Extreme Treks: The Kalalau Trail, Na Pali Coast Wilderness Park, HI

Kalalau Trail

To me, Hawaii had always seemed like nothing but a total relaxation destination. However, after taking into account the stunningly mountainous land and rugged terrain, I saw that Hawaii has something for even the most extreme of vacationers. This is particularly true on the island of Kauai, home to the beautiful Na Pali Coast…and, by extension, the incredible Kalalau Trail.

When it comes to nature treks, this one is not for the faint of heart–either the gorgeous sights or the 22-mile round trip are sure to take your breath away–but it certainly is worth it. For those daring enough to take on the challenge, you’ll be rewarded with a secluded beach that’s only accessible through the trail itself, as well as hundreds of sights along the way, including vibrant valleys, hidden caves, and breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean.

Kalalau trail HawaiiStunning as the payoff may be, hikers cannot forget that the Kalalau Trail truly is one of the most extreme treks in the world. Multiple magazines have the trail listed as one of the most dangerous hiking locations on earth, and for good reason: falling rocks, steep cliffs, swollen streams, and flash flooding have all contributed to the trail’s dangerous reputation. In some locations the slippery gravel can get to be as narrow as 12 inches across, and at one point, the trail climbs from sea level to over 800 feet in just a little over a mile. Summertime offers excellent weather conditions for hiking, but abrupt storms pose a major flooding risk during the season. Overall, there’s tons of heart-pounding dangers to look out for.

Over the years, numerous incidents, injuries, and even fatalities have been reported, and the Na Pali Coast Wilderness Park strongly emphasizes that no cell phone signal, lifeguards, or emergency services are available on the trail. Despite the trail being so beautiful, these risks leave me a little shaken up; but for the most intense of backpackers, every risk factor sounds like an even bigger invitation to take the plunge.Kalalau_trail_

If this whole endeavor sounds manageable, you’ll still have to plan your trip flawlessly. If you wish to camp on the trail, you’ll have to first acquire a permit from the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources. Even with that permit, camping is only permitted in Hanakoa Valley (six miles from your starting point) or on Kalalau Beach (at the very end of the hike). The same permit is required if you’re hiking beyond the first two miles, even if you’re not planning to camp; this is so park management can keep an eye on the safety and responsibility of its campers, and also to make sure that only the most serious of hikers continue on.

For most, the first two miles seem pretty easy, and many people can probably manage a day hike trekking to the Hanakapi’ai Beach. But from then on, you’ll have to make sure you’re emotionally and physically ready; the Kalalau Trail seems to leave a mark on everyone who travels it, both positively and negatively.

It’s an example of nature at its very finest: Divine yet deadly.

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