An ancient trace, the Powerline Trail evolved into a now-abandoned road shadowing (surprise, surprise) a powerline. Some foolhardy folks might consider trying to drive this reverting-back-to-Nature road in a 4WD. Don’t attempt it: You’ll most likely join the ranks of (foolhardy) drivers who’ve had to be towed back to civilization.
If you’re an experienced hiker with solid wayfinding abilities, a sturdy level of physical fitness, and a shuttle arrangement of one kind or another, the full traverse of the Powerline Trail represents a memorable journey through the interior wilds of northeastern Kauai. Expect jungly stretches that basically count as bushwhacking, and more often than not a lot of muddy, gloppy obstacles.
Otherwise, we suggest sampling the backwoods charm of the Powerline Trail via a shortish ramble on one or the other end of the route. The northerly end near Princeville is the more accessible and generally rewarding as a manageable day hike. This is the way to go if you’re looking for an easier outing, and certainly, if you’ve got kids or more physically limited hikers in your party.
Heading up the Hanalei River, this portion of the trail soon yields (after only a mile or so) nice prospects of the Makaleha Mountains. Those green heights include Mount Hihimanu and Mount Namolokana, and wetter periods tend to be laced by waterfalls.
Those vistas add up to a great turnaround point. If you’re coming from the Keahua Arboretum side, meantime, you’ll ultimately (after five miles or so) land yourself nice sightlines out to the crowning divide of Kauai: the old Mount Waialeale rim, including the island high point of Kawaikini. You’ll also likely enjoy multiple whitewater plunges in your viewshed. That is if the weather cooperates; these are lofty heights that often come cloaked in cloud.
For a goodly portion of its length, the Powerline Trail edges the backcountry of the Halelea Forest Reserve. Don’t be deceived by the relative easiness of the Princeville or Wailua ends of the trail: The bulk of the route, the middle portion, is tangled, mucky, and all-around tough to follow.
But even just sampling the Powerline Trail is rewarding. This is one of those quieter, far-flung hikes that are surprisingly abundant on the small but still quite wild Garden Isle. If you’re tired of the beach crowds or the plentiful company along Kauai’s most popular footpaths, a jaunt on the Powerline Trail may be just what the doctor ordered!
Where Should You Park?
Go ahead and turn off the Princeville Ranch Stable and go to the end of the road. You’ll spot a water tank, with small trails off the main trail.
-As elsewhere in the remoter corners of Kauai, be aware you may run into hunters (and their dogs) on the Powerline Trail.
-If you are tackling the entire length of the Powerline Trail, give yourself an entire day, with a very early start. More than one party attempting the thru-hike has been overtaken by darkness on this slow-going, vegetation-fighting route.