Alakai Pihea Trail

Hiking Kauai’s Alakai Swamp

Boardwalk Stairs along Alakai Swamp Trail

Hiking on Kauai is one of the best activities you can do with your family. And one of our family favorites is the Pihea Trail Kilohana Lookout. So to end the year we set off to Kokee with friends and family to do just that, Hike into the mist and the bogs of the world’s highest rain forest, The Alakai Swamp and Wilderness Preserve.

Pihea Kilohana Trail Crossing

Crossroads Pihea and Alakai Swamp Trail

The Pihea Trail can be reached from Pu`u o Kila at the end of Highway 550 or if you have access to a four-wheel drive you can start from Mohihi Road Camp 10. The 3 1/2 miles into Kilohana Lookout is a combination of trails, wooden boardwalks, a river crossing, and hundreds of wooden steps up and down, (two-hundred seventy is our count one way). Rain panchos, a warm jacket, ample water, and a picnic lunch are recommended for the list of what to bring. Some of the kids in our group chose bare feet as their preferred footwear, but good hiking boots are suggested. The weather report called for blue skies, but it is always best to go prepared for anything.

Wrapped in our warmest gear (sweatshirt and cheap plastic ponchos) with temperatures dropping into the high 50s, this was as close to a winter wonderland that our Kauai Keiki would experience this Christmas season. Clear skies were needed to view the North Shore and Hanalei Bay at the end of the trail, but secretly the idea of the thick clouds hovering over the bogs and boardwalks of the swamp is what I was looking forward to. Where else on Kauai can you hear, ” I’m walking through the clouds!”

Ohia Blossom Kokee Kauai

Ohia Blossom

Kokee Moss

Moss along trail

Thick moss in every shade of green covers the branches and trunks of the trees, vibrant red blossoms of the ohia trees, and the songs of the ‘elepaio, an endangered bird that is endemic to Kauai, are all part of the magic this hike offers.  As we headed further into the forest of rare plants and birds the skies would tease us with moments of warm and blue and then quickly shroud us in a blanket of mist.

Kokee Ferns KAuai

Laua`e FErn

Alakai Rainbow Kauai

Rainbow over Alakai Swamo

For years this was a trail for hunters and scientists who braved the muck and soggy bogs for a view of Kilohana. It is hard to imagine how this trail was traversed by Queen Emma in 1871. With a wish to see Kilohana and the Hanalei Valley, Queen Emma valiantly rode by horseback from Waimea into the muggy rainforest. At the edge of the swamp, she dismounted her horse and preceded to hike the remainder of the way to the vista on a makeshift boardwalk of moss-covered logs and ferns. On a clear day at the end of the trail, one is rewarded with views of Wainiha Valley, Hanalei Bay, and occasionally even beyond Kilauea Lighthouse. Today would not be one of those clear days, but each time we visit the heart of Kauai we are reminded how diverse, wild, beautiful, and special a place we live. For more Kauai hiking information check out Pihea Trail