SLEEPING GIANT HIKE (NOUNOU MOUNTAIN) ON KAUAI, HAWAII
The Nounou Mountain Trail is one of the most popular hikes on the beautiful island of Kauai in Hawaii. However, you may have also heard about the other name this trail goes by. This ridge formation resembles a ginormous human body laying flat on it’s back. Hence the popular trail is known as the ‘Sleeping Giant’ hike of Kauai.
The giant’s body is visible from anywhere in Kapaa, with his head the most obvious feature. Interestingly from the Sleeping Giant hike, you can look towards Wailua and see King Kong’s head, another mountain formation! The local legend tells of a giant who overate at a feast during a celebration in his honor, fell asleep and never woke. I think we can all relate.
There are several trails on Nounou Mountain, which start on various sides. They all end at the same viewpoint but begin at different locations. The East trail and the West trail are the most refined and the two most common options. Both are very scenic but offer a slightly different experience. I chose to head up Nounou Mountain on the west Sleeping Giant hike trail but I will cover both options in this blog
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!
Sleeping Giant Map – All three Hike Trailheads
Sleeping Giant Hike (East) Trail
The east Sleeping Giant hike is easily accessible from Wailua and is also known as the frontside trail. This trail leads you through a dense forest with several switchbacks helping you gain elevation up the mountain. Along the journey, you will have expansive views over Kalepa Ridge and Wailua.
On the giant’s chest at the false summit, there is a picnic table and a shelter. A lone bench is also perched with a perfect view out over the valley and the ocean. From here you only have a short distance before you hit the giant’s head, which is where you will find the 360-degree views of Kauai’s beautiful east.
The Sleeping Giant hike east trailhead is marked on the map above.
Sleeping Giant Hike (Kuamoo) Trail
The Kuamoo Trail is 2.5 miles each way and a side trail compared to the front(east) or back(west) trails. It leads you across the Opaeka Stream. The trail continues for 1.5 miles along the west side of Nounou Mountain before linking up with the west trail and from there it follows the same route. See below for the summary of the rest of the hike when it joins up with the west trail
The Sleeping Giant hike Kuamoo trailhead is marked on the map above.
Sleeping Giant Hike (West) Trail
Those were the alternate options. But now I will tell you in more detail about my experience hiking up the west trail, which I was told was the best overall experience. This is largely due to the epic pine forest you walk through.
The trail begins in a tunnel of trees. It is an eerie opening to the journey, which captivated us from the first moments. The muddy trail switches back and forth before leading you into an epic pine forest. It’s something most people wouldn’t imagine when they think of Hawaii. A grove of Norfolk and Cook Pines stretch high into the sky, so high arching your neck isn’t enough to catch the treetops. The trees were planted long ago in the 1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corps.
As mentioned earlier this trail meets the Kuamoo trail. This intersection comes after only 1/4 of a mile. At this point, stay left and continue on up the mountain. After about 30 minutes of hiking, you will reach the first plateau. This is the giant’s chest. Here you will find a picnic table under a shelter. A small bench sits beneath an epic, twisted tree. Have a seat and enjoy the view over Wailua.
You aren’t there yet and the best is still to come. Head on up along the ridge for another ten minutes and the views only get better as the drop-offs get steeper. Here you will find some awesome outcrops to sit on and take in the beauty on both sides of the ridge. We even found a giant hole (puka) to explore beneath where most people were sitting.
I highly suggest doing this hike during golden hour as the valley will light up in such a magic way! We ended up taking over 3 hours to do this hike because we chilled at both the plateau and the summit hanging out. However, it can be done up and down easily within 1-2 hours for most hikers.