KALALAU VALLEY, Hawaii // Sore. But worth it. I'm glad I did the trek but I don't know if I would do again. The views were spectacular and the beauty of the mountains took my breath away at times but the amount of narrow trails with high cliff exposure also equally made my heart pound.
Not only was the 11 mile journey along the coast tough physical terrain of peaks, valleys and stream crossings, it also became mentally exhausting calculating the risks of each step I was taking. The trail was only a foot wide at certain points and you had to watch where you placed every foot along the trail which was always either // rocky, muddy, sandy, wet, slippery, steep, narrow, flooded, or brush lined. If you were looking at the mountains or valley or taking a picture you had to be standing still.
The trail safety is also extremely dependent on weather which is always unpredictable on the coast. We hiked in with blue skies and sunshine thankfully but were not so lucky on our way out. We hit rain the last 7 miles and since there is no cell service on the coast we didn’t find out until we made it back to the parking lot that they had actually closed Kalalau trail the day we exited due to abnomrally high water levels and bad trail conditions. We were cautious coming out and I never felt in immediate danger but I was extremely thankful to step my muddy boot back in the parking lot with no major injuries or incidents to speak of.
I think others are not so lucky. Mile 7 is the most dangerous and one wrong move and you could find yourself down a 100 foot cliff with nothing but rocks to cushion your fall and the ocean waves breaking against the shore to catch you at the bottom. Some people hike the trail alone and at night which seems even more risky in my opinion. If you do roll an ankle you would be reliant on another hiker happening to come along and have a satellite phone and be able to get you to one of the emergency exit helipads located every 3-4 miles along the trial. Thats a lot of ifs to be reliant on when your life could potentially be on the line.
But like I said in the beginning I’m glad I did it. It was worth the risk if only once to see the paper thin ridge lines fold down the mountains, the pristine waterfalls, the turquoise water, exotic birds and lush forests. The fact you can only get to Kalalau Valley this time of year hiking makes it worth the risk because it is one of the few hidden gems left in this world that is untouched by commercial tourism. Boats and helicopters are not aloud to drop people off in these locations except in the summer months.
I will say the most annoying part of the entire trip was the helicopters. We must have seen 20 our first day of hiking. You feel so isolated and alone and then you get buzzed by a helicopter which kind of ruins the “I'm in the middle of nowhere," feel that is so rare these days. I will say though that if something had gone wrong I think having them around to signal for help would have been extremely convenient.
Priceless memories and to me a once in a lifetime experience but not worth your life. Haiku’s inspired by the trek:
- Kalalau Trail // Secluded trail hikes, Climbing over the valleys, Alone together
- Kalalau sun wars // Golden rays pierce through, Ocean mist battles the light, Horizon conquers
- Check ++ // Beachside bonfire, Water falling down the cliffs, Palm tree breeze