first mile. You’ll quickly emerge from the forest to find a small part of the trail that is overgrown with weeds.

Watch for thorny bushes through this section of the path. Others recommend wearing long pants but we found it unnecessary for this hike.

Kalepa Ridge Trail Alternative HIkes

After approximately two and a half miles, you’ll finally start to see views of the coastline. I know this seems like a far distance to hike in order to get incredible views, but I can guarantee that your effort will be worth it.

You’ll know you’ve reached the end of the trail when sweeping views of the Nāpali Coast are laid out in front of you. There will also be a gate to mark the end of the trail.

As with any long hike, I highly recommend bringing snacks. Keeping your body hydrated and fueled is vital in the Hawaiian humidity.

Note: Be sure to save some of your water for the hike back out. We made the mistake of drinking our entire two-liter Camelbaks at the bottom and died of thirst on the way back out.

Know Before You Go

This trail is known for being notoriously muddy. If it has rained recently (and even if it hasn’t), be prepared to get dirty.

The muddy trail turns slick in many places; I highly suggest wearing proper footwear to avoid a fall. Many hikers chose to bring trekking poles or walking sticks, too.

Kalepa Ridge Trail Alternative Hikes: Nu'alolo Cliff Trail

As with any hike on Kauai, expect to battle the fog. In order to avoid cloud coverage over the coast, start your trek as early in the morning as possible.

Distance

The Nu’alolo Trail is a 7.5-mile out-and-back hike; quite a bit longer than the Kalepa Ridge Trail.

Elevation Gain & Difficulty

You’ll quickly lose 2,600 feet in elevation going down to the overlook.

Most people believe that the climb back up to the parking lot is the difficult part. Personally, I find the steep downhills to be more challenging, especially with the mud.

Note: There is one area on the trail where the footpath becomes very thin. This could be a problem for those afraid of heights.

For avid hikers, I would consider this a moderate hike. Despite it being of moderate difficulty, I would not recommend this trail for beginners.

2. Awa’awapuhi Trail

This next hike, parallel to the Nu’alolo Trail, snakes along the coast.

Awa’awapuhi Trail is a great alternative to the Kalepa Ridge Trail because it offers some of the best views of the Nāpali Coast.

Similar to the Nu’alolo Trail, you’ll begin by hiking through the woods for several miles. Small lookouts along the way feed your motivation to reach the end.

Kalepa Ridge Trail Alternative Hikes - Awa'awapuhi Trail

The end result is the cliffs of the Kauai coastline sprawled out before you; a truly jaw-dropping sight.

There will be a gate once you reach the end of the trail, however, many hikers continue past this marker and make their way up to the mountain top.

Take extreme caution if you decide to climb to the top; the trail is very thin with deathly drop-offs on either side. Most hikers opt to crawl across this small causeway.

Be sure to pack enough water and food for this hike. Bringing a picnic and enjoying lunch at the end of the trail isn’t a bad way to spend an afternoon.

Know Before You Go

The Awa’awapuhi Trail connects with the Nu’alolo Trail. If you’re keen, opt to complete the entire circle and enjoy views from both sides of the valley. The entire loop clocks in at 10.5 miles.

If you reach the end of the trail to find the coastline covered in fog, wait it out. We sat at the bottom for 30 minutes and we were rewarded with several clear shots of the cliffs.

Awa'awapuhi Trail in Kauai

Distance

Awa’awapuhi Trail is 6.7 miles out and back.

As with the majority of hikes on this list, the first half of the trek will be downhill, while the second half is a climb back up.

Elevation Gain & Difficulty

With a drop of 2,100 feet in elevation, this hike is not necessarily for beginners. However, with the right equipment and mindset, I believe this hike can be accomplished by people of various fitness levels.

3. Pihea Vista Trail

If you’re looking for a shorter hike similar to the Kalepa Ridge Trail, Pihea Vista Trail is the one for you.

Pihea Vista Trail offers spectacular views of Kalalau Valley straight away. Rather than hiking for miles, you’ll be able to spot the Nāpali Coast within the first few steps of this trek.

Kalepa Ridge Trail - Pihea Trail

I can’t stress enough how important it is to arrive at the trailhead for Pihea Vista Trail early.

Not only will you avoid the flocks of tourists who arrive in the early afternoon, but you’ll also give yourself a better chance of having clear skies and a perfect view of the coastline. The parking lot has limited parking spaces, so arriving before 8:30 am is your best bet to secure a spot.

Know Before You Go

If you want to add to the hike, I suggest taking the path to Alakai Swamp. The best part about adding Alakai Swamp to your trek is seeing Kilohana Lookout at the end of the trail. These views are indescribable.

Distance

Pihua Vista Trail is a 2.3-mile out-and-back trail.

Elevation Gain & Difficulty

The elevation gain on this trail is 450 feet, which isn’t nearly as drastic as other hikes on the list.

