The Kalalau Trail is a trail along Nā Pali Coast of the island of Kauai in the state of Hawaii. The strenuous trail runs approximately 11 miles (18 km) along the island's north shore from Keʻe Beach to the Kalalau Valley. Expert hikers can complete the roundtrip 22 mile trek as a day hike, but the average hiker requires a two-day minimum and will camp along the trail. Camping is only permitted on the beach at Hanakoa Valley (6 mile mark) and Kalalau Beach.
The trail is located in Nā Pali Coast State Park and access is controlled for the purpose of conservation. A limited number of permits are issued for camping in Kalalau Valley every year. In spite of the efforts of the state of Hawaiʻi, many people camp at Kalalau Beach without permits.
The trail is notable for its remoteness, beauty, difficult terrain and dangers. Backpacker Magazine listed it as one the "10 Most Dangerous Hikes" in the US. Outside magazine rated it as one of "The 20 Most Dangerous Hikes" in the world.
The first section of the trail is a two-mile (3 km) stretch from Keʻe Beach to Hanakapiai stream and beach. This section is moderately strenuous and doesn't require a camping permit. The next section connects Hanakapiai stream to Hanakoa Valley, six miles from the trailhead. To continue past Hankapiai Beach to Hanakoa Valley you need to obtain a camping permit from the DLNR. No day-use permits will be issued, only hikers/backpackers with valid camping permits may legally proceed beyond the sign. Violators of this policy may be cited, and those cited will be required to show up in court. Violation of this rule is a petty misdemeanor under Hawaiʻi law, and a conviction will result in a criminal record in addition to penalties.
Hanakoa Valley contains Hanakoa Falls and stream but the valley is a hanging valley with no access to the beach. The trail to Hanakoa Falls is not well maintained and sometimes difficult to follow. The trail begins after the Hanakoa stream crossing, just before the covered shelter.
The trail continues on to Kalalau Valley, a large, flat-bottomed valley almost a mile across. After hiking down Red Hill, it is about a half mile to Kalalau Beach requiring crossing Kalalau stream.
Camping permits are only issued for Kalalau Beach and are limited to 5 consecutive nights. You must wait 30 days after the end of your permit dates to get another permit. You are allowed to camp at Hanakoa Valley one night with a valid Kalalau permit.
Kalalau Valley has a fair number of permanent and semi-permanent "residents" who are illegal squatters. They set up camps both up the valley and in the regular campground. Enforcement rangers have unsuccessfully tried to rid the valley of the illegal inhabitants. If you are caught camping without a permit, you will be issued a citation that requires a court appearance and a fine of up to $500.
The cost of permits is currently $20 a day per person out of state and $15 a day for Hawaii residents.
The most strenuous part of the hike occurs after Hanakapiai Beach where the trail climbs from sea level to 800 feet over 1 1/4 miles.
The dangers of the trail are significant. There are three major stream crossings (Hanakapiai, Hanakoa and Kalalau) that can rise rapidly. Exercise extreme caution when water levels rise. They can rise and fall rather rapidly, so best to wait, rather than to risk your life.
There are also narrow portions, especially after Hanakoa. The 7th mile of the trail is known to be especially dangerous. This includes the infamous "crawler's ledge", an especially uneven and narrow ledge against the cliff, as well as a rather long set of switchbacks immediately preceding it. This section could be very treacherous, especially when it has rained heavily as the trail turns into a mudslide. One slip can result in serious injury or death.
STATE AND KAUAI COUNTY RELEASE KALALAU TRAIL SAFETY VIDEO Designed to Inform Hikers About Preparation and Risks
The Kalalau Trail in the Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park is likely the most heavily used hiking trail in Hawaii. An estimated 500,000 visitors and residents use the spectacular trail each year. Sandwiched between the ocean and the towering cliffs of the Na Pali Coast, the trail is widely featured in guide books, on travel websites and in blogs.
“There’s little doubt the Kalalau Trail is one of the crown jewels of the entire system of Hawaii State Parks,” said Dan Quinn, administrator of the DLNR Division of State Parks. “Due to its immense popularity, hikers often arrive at the trailhead without having made the proper preparations for what ultimately is a pretty tough trek, especially for beginning hikers,” Quinn went on to say.
The six-minute-long video, produced by DLNR in cooperation with the Kauai County Fire Department and Civil Defense Agency, highlights some of the challenges hikers might face on the Kalalau Trail. It focuses on the first two miles of the hike to Hanakapiai Stream, which is the length the majority of hikers make. A state permit is required to traverse beyond Hanakapiai Stream or Hanakapiai Falls. The entire trail is 11 miles long and those wanting to go beyond Hanakapiai can obtain permits from the Division of State Parks.
Notable accidents along the trail
In April 2014 The Kauai Fire Department had to rescue 121 hikers over a two-day period when several streams became impassable because of heavy rain.
In February 2014 another woman drowned when she attempted to cross Hanakoa stream during heavy rains and flash flooding.
DO NOT hike this trail when it is closed. In December 2014 62 hikers who ignored the closed trail sign had to be airlifted out by the Kauai Fire Department when several streams became impassable because of heavy rain.
In February 2013 a woman drowned while trying to cross Hanakapiai stream during a flash flood. 54 hikers were stranded overnight.
A fatality occurred in June, 2012 at Kalalau Beach campsite when a 30-year-old woman fell to her death near the beach waterfall.
Another incident occurred in December, 2012 in which a 31-year-old Japanese national was thrown from a cliff along the trail and critically injured, police, firefighters, and officers with the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources closed the Kalalau Trail and conducted a comprehensive four-day sweep of the Kalalau Trail and Kalalau Valley as part of a search for the alleged perpetrator, Justin Wynn Klein. Despite evading capture in the Kalalau Valley, Klein was apprehended in Wailua on April 6, 2013 and subsequently indicted for attempted second-degree murder.
Photographs and Images
Edited version of a high resolution USGS topographical chart of the Kalalau Trail. On the left portion of the image the Kalalau Valley below 800 feet elevation is shown. Also, a portion of the Kalalau Trail is shown as a black line. On the top right portion of the image the end of the paved road is shown as a black line.
- America's 10 Most Dangerous Hikes - Kalalau Trail, Kauai, HI | Backpacker Magazine
- The 20 Most Dangerous Hikes - Outside Magazine
- Hawaii State Parks > Hiking > Kauai > Kalalau Trail
- Hawaii Camping Reservation - Reservations
- Woman falls to death at Kalalau - Thegardenisland.com: Local
- Klein arrested at Lydgate after nearly 4-month manhunt - Thegardenisland.com: Local
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Nā Pali Coast State Park (Kalalau Trail).|
- Hawaii State Parks Brochure
- Koke'e & Kalalau Recreation Map for the iPhone – GPS enabled map of Koke'e and NaPali coast trails
- Hawaii State Parks: Nā Pali Coast State Wilderness Park
- KalalauTrail.com website – photos and information
- Description of trail with photos
- Extensive Journal With Photos