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NUALOLO CLIFF TRAIL ON KAUAI, HAWAII

NUALOLO CLIFF TRAIL ON KAUAI, HAWAII

The Nualolo Cliff Trail on Kauai takes you from 3800ft to 2200ft but rewards you with epic views of Nualolo Valley and the Na Pali Coast. The 3.8-mile (7.5-mile return) track is a half-day adventure in the Koke’e State Park.

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!

Nualolo Cliff Trail Details

  • Distance: 7.5 miles out and back
  • Duration: 4-5 hours
  • Incline: 750m
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Nualolo Ridge Trail

Nualolo Cliff Trail Map

The Nualolo Cliff Trail has its own parking lot but you can also park in the Koke’e Campground parking lot. In this parking lot, you will find the coffee shop, toilets, water fountain, and information center. The Nualolo Cliff Trailhead is about 100 yards before the Koke’e Campground turn-off.

 

Nualolo Cliff Trail

The Nualolo Cliff Trail is a 7.6 mile out and back trail. The terrain is very muddy at times and winds you through a dense forest. It is a hike for experienced trekkers and there were many slips from members of our hiking crew.

The trail is very well defined and easy to follow all the way through except for one moment at about the 1.5-mile mark. At this point in time, you have a trail going down the hill to the right and one going up the hill to the left. The trail going up the hill to the left is the correct way to continue to the lookout. The way to the left is where the Nualolo Cliff Trail links with the AwaAwapuhi Trail. It is possible to be both of these trails in one trek but will add on over 5 miles to your total trip, which is already 3.8 miles.

The trail is similar to the AwaAwapuhi trail, which was downhill for almost the entire journey, making it a relaxing but brisk walk along the red sand path. The jungle became dense in parts but never impeded the path, only making for beautiful scenery as we made our way towards the coast.

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The jungle path on the Nualolo Cliff Trail

We crossed paths with some local hunters who had their dogs with them. We shuffled past their group who had a big boar tied at the legs, their kills of the day!

After about 40 minutes of hiking, we broke out of the forest and got a glimpse of the ocean. We were excited to not be engulfed by a cloud as happens often in Koke’e State Park along the ridge trails.

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Josh sliding his way down the trail as we look at our first glimpse of the ocean

What are my favorite pieces of hiking gear?

There are four pieces of gear that I simply never forget when I go on a hike. These are four items that I using right now and this list gets updated every year! Here are my hiking essentials.

  • Arcteryx BETA AR Rain Jacket: This is my go-to rain jacket. It’s super light, folds down into a tiny ball, and protects brilliantly in a storm. This one never leaves my backpack.
  • Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX Hiking Boots: For the best ankle support, waterproofing, and durable exterior I’m a fan of tough but light hiking boots like these Salomons for my adventures.
  • Black Diamond Head Torch: I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve arrived back from a hike unexpectedly late. I always keep this lightweight but strong headtorch in my bag for the unexpected.
  • Darn Tough Socks: These are the most comfortable hiking socks I’ve ever worn and last for years. They also have a lifetime warranty and you just send them in with a hole and they replace it no questions asked.

The Nualolo Cliff Trail delivered its first ridge view and we were blown away as with all the hikes out in the west. The grand scale of the cliffs is something you can never really get used to.

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The official lookout of the Nualolo Cliff Trail
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We made it!

We reached what appears to be the official viewpoint and the watch said we had completed the 1.9 miles out. However, the trail seemed to continue so we did also and the views only got better and better! The trail to the second lookout led us through some thick grass and down some steep descents but nothing too crazy! The second lookout was a little plateau where we hung out and rested before turning back.

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Pema and the crew walking past some amazing formations on the trail
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The trail became quite thick in between lookout 1 and lookout 2
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Small Josh and the big Na Pali coast
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Kevin and Nic leaping and bounding down the trail towards lookout 2
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Lookout 2 we have arrived

We ended up having an awesome look straight down the Na Pali coast and had the chance to inspect the other ridges as they were covered in clouds. I’m glad we chose Nualolo on this day as it is a little lower and helped us avoid the cloud cover that could have potentially ruined our views of the coast.

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Josh doing his best model as we look down the Na Pali coast
Moody afternoon as Pema watches the clouds roll in.
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Obligatory foot shot!
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Mates and a view

Melissa

Monday 14th of October 2019

What was the fifth backpacking location you recommend?

JPR

Monday 19th of November 2018

It seems that you are describing the Nualolo trail, NOT the Nualolo Cliff trail

15 BEST HIKES ON KAUAI, HAWAII - Journey Era

Wednesday 28th of February 2018

[…] second lookout peers down onto the AwaAwapuhi Trail and even as far as the┬áNualolo Trail. We watched whales breaching below as the tour boats cruised up and down the coast. It took us […]

HONOPU RIDGE TRAIL ON KAUAI, HAWAII - Journey Era

Saturday 24th of February 2018

[…] harder to navigate. The second lookout peers down onto the AwaAwapuhi Trail and even as far as the Nualolo Trail. We watched whales breaching below as the tour boats cruised up and down the coast. It took us […]