Note: There are very slippery sections on this trail and there is a bit of scrambling up rocks at the end. If it has been raining, I would suggest rescheduling your trek for a drier day.

4. Honopu Ridge Trail

Quite possibly the most off-the-beaten-path hike on the Nāpali Coast is Honopu Ridge Trail.

This unmaintained path is the perfect adventure for thrill-seekers and boasts heart-stopping views of both Kalalau and Honopu Valley.

Like many other hikes on the Nāpali Coast, make your way to the end of the trail for the rewarding sights.

The first mile and a half will require a bit of climbing through overgrown weeds, shrubs, and down trees. In many places, the trail is not well-defined; follow the worn path to the left to continue on your journey.

The views at the end are perfect, although many trekkers opt to continue on past the trail barrier.

In my opinion, the risk is not worth the reward. Beyond the trail’s end, the path becomes very sketchy. You can enjoy the same sights back at the trail barrier.

Start your trek early to avoid fog and to sneak a peek of Honopu Beach thousands of feet below. If it starts to rain, consider turning back and saving this adventure for another day.

Know Before You Go

The best way to prepare for Honopu Ridge Trail is by wearing a long-sleeved t-shirt and long pants. Although the temperatures can skyrocket in mid-afternoon, you’ll protect yourself from inevitable scratches from overgrown weeds.

Distance

Honopu Ridge is a 4.5-mile out-and-back trail.

Elevation Gain & Difficulty

The elevation gain on Honopu Ridge Trail hovers around 1600 feet.

I do not recommend this hike for children or anyone with a fear of heights. The trail narrows in many places with steep drop-offs just steps away.

Honopu Ridge Trail is one of the most difficult hikes on Kauai.

Regardless of distance, this route requires climbing, navigating, and endurance. Many hikers end up crawling back up the trail from the viewpoint because of its steep grade.

I recommend this trail for adventurers and experienced hikers.

5. Kalalau Trail

Are you up for a beastly hike that wraps around the entire Nāpali Coast?

The Kalalau Trail is famous for being one of the best hikes in the entire world and the perfect alternative to the Kalepa Ridge Trail. If you’re up for the challenge, I highly suggest adding this trek to your Kauai bucket list.

The most important detail you should know about the Kalalau Trail is that you MUST have a reservation to hike.

Due to erosion and recent landslips, the Kalalau Trail is fragile. They are strictly limiting the number of people who can venture out each day.

Kalepa Ridge Trail Alternative Hikes - Kalalau Trail

If you plan on camping at Kalalau Beach, which is HIGHLY recommended, you must have a permit for this, too.

Reserve your hiking spot by visiting this website: Kalalau Trail

After reserving hiking permits, begin your trek at Ke’e beach, found at the end of the road on the north shore of Kauai. Some hikers choose to boat or kayak to Hanakapi’ai Beach (the halfway point), but I suggest hiking the entire trail instead.

After the halfway point at Hanakapi’ai Beach, you’ll reach Hanakapi’ai Falls. This is a great place to stop for a shady break.

Know Before You Go

Water shoes are very helpful when hiking Kalalau Trail. You’ll encounter muddy trails, waterfalls, various beaches.

Distance

At a total distance of 22 miles, this out-and-back trail is strictly for avid hikers.

Elevation Gain & Difficulty

With 6,200 feet of elevation gain, Kalalau Trail is not for the faint of heart.

Take extreme caution when crossing Crawler’s Ledge, a very narrow section of the trail. Since the recent landslides on the north shore, this hike has been poorly maintained.

Thin trails and sketchy footing is the perfect recipe for disaster. Check out the video below for a detailed look at Crawler’s Ledge (eep!).

Note: For the majority of this trek, you’ll be exposed to the sun. The Kauai humidity is quick to dehydrate, so be sure to come prepared with a lot of water and snacks. Start your journey as early in the morning as possible to avoid the afternoon heat.

A Note About The Kalepa Ridge Trail

I have read several articles and conversations about the closure of the Kalepa Ridge Trail. Many travelers suggest hopping the fence and conquering the hike anyway.

Here are my two cents:

I have listed five different Nāpali Coast hikes above. Many of them are extremely dangerous and yet they remain open to the public.

If the Kalepa Ridge Trail is closed due to the danger it poses to visitors, it must be pretty risky. As an avid hiker, I’ve learned to always take the advice of the locals, professionals, and park rangers.

For even more alternatives and Kauai bucket list items, check out: The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook: Kauai Revealed.

This is the perfect guidebook for first or second-time visitors to the island. It includes hiking maps, dining tips, tour information, and much more.

Kalepa Ridge Trail

The Wrap-Up: Kalepa Ridge Trail Alternative Hikes

Although the Kalepa Ridge Trail remains closed indefinitely, there are a handful of other hikes in the area that will bring you along the Nāpali Coastline.

Don’t miss out on the chance to bask in the beauty of the Kalalau Valley and craggy Kauai cliffs.

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