Kuilau Ridge Trail

We went hiking this past Sunday on the Kuilau Ridge trail, perhaps the most underrated trail on Kauai. Big hikers rarely go there because it’s an easy out-and-back trail, less than two miles each way, with 600 feet of elevation gain in all. It starts at the Arboratum at the end of Highway 580 in Wailua, or at least the end of the pavement.

Trailhead sign that also forbids commercial activity and warns hikers about hunters

This is the furthest road inland on the East side, though only 5.5 miles inland and still 5.0 miles from Mt Waialeale. The trail goes north-east, towards the Makaleha mountains in the photo above. It’s the combination of mountain views and lush tropical forest on the ridges that makes this hike so worthwhile, rain or shine. You even see some of the native vegetation, such as the carpet of uluhe, false staghorn fern, and the large ohia lehua tree at the top of this picture:

Rolling red dirt trail on a gentle ridge overlooking lush green valleys

Here’s a view of the picnic shelter at the high point of a very gradual climb. The tallest tree in this photo is a non-native Moluccan Albezia, whose green canopies and light trunks give that jungle look to all the wet areas of the island. The Makaleha mountains are close behind.

A typical State of Hawaii picnic table under a flat corrugated roof shelter and the Makaleha mountains beyond

The trail is an easy road to here and then turns into a easy single track winding up and down to a bridged stream crossing. The topo map says this is the Opaekaa stream, the one that flows spectacularly over Opaekaa falls 3 miles downstream.

A large and sturdy bridge across a tiny stream not even visible through the vegetation.

I recommend going all the way to the bridge before turning around, and even further for some more views if you have the time. The trail is then known as the Moalepe trail that connects to the apex of Olohena road 2.5 miles further–contrary to what the sign says, there is no closer parking area. So you can make it a much longer hike if you want, but it is not as lush and open as the Kuilau Ridge Trail, and the last mile is an unshaded rocky road.

Printed from: http://great-hikes.com/blog/pure-speculation/.
© 2018.

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