“Why do we even hike?!?”
Yup. That’s the question Tomer asked as we were in the middle of our hike on the Pihea Trail in Kauai.
“Because it’s fun!!” Was John’s response, much to the amusement of the other hikers behind us.
At this point, we were hiking in Kauai on a fairly steep section of the trail (steeper than the photo below because, well…just keep reading). The section was made up of “steps” created from previous hikers who did this trail on a MUCH wetter day.
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Hiking the Pihea Trail in Kauai
Garrett was whining because he was – not hungry, not tired, not hurt – nope, none of those reasonable complaints. He was DIRTY. For. The. Love…. He hated that his hands were dirty and, more likely the biggest concern, his beloved Merrill’s were slightly muddy. Clearly, he was not having fun with the rest of us.
In his defense, we read in the guide books that a lot of the mud on Kauai is red and will stain. We told him to wear clothes that didn’t matter that day. AND, his white rash guard HAD been stained at the beach earlier in the week one from the sand and dirt.
So, in his mind, his precious Merrill’s were about to be permanently ruined. No pep talks, promises of washing, or even replacing, if needed, were going to change his mind about this hike. Probably 3/4 of it was peppered with his little voice, saying “I hate this hike…can we go back now?!” Thankfully, he enjoyed at least part of the hike (the beginning and the end – ha!)
However, the rest of us were in awe of the beautiful vistas we encountered along the entire hike. We heard that if we only did one hike in Waimea Canyon, this should be it. We wholeheartedly agree…this Kauai hike was stunning!
Distance and Intensity
This trail takes you along the rim of the Kalalau Valley with gorgeous vistas along most of the trail. Altogether, the hike is approximately 2 miles (unless you decide to continue on to the Alaka’i Swamp Trail) and moderate in intensity. Therefore, it is just about the perfect combo for our kids’ ability, at 7 and 9. Eventually, we hope we can increase that distance, but we adjust as needed…such is life!
How to Find
To find this trail, head up Waimea Canyon Road and go all the way to the end of the road. It dead-ends at the Pu’u O Kila Lookout. There is a decent size parking area there, and we found a spot fairly quickly on a Friday morning. However, we recommend going as early as you can. Parking will be easier to find. Plus, your hike will be more comfortable!!
It is cooler up here in the canyon than in the lower elevations. However, mid-day is still quite toasty. If it’s overcast or wet, you will want to have a light rain jacket or windbreaker handy.
Head to the lookout area and follow the signs to the beginning of the trail. Keep your eyes out for wooden hiking sticks – there were some when we returned that would have been helpful!
Keep in mind this hike is perfect on a dry day. However, if it’s very rainy, not only will your going get tough (and likely VERY muddy), but your views may suffer. If it’s raining in the canyon the day you try to go, we suggest rescheduling if you can. That said, if you’re up for a little adventure, don’t mind getting dirty and are okay if your views may be cloudy, then go for it!! I’m sure it would make for an unforgettable hike! Also, we hear it’s very common for the clouds to move quickly. So, you may have a cloudy view one minute and then watch them move out of the way right in front of you to reveal a killer view!
The dirt in this area is mostly clay-like and is somewhat red (so, I guess G-man wasn’t totally wrong to be concerned). Overall, the hike isn’t too strenuous (when it’s dry) – our 9-year-old did it with ease, but be aware that it will be a lot more challenging if your kiddo is under 5 or in a hiking backpack. In particular, there is one very muddy area, even on a dry day. There are planks to cross, but even portions of the planks are muddy.
If we were to go hiking in Kauai again on the Pihea Trail, we would toss our lunch in our backpacks and stop at one of the lookouts with a larger opening to picnic. However, it still worked out just fine for us to eat back at the car as everyone was hungry at the end of the hike.
Final Thoughts About Hiking the Pihea Trail
If you persist (well, let’s be real – if your kids persist), you are rewarded with incredible views that stretch to the ocean. And, the rewards, my friend – the views, the waterfalls, the mountains. THAT is why we “even hike.”
P.S. Just in case you were wondering, Garrett’s shoes came perfectly clean.
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