Opaekaa Falls Trail Still Closed

Paul writes to ask:

We were also hoping to hike to the bottom of Opaeka’a Falls via the short, standard trail/route that starts just upstream of the falls. However, I recently found out that the state closed this trail because two women fell to their deaths from the top late last year. Are folks still using this trail? Is the state serious about enforcing this closure? I have never been a fan of blanket trail closures by the authorities in an attempt to “save competent outdoors folks from ourselves”. Any insight you could provide on the status of the Opaeka’a Falls Trail would be greatly appreciated.

Here is a Honolulu Star Bulletin article about the closure.

The public land around Opaeka’a Falls is still closed by special decree of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources. Personally, I feel the closure is unwarranted, though I have been too busy to address my concerns to the state or even to blog about it. I don’t know what it would take to get it open again. When it was open, it wasn’t even a real trail and certain sections are hazardous, I guess it was just too close to the road and too easy for non-experienced hikers to get into dangerous situations.

OpaekaaFence1

The photo above shows the fence and signs that the state installed all along the trailhead area (with a memorial to the women). I have seen state rangers there enforcing the closure, and I assume fining the people they find. However, looking at these photos I took a while ago, there is no mention that the area is off limits. I have heard that residents nearby, for whatever reason, report cars parked there, so you don’t have much of a chance of sneaking in.

OpaekaaFence2

I think the DLNR made a big mistake installing the fence. It is obviously easy to hop over or go around. If you went around on the left side, you’d end up on the right trail. But if you went around on the right side as it looks possible to do in the photo above, you would find yourself on the steep slope with slippery vegetation that is precisely the spot where the women fell to their deaths.

One website I found suggests hiking to the falls from the bottom, after kayaking up the Opaekaa stream from the Wailua River. I have paddled up there, but the stream is blocked by trees in a way that seems to make it impossible to just get out and walk. There may be a way to hack through or maybe land elsewhere and walk up, but I haven’t found it.

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© 2014.

5 Comments   »

  1. Michael says:

    It still puzzles me how these ladies died. The directions I read many years ago led me no where near the top of the falls. Granted, the ‘trail’ is a bit rugged and clearly not defined but I continue to take new visitors to Kauai down to the bottom each time I go to Kauai twice a year. The people living in the houses across from the pullout will preach and scream at you that it is closed. Anyone that uses common sense and respects the land can safely hike this trail – including my friends who are both in their seventies! They felt this hike was the best part of their trip to Kauai. The peaceful serenity while at the bottom is indescribable. The State is wrong to ‘close’ the trail. My suggestion would be to have someone drop a few people off then return for a pick up later so one would not have a car parked at the trailhead.

  2. Kimo says:

    I think the trail should be open also for the many responsible and able hikers only if the state could be protected from law suits on all of the hiking trails throughout the state. The state is currently being sued by the families of those two women who fell to their deaths and that I feel is absolutely wrong. We as adults should take responsibility for our own decisions and actions.

  3. Dan says:

    Why bother…? There are countless waterfalls/hikes to visit here. So what if you think you are competent, the idea is to save the lives of those who are completely clueless.

  4. Jacquie says:

    This is an extreamly late post to those who DID not know the female hikers…..
    These ladies had hiking experienc and FOLLOWED the trail directions…..ALSO…they were NOT the first to have an accident falling from that area!
    BEFORE you post get ALL the info!!

  5. Andy says:

    Hi Jacquie, you bring up some good points, but I think you’re over-reacting to the “clueless” comment. I never did write up my opinion of the whole matter, but to summarize: the ladies were not experienced at hiking on Kaua’i (most visitors aren’t) and were misguided by poorly written directions in the Ultimate Kaua’i Guide book. I place most of the blame on the authors of that guidebook. If you’d like to elaborate on your comment, feel free to reply or email me: andy a t great-hikes dot com.

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