Sleeping Giant

Nounou East Trail: Direct 4-Mile Route Up Sleeping Giant With Big Views
Local Expert's Rating:
4 / 5
The Bottom Line:

The Nounou East Trail is perhaps the most all-around scenic of the three routes up to the top of the Sleeping Giant (aka Nounou Mountain) in the Wailua area. Moderately challenging and a great workout, the route lets you bask in long views from Mount Wailaleale to the mouth of the Wailua River, and also delivers the bragging rights that come with summiting the “Giant.”

- The Local Expert Team

The party-going Sleeping Giant, one Hawaiian story goes, gorged on a big meal of fish and poi to which villagers had sneakily added a bunch of rocks. The Giant got drowsy after his feast, laid down, and sacked out—and he’s been sacked out ever since! It’s not too hard to pick out his skyward-facing profile and reclined body from the coast.

The Sleeping Giant/Noumou Mountain ridge is oriented roughly north to south between the Konohiki Stream on the north and the Wailua River on the south.

About 4 miles round-trip counting the extra summit-crest walk, the Nounou East Trail especially recommends itself as a way to climb the Sleeping Giant because of the many ocean prospects you enjoy heading up the ridge’s eastern flanks. 

You can gaze up at the Sleeping Giant’s head from the start of the trail and ponder the elevation gain you’ll be tackling (about 1,000 feet or so). 

The path climbs through a variety of vegetation, including stretches of shady forest. But much of this route is more out in the open and rather sun-exposed, so be sure to bring plenty of water along. (You’ll need it for the moderate exertion alone.) 

There are a few semi-tricky narrow traverses of outcrops and some scrambling, though overall average hikers shouldn’t have too much trouble on the Nounou East Trail. 

After about 1.75 miles, the Nounou East Trail meets the Nounou West Trail coming up from the other, landward side. (The third and longest Sleeping Giant trail, the Kuamoo-Nounou Trail, joins the Nounou West Trail below the ridge crest.) Picnic shelters close by providing a natural lunch-break spot. 

Along the crest, you can proceed to three vantages marking Giant body parts: from north to south, the Chest, Chin, and Nose lookouts. Only go as far south as you feel comfortable, as it’s a bit rocky and exposed. 

The views—already fine from a number of spots along the climb up—are awesome from the Sleeping Giant. You can gaze back eastward to Kapaa and the Pacific, northward to the Makaleha Mountains, and southward to the Hoary Head Mountains. If the clouds aren’t hanging atop it as they often do, you might get a look at Mount Waialeale crowning the island’s interior. 

You won’t soon forget those long sightlines—and for the rest of your Kauai visit, you’ll enjoy looking up at the Sleeping Giant’s profile and knowing you got up there!

Insider Tips:
-Try to schedule your Nounou East Trail hike during a dry stretch. The tread can be very muddy on the heels of a rainstorm.
-Looking where to park? Feel free to park: here. Here is a GPS navigation of the east trailhead.
-Those with a bit of a fear of heights may not want to tackle this trail or the southerly Sleeping Giant viewpoints, given the modest exposure. Such hikers might prefer rambling the lower, shady slopes of the Giant on the Kuamoo-Nonou Trail.