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Alkalai Swamp Trail Advice

Fisch

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Has anyone done the Alkalai Swamp Trail hike in Kokee State Park?
We are going to do this hike when we are there in a few weeks.

We are trying to decide between starting at Pu'u o Kila Lookout or The Alkalai Trailhead on Mohihi Camp 10 Road. We will have a 4WD SUV.
Right now I'm leaning towards he trailhead on Moihihi camp Road. Looks to be a few miles shorter of a hike.
Any suggestions or comments about this hike would be greatly appreciated.

Al
 

T_R_Oglodyte

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Has anyone done the Alkalai Swamp Trail hike in Kokee State Park?
We are going to do this hike when we are there in a few weeks.

We are trying to decide between starting at Pu'u o Kila Lookout or The Alkalai Trailhead on Mohihi Camp 10 Road. We will have a 4WD SUV.
Right now I'm leaning towards he trailhead on Moihihi camp Road. Looks to be a few miles shorter of a hike.
Any suggestions or comments about this hike would be greatly appreciated.

Al
I haven't gone as far as the Swamp Trail. That's a hike I want to do, but DW isn't as interested in the trail as I am - she reads about the mud and decides it's not for her.

We did hike though along Pihea trail from Pu' o Kila lookout as far as the junction with the Swamp Trail. The vistas of the Kalalau Valeey from that portion of the Pihea Trail are stunning (if the cloulds have lifted). It's well work the hike.

Note that the can be challenging. There are areas where you literally have to climb some ten to fifteen foot high walls with some tracherous (i.e., slippery) footing. On our way in we passed a couple of people who were pretty caked with mud from spills taken when they lost their footing.
 

Werner

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We have also walked the Pihea trail from the lookout along the rim of the Kalalau Valley. I plan to walk the Pihia/Alakai route to the Kilohana Overlook this winter. I believe that the Pihia route is only slightly longer than the route that starts at the Mohihi road. Both are about 7 miles round trip. The junction is about 1/2 way along each route.



The image shows the two trailheads, the junction and the lookout. The trails are green lines, the green areas are designated swamp, the blue are streams. The gouge in the upper left is the Kalalau Valley, the one on the upper right is the Lumaha'i Valley.

As Steve said the Hawaiian lava mud is very slippery when wet. I found that it was actually easier walking on wet leaves than on the wet lava dirt.

It is important to watch the weather and maybe get advice from the rangers at Koke'e about visibility. When we kayaked the Napali coast a year ago, we had a lovely sunny day on the water but as we passed by the Kalalau Valley and looked up toward the lookouts the solid cloud base was about 10' below the lookouts. They couldn't see anything up there. You might hike all the away to Kilohana lookout and see nothing but fog.
 
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Tiger

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Tigress and I have done the Pihea trail sometimes to the lookout and sometimes to the intersection with the Alakai swamp trail, total more than five times. Previous posters are accurate that except in very dry weather it is a muddy hike with several muddy, slippery scrambles but this hike by itself is not to be missed just for it's own merits. It's about 2-3 hours round trip add 4 if you go to the end of the alakai trail from the intersection.

We've also done the full alakai swamp trail 5 times. It is fantastic and also is the most famous hike in Hawai, having been done by the queen over 100 years ago with a retinue . It is a straightforward mostly level hike having only one significant climb on steps or a good trail in the middle, after the intersection. It's a quick round trip of 4 hours easy. BUT the drive to the trailhead is a significant 4 mile real SUV only trail. If you ask at the desk they will tell you not to do it. But it can be done. The condition of the trail varies and the desk won't tell you the acccurate condition since they don 't want to encourage you to it. Certainly in very wet conditions don't go. We didn't go in the big rains 2 years ago. We did in a fairly wet spring and made it down, then later back up the slick hill (about half way) by the skin of our teeth. Once in dry weather there were 3+ ft deep ruts that we were just able to manuver over.

Remember that any damage to the vehicle , while driving on unpaved roads, will not be covered by insurance, (just as at home in your own SUV) and know that it may be as much as a 5 mile walk to civilization and a $500 tow if you get stuck.

That being said we try to do each and both hikes as often as we can.:hi:
 

Werner

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Tiger, One of the reasons I wanted to start from the Pihea is that you get to walk and view the rim of the Kalalau and later get to the rim of the Lumaha'i, two valley views for the same walking distance. Is there a reason to start from the Alakai trailhead? The Alakai Swamp is considered the best birding area on Kauai. Do you get into the swamp in that first half of the walk from the Alakai trailhead? The map above implies that you do. Is the first half of the trail, before the junction, much different than the second half?
 

Tiger

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Pihea certainly is worth doing for it's own sake. But the hike is difficult to the extant that it is slippery. It's absolutely gorgeous though. Don't forget that unless they've opened it the last mile of the paved road is blocked and you must walk it each way an additional 2 miles! This would be a long hike if you did it as well as the last 2/3 of the alakai, though strong hikers certainly do it.

The best birding area is from the pihea after the descent from the ridge to the intersection and the first part of the Alakai.

Yes the first part of the alakai is different from the rest in that it is along a ridge. No the first part is not in the swamp.
 
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T_R_Oglodyte

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Don't forget that unless they've opened it the last mile of the paved road is blocked and you must walk it each way an additional 2 miles!
Unless conditions have changed in the last five weeks, the paved road is open all the way to the Pihea trailhead.
 

Tiger

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That's great. It'd been closed for three or so years. I just didn't like that extra two miles on macadam.
 

T_R_Oglodyte

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That's great. It'd been closed for three or so years. I just didn't like that extra two miles on macadam.
It was also open in August of 2007 when we were there, as it was in August 2006.
 

Tiger

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perhaps they close the road during wet seasons. In any case the pihea is a wonderful hike, as is the Alakai. I would try to do it on a good weather day as the distant views are at least 50% of the pleasure. Some weeks don't have any perfect days. If you are not planning returning any time soon and if push came to shove I'd do the hike even in so-so weather as the walk through the foliage along the ridge and the birding are great all by themselves.
 

Tiger

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those pictures accurately depict the trail itself. The boardwalk has deteriorated somewhat so don't trust it completely
 
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