Thursday, September 28, 2017

Best Hike in the Universe: Kauai's Alakai Swamp

The most popular hike in Hawaii is the Kalalau Trail, which starts on the north shore and squiggles the Napali (cliffs) for 11 miles before ending at the Kalalau Valley (above). But the best hike in the universe (at least there is none better) starts at the rim of the valley, just above Waimea Canyon, and travels four miles through a rainforest swamp to a platform (the Kilohana Overlook) that is perched on a 4,000-foot ridge.

The first section of the trail will dissuade the casual hiker. 

A water crossing can present a problem during heavy rains, but it is usually a cinch.

So lace up your mud shoes, bring a hiking pole, and make sure the waterproof jacket is packed.

Most of the Alakai Swamp trail is a breeze, thanks to a fantastic boardwalk.  Stairs, ramps, and bridges—it's magic.

One trail junction is clearly signed, a side trail that comes up from Koke'e State Park. The rainforest was a respite for Queen Emma, who made many journeys into the greenery to find solace after the death of her husband, King Kamehameha IV. You need to stop in places to pick up the details of the plant life.

The last part of the trek is over the boggy, dwarf vegetation of the swamp.  The biggest danger on this hike is wandering off the boardwalk—if the fog rolls in you are pretty much screwed. Even big-time hiking guides do not venture across the swamp. 

Kauai Trailblazer has more details on this hike and many others above and into Waimea Canyon—this place is an adventure hiker's wonderland, and many of the trails see very few tourists.