The Kalepa Ridge Trail is one of the most incredible hikes on the tropical island of Kauai in Hawaii. The 3-kilometer out-and-back trail provides incredible views of the sharp, jagged ridges along the northwest coast of the island. This trail does pose a few dangers with big drop-offs and crumbly, narrow trails.
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KALEPA RIDGE TRAIL HIKE
In this blog post, I will share with you the details for safely hiking the Kalepa Ridge Trail on Kauai.
KALEPA RIDGE TRAIL DETAILS
- Duration: The hike takes about 45-min each way for a total of two hours including some sightseeing.
- Incline: 186 meters of incline throughout the trail
- Distance: 3.1km total distance for the out-and-back route.
- Difficulty: This hike does have some narrow areas to the path and levels of high exposure. It is technically closed for these reasons. Most with decent hiking experience will find it moderate but this is not for tourists with no hiking experience who want a new cover photo for their Facebook page.
I hiked all over Kauai for over a month and documented all of my adventures. In my opinion, these are the 15 best hikes on Kauai!
KALEPA RIDGE LOCATION
Kalepa Ridge is located in Koke’e State Park, which is on the north-western side of Kauai Island. The trailhead is at the Kalalau Lookout in Koke’e State Park, which is pinned on the map below. At the Kalalau Lookout, you will find free parking. There is a very obvious dirt path leading down from the lookout, which is the trailhead to Kalepa Ridge. However, there is a sign stating the trail is closed and you will need to step over the railing to start the trail.
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- Kauai Shores Hotel – Luxury (but value also): A luxury feels with the resort-style property, palm trees, and a beautiful pool area.
- Koloa Landing Resort – Luxury (high-end): LARGEST pool on all of Kauai with beautiful, natural-style landscaping.
- The Grand Hyatt Resort – Best Family Resort: Best kids’ club on the island, a 5-acre pool complex with a lazy river pool, a waterslide, and a saltwater lagoon big enough for kayaking.
- Read my full guide: You can check my favorites in my Kauai: Where to Stay Guide
HOW TO GET TO THE KALEPA RIDGE TRAIL
You will need a car to reach the Kalalau Lookout, which is the trailhead of Kalepa Ridge Trail. It’s about a 1.5-hour drive from Kapa’a and even further if you are staying up in Princeville. Keep in mind there is no road across the northern coast of the island. If you are up in the north-eastern area of Kauai, you will have to drive for 2.5 hours all the way down south and then up north again to reach Koke’e State Park.
IS KALEPA RIDGE TRAIL LEGAL?
The Kalepa Ridge Trail is not technically illegal but the trail does have a sign posted at the trailhead that says ‘CLOSED’. This is a common occurrence in Hawaii surrounding hikes and is a sad state of affairs. Recently the state was sued for 15 million after the death of two hikers. Incidents like this make landowners and the state nervous to have any dangerous hikes open to the public. Globally, countries with hikes far more dangerous than Hawaii use a more open strategy where hikers hike at their own risk. You do need to step over the railing at the lookout and the trail is technically closed for now, but that should change in the future if the right people are in power. Closing off nature due to risks is not the answer. You are more likely to have an accident driving to the trail than actually hiking on it given you have basic experience on trails and the right shoes.
MY EXPERIENCE ON THE KALEPA RIDGE TRAIL
The journey to the trailhead is an adventurous dive in itself. From most parts of the island, it will take at least an hour to reach this trailhead in the depths of the Koke’e State Park. The trail begins just beyond the fence of the viewpoint and then descends the ridge from that point on.
The early parts of the track can be quite slippery with a few little scramble sections. However, for the most part, it is straightforward with minimal exposure. As the trail progresses, the exposure increases but the views also become more and more incredible.
The Kalepa Ridge offers some of the best views of the Na Pali coastline. It’s iconic jagged ridges are an amazing backdrop to this exhilarating ridgeline hike. Due to the steep ridges and frequently changing weather systems, it is common to be completely engulfed in clouds while on this trail. However, as the weather systems move so fast, if you wait around, the clouds will usually pass and the amazing views will open up.
The trail doesn’t really have a clear endpoint or viewing platform. It’s important to stop where you feel comfortable and don’t push this route further than you need to. The main part of the trail is to see the coastline and enjoy the views. Following the ridge down further and further will expose you to crumbly paths and steep drop-offs.
The sunset on this coast is amazing so if you can wait it out, you will be in for some beautiful golden light. Make sure to get back to the parking lot before dark to avoid being out on the ridge as the light fades away. Alternatively, you could pack a headlamp but I don’t advise being on this trail in the dark. We made it back to the parking lot before the sunset afterglow faded.
I hope you enjoyed this blog post about the Kalepa Ridge Trail, which is one of the top hikes on Kauai.
THREE EPIC TOURS I RECOMMEND ON KAUAI
Before we get into the hikes, I wanted to share with you three of my favorite tours on the island of Kauai. I know if you are into hiking, you will love these adventurous tours as well.
What will give you a great understanding of the island and the highlight of my trip to Kauai is booking a helicopter or scenic plane flight. It will blow your mind and I think it’s the most scenic helicopter flight in the world.
- Helicopter Flight: The most popular helicopter tour on Kauai is the Kauai Island Highlight Helicopter Tour.
- Sightseeing Plane: The Na Pali Coast and Waimea Canyon Scenic Plane Flight are well under $200, which is more than half the cost of the same trip via helicopter.
- Eco-Friendly Kauai Zip Line Tour: Soar over three different valleys against a backdrop of breathtaking mountain views and ocean scenery on Kauai’s award-winning 8-line zipline adventure: Eco-Friendly Kauai Zip Line Tour