UPDATE - The Backpackers Guide to Hawai`i



Type: Mountain

Length: 2 days, 18.6 mi one-way

Elev. Gain/Loss: 900/4,500 ft

Difficulty: High

Location: Kaua`i: Na Pali-Kona Forest Reserve

Topo Map: Ha`ena, Waimea Canyon, Kekaha



Reopened in 2001, this route is a superb two-day continuation of the Mohihi-Koai`e trip. Featured are more swamp hiking, a lovely meadow campsite, and a long, rugged descent into lower Waimea Canyon.



See the Mohihi-Koai`e trip. Arrange to be picked up at the end of Menehune Rd. in Waimea town. Do not leave a car at that trailhead overnight.


Trailhead Directions - Menehune Rd.

Distance: (Lihu`e Airport to Menehune Rd.) - 27 mi
Driving Time: 1 hr

Exit Lihu`e Airport on Ahukini Rd. (Rte 570).
Continue straight across the intersection with Kapule Hwy.
Ahukini Rd. ends. Turn left on Kuhio Hwy (Rte 56).
Drive through Lihu`e Town.
Turn right on Kaumuali`i Hwy (Rte 50).
Pass a sugar mill on the left.
Pass Kaua`i Community College on the right.
Pass the towns of Lawa`i and Kalaheo.
Pass the Hanapepe River overlook on the right.
Drive through the towns of `Ele`ele and Hanapepe.
Pass the Russian fort on the left.
Cross Waimea River and enter Waimea Town.
By the police station and Big Save Store, turn right on Menehune Rd.
Pass the ruins of the Menehune Ditch on the left and a small suspension bridge on the right.
Reach the road end at Waimea River.


DAY THREE - Koai`e Camp to Wai`alae Cabin

Length: 6.0 mi
Elev. Gain/Loss: 600/800 ft.

Today's hike follows an old trail through Alaka`i Swamp reopened by volunteers in 2001. The route has been officially closed since late 1982 when hurricane `Iwa devastated the area. You can still see uprooted tree trunks left by `Iwa and a subsequent hurricane, `Iniki.

Although open, the trail is still obscure in spots. Follow the directions closely. The route may be marked with surveyor's ribbons, but don't count on them.

There are two crucial junctions you cannot afford to miss if you want to complete the route in two days. The first is the right turn by the uprooted tree. The second is the left turn just past the sugi grove. Watch closely for those two junctions.

Wai`alae Streaam can rise and fall quickly depending on the weather upstream. If the water is much above your knees, don't attempt to cross. Climb back up the ridge and camp on top.

The remote meadow campsite at Cowboy Flats has a lovely setting next to Wai`alae Stram. Facilities include a compost toilet, a covered picnic table, and an unlocked rustic cabin, which has seen better days. The stream provides deep swimming holes and tea-colored drinking water, which should be boiled, filtered, or chemically treated. On weekends you may share the area with a few pig hunters and their horses.


Route Description:

From the shack proceed away from Koai`e Stream, keeping the campsites on the left.
By a fallen tree trunk bear right and up on the continuation of the Mohihi-Wai`alae Trail.
Cross a short, muddy section through blackberry.
Climb steeply up a ridge, first on the left and then on the right side. To the right are views down Koai`e Canyon.
As the ridge levels off, wind along its top on a more open trail.
Descend gradually to a saddle and then climb again, partly through uluhe ferns.
The ridge levels off again with a few small ups and downs.
The trail shifts to the right side off the ridge briefly.
Pass a small overlook on the left. Below is Koai`e Stream and in the distance is Wai`ale`ale.
Almost immediately descend steeply and cross a narrow neck in the ridge.
About 40 minutes beyond the neck, turn right off the ridge by the base of an uprooted tree.
Descend steeply through grass and cross a small stream.
After crossing, bear left and angle up out of the gulch.
Reach the top of another ridge and turn right along it.
Swing to the right side of the ridge passing an overlook.
Descend very gradually down the broad, heavily-wooded ridge, known as Kaluaha`ulu, for a long stretch.
Descend briefly off the ridgeline, cross a tiny stream, and climb back to the ridge. Watch out for thorny blackberry in this section.
Pass through several grassy areas.
Walk through a small sugi cedar grove.
After passing a second, larger sugi grove, reach an unmarked junction. Keep left and down on the well-worn Mohihi-Wai`alae Trail. (To the right and up is the less-used Kaluaha`ulu-Wai`alae Trail, which continues along Kaluaha`ulu Ridge.)
Descend the side of the ridge on seven switchbacks to Wai`alae Stream.
Cross the stream to reach Wai`alae Cabin and campsite situated in a lovely meadow, called Cowboy Flats.


DAY FOUR - Wai`alae Cabin to Waimea town

Length: 12.6 mi
Elev. Gain/Loss: 300/3,700 ft

After the initial climb out of Cowboy Flats, the route today is mostly downhill. Past Kalehuahakihaki peak the trail breaks out of the forest on a ridge paralleling Waimea Canyon. The views are spectacular, but the walk is long, hot, and dusty. Bring plenty of water as there is none between Loli River and Waimea Canyon.

The Waimea River is wide, and can run fast and deep after a heavy rain. Be extra careful on the three river crossings.


Route Description:

Just past the covered picnic table pick up the Pu`u Ki-Wai`alae Trail, which climbs out of the meadow.
Contour above Wai`alae Stream through a muddy, but scenic section.
Cross a small side stream.
Descend into a gulch on several switchbacks, cross another side stream, and climb out.
Traverse a level area.
Descend to Loli River and ford it.
Pass a fence line on the left.
The trail jogs left and then right to avoid a blowdown.
Descend along Kapukapaia Ridge, gradually at first and then more steeply.
The trail swings right and then comes back left around Kalehuahakihaki peak.
Go through a stand of ginger.
Descend steeply through an eroded section. The deep gully alongside is the abandoned trail route.
On the right pass a campsite with a view of Hihinui Falls.
Descend gradually along the eroded ridge for a long stretch toward Pu`u Ki.
Just before reaching the pu`u, pass a campsite on the right in a flat, eroded area.
Just past Pu`u Ki, reach an unmarked junction. Continue straight down the ridge on the Mokihana Stream Trail. (To the right the Pu`u Ki-Wai`alae Trail leads down to Kekaha Ditch and Waimea Canyon.)
Continue to descend the ridge, now narrow and rocky.
In a small saddle bear left off the ridge.
Switchback once and descend to Mokihana Stream.
Turn right downstream and cross the stream seven times.
Climb above the stream briefly and then descend.
Ford the stream three more times.
Just after the third crossing reach a junction with the dirt road in Waimea Canyon. Turn left on the road.
Cross Waimea River three times.
After the third crossing reach the end of Menehune Rd. in Waimea Town.


Last Update: 01/27/02

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