Not too long ago, Berty and I spent a week exploring Kauai.
This island is the oldest of the Hawaiian chain of islands so it is filled with dense forest, carved landscapes, and stunning beaches in every direction.
We decided to take advantage of Kauai’s adventurous spirit and hike the Kalepa Ridge Trail in the Koke’e/Waimea State Park.
Hiking The Kalepa Ridge Trail
- Distance: 1.6 miles out-and-back (though, we definitely think it’s longer)
- Level: Intermediate
- Open: Year-round, though May-September is best for less rainy conditions.
*Disclaimer: Despite the unexpected rain and our choice to continue the hike, we don’t actually recommend you go in under the same conditions.
Afterward, we learned from locals that the ecosystem is very delicate here (brittle volcanic rock/soil and unstable ground) and damage can be amplified in poor weather. We noticed our footsteps were wearing on the path.
If you decide to take this hike, plan to come when the path is dry.
To get here, set your GPS directions to the Kalalau Lookout on Koke’e Road in the Waimea Canyon State Park. Here, there is plenty of parking available.
Just off the parking lot, you can take pictures of the Ka’a’Alahina Ridge from the lookout, but we decided to get a closer look and take the hike. The Kalepa Ridge trail is an unofficial trail, which means it’s unmarked.
Look for a gate along the lookout fence and there should be a small dirt path. That’s your trail entrance!
The trail immediately begins with a challenge.
Prepare to get down on all fours to climb down the steep trail. You can also bring a set of hiking poles to help you balance.
We continued this way for the first 30-40 minutes (though, it was raining so we took things very slow).
The trail never gets easy for an extended period of time, so prepare for a strenuous adventure!
Discover Another Amazing Hike: Mount Storm King in the Olympic National Park
You may not be able to tell from the photo above, but this trail is at a very steep angle.
Because of the delicate ecosystem around us, we were a little apprehensive to use plants as support so we took the trail very slowly.
If necessary, use an established branch, or test a root before supporting your body weight onto it.
After about 20 minutes of climbing down on our hands and knees, we were rewarded with our first sight of the Ka’a’Alahina Ridgeline.
Read More: Our Complete Travel Photography Gear List
Most of the trail is exposed to the side of the cliff. Be very careful here and make sure you always have stable footing.
There are some areas of the trail with nothing between you and a 1000-ft drop!
During our hike, we experienced a lot of really intense on-and-off rain showers. The rain would come in piercing droplets paired with 50-mph winds on the exposed ridge.
On the other hand, the sun would break through the clouds every now and then, and reveal incredible rainbows. We probably saw at least 7 on this hike alone!
Before we get too far into this post, we want you to know that it’s perfectly okay to not finish a hike.
There are a lot of reasons to turn back: weather conditions, health, ability, just because; the list goes on. You know your body and what it’s capable of. Enjoy the journey and just have fun!
More USA Hikes: The Amazing Black Elk Peak Hike & Fire Lookout, South Dakota
While hiking the Kalepa Ridge Trail, we got pretty dirty.
Like we mentioned above, there were times where we needed to be on our hands and knees on the trail to stop ourselves from slipping. Also, note that this dirt does NOT come out of your clothes.
This hike was beautiful every step of the way.
The ridge was revealed to us often throughout the hike, and there was sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean, Kalalau Valley, and surrounding ridges.
You can also see this view from the sky (and obviously at a different perspective) if you decide to take a Kauai Helicopter Tour.
If you are thinking about trying this, read this post about our helicopter experience to see more pictures and read about why we think it’s worth it!
Worth it? Definitely.
In summary, we strongly recommend hiking the Kalepa Ridge Trail! Keep in mind the weather, prepare for a challenging journey, and pack the right equipment to make your hike a great memory for years to come.
Read More: 11 Epic Things You Should Do In Kauai
Have you hiked Kalepa Ridge Trail? What advice would you give other hikers attempting the trail?
Follow our Kauai Pinterest Board for more island inspiration!
Read More Hawaii Adventures
Want to find the best places in the PNW?
Stop searching through internet noise and download our curated list just for you.
Enter your email below and we'll send you your PNW Bucket List!