Why you should do it: Stunning trail is perhaps the most beautiful on Kauai and one of the most scenic in the entire world.
Trail Length: 1.6 miles (one way)
Area: Kokee State Park / Waimea Canyon
Difficulty: Moderate when drier, difficult when muddy and during rains.
Kauai’s Kalepa Ridge Trail is perhaps the most beautiful trail on Kauai, and that’s saying a lot on this stunning island. The trail follows the left (western ridge) of the Kalalau Valley as seen from the famous Kalalau Lookout. The lookout is often regarded as Kauai’s most scenic spot, and the Kalepa Ridge Trail offers even more spectacular views of the valley and the Na Pali Coast.
The trail is rated as difficult, but it’s a lot more manageable when dry. There are steep drop offs along the trail, some of as much as 3,000 feet. When wet, these drop offs become an even greater concern as one slip could mean certain doom.
Heavy rains and high winds can appear quickly on this trail so be prepared.
The scenic payoffs are immediate and continuous on this hike. Unlike some other hikes, the spectacular views never let up. The views start out spectacular, and only get better as the trail progresses. (Please note that clouds will often obscure the entire valley. At those times, it’s still a beautiful hike, but much of the best scenery is obscured.)
There’s much to behold on the Kalepa Ridge Trail, including the grandeur of the Kalalau Valley, the Na Pali Coast and the blue ocean beyond. The trail itself offers a kaleidoscope of native vegetation, including ferns and Lama trees. Look for native birds too! In some ways, the trail is reminiscent of scenes of the fictional planet Pandora in the movie Avatar.
The first part of the trail is the steepest. There are three sections that are steep, requiring holding on to branches, roots or even getting down on all fours when conditions are wet. Hiking poles and crampons are highly recommended. Overall, the descent is approximately 600 feet.
The trail levels out a bit after the three sections, allowing you to enjoy the spectacular views of the Kalalau Valley.
Proceed as far on the trail as you feel comfortable. After one prominent viewpoint, the trail becomes steeper again and the trail narrower with precipitous drop offs on both sides.
Kalepa Ridge Trail Photos
Here are some more photos of our hike on Kauai’s Kalepa Ridge Trail! On the way down on the trail we took multiple photos with our iPhone 7 Plus camera. We were holding on tight to the iPhone as one drop could have sent it over the edge and down a 3,000-foot cliff! At the bottom of the trail, we packed the iPhone away in favor of our Canon Powershot G7X Mark II to take the beautiful photos below.
The Kalepa Ridge Trail begins at the Kalalau Lookout. At the lookout, look to the left for the opening in the fence. This is the start of the trail.
The beginning of the trail has similar views as the Kalalau Lookout.
Verdant ferns are found along the trail.
Use extreme caution on this trail. One slip could be the end.
The Kalepa Ridge Trail is a favorite spot for Instagram photos and other photos and videos.
Don’t go on this trail if you’re afraid of heights.
Looking almost straight down!
Some experienced travelers say the shrouded mountain views remind them of the trail to Machu Picchu.
Beautiful views of the Kalalau Valley.
The farther down the trail you go, the farther you can see down the Na Pali Coast. The Makana Mountain Range near Ke’e Beach is visible from this viewpoint.
Andrew Hewitt of Kauai Hiking Adventures was the guide for our hike on the Kalepa Ridge Trail in September 2018. Andrew, a former math teacher, is a friendly, personable and professional guide who is knowledgeable about all things Kauai. We highly recommend Andrew for your next adventure on the island.
Andrew brought along some Hillsound Trail Crampons (above in the photo) for our hike on the Kalepa Ridge Trail, and the crampons turned out to be “game changers.” As Andrew stated, they’re like four-wheel drive for your feet.
Everyone in our party were seasoned hikers, but these crampons proved invaluable in navigating the slippery trail. It would have been a much different hike without them. The Hillsound Trail Crampons are highly recommended for slippery or muddy trails such as Kalepa Ridge.