register help

Nualolo - Awaawapuhi Loop, HI

no permit
19 3 0
Guide 3 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List HI > Kauai
5 of 5 by 1
clicktap icons for details
Difficulty 4 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance Round Trip 7.3 miles
Trailhead Elevation 3,628 feet
Elevation Gain -1,533 feet
Accumulated Gain 1,958 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 3-4 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 17.09
Interest Seasonal Waterfall & Peak
varies or not certain dogs are allowed
editedit > ops > dogs to adjust
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Inaugural Calculation on Button Tap!
15  2016-10-21 chumley
4  2009-10-19 datadude
Author datadude
author avatar Guides 1
Routes 1
Photos 4
Trips 0 map ( 0 miles )
Age Male Gender
Location Phoenix, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
Expand Map
Preferred   Jan, Dec → Early
Sun  6:27am - 6:36pm
Official Route
0 Alternative
Corn Maze
by datadude

This is an almost 11.5 mile loop. It basically has four sections, Nualolo trail, Nualolo Cliffs trail, Awaawapuhi trail and a section on highway 550 if you don't have multiple vehicles.

There are a few ways you could tackle this loop. We started out at the Nualolo trail head. You could also start at the Awaawapuhi trail head and do the reverse or do the road section at the beginning. If you are starting out early like we did 6:30AM you might consider parking at the Awaawapuhi trail