According to Napoleon Bonaparte, “Victory belongs to the most persevering.” The Okolehao Trail is challenging, but victory comes with mountain top views for those with this Bonaparte spirit.
Also known as the Hanalei River Trail and the Hihimanu Trail, the Okolehao Trail is a 2.8 miles out-and-back hike. The trail winds up the Hihimanu Ridge, and it is rated moderate to intermediate due to ascending 856-1,200 feet, often in muddy conditions. The average gradient of the trail is 13%, while the steepest sections are 38%.
The trail is open year-round and is free. You’ll climb through the lush jungle on well-traversed trails with several scenic overlooks along the way. Mesh covers portions of the path to help hikers get a sure footing and to prevent further erosion. There is parking for about 10-12 cars near the trailhead, and dogs are allowed if leashed. Although the Okolehao Trail is not as congested as other hikes on Kauai, we suggest starting early to avoid the heat and to get a parking spot.
Even if you’re not an experienced hiker, the lower portions of the Okolehao Trail are doable. We will discuss those in more detail later.
Rain is frequent on this side of Kauai, so we suggest hiking when trails have had time to dry. Even after a few days of sunshine, the trail will still be damp and muddy in places. Some hikers reported that even after sunny days, the mud is present and can even get mushy in areas.
If you plan on hiking the entire route, factor 5-6 hours to finish. The shorter options could take anywhere from 1-3 hours, depending on one’s ability and the trail conditions.
No matter what segment you hike, here is our list of suggested gear:
- Lightweight hiking boots or trail runners for better traction
- Several bottles of water or hydration drink
- Mosquito repellant/sunscreen
The first lookout is at mile .6, where you’ll get a panoramic view of Princeville and Hanalei Bay. At this point, you will have ascended 430 feet. If conditions are too wet, or you’ve had enough hiking, this is a perfect turnaround spot.
Continue, and you’ll ascend more jungle trails to the second lookout around the 2-mile mark. Enjoy a much-deserved rest on the bench as you take in the sweeping view of Hanalei Bay and Hanalei Pier. On clear days, you can spot Kilauea Lighthouse off in the distance.
If you’re up to the challenge and are an experienced hiker, the next section is calling your name. Although it is a shorter segment, hiking is more challenging. The trail continues upward, and because it is less traveled, it is more overgrown. Near the top, you’ll find a rope you can use to summit the ridgeline. Thankfully, this steep section of the trail is short, but it can be arduous, especially in muddy conditions.
As Napoleon promised, victory awaits those that persevere. Standing atop the ridge, Hanalei Bay will be on one side while the jungle valley is on the other side. Far below in the valley is the Hanalei River twisting its way through the mountain valley. Surrounding you are the mountainous peaks that crown Kauai.
The Okolehao Trail offers experienced hikers a challenging yet rewarding climb with bird-like views atop the Hihimanu Ridge. Novices can safely enjoy lower sections with equally breathtaking views.
-The trailhead and parking of this area start at Ohiki Road where the remains of a dirt road lie.
-Look for walking sticks at the trailhead to help you climb this slippery mountain trail. Since the path can be muddy, bring a change of clothes and towels for afterward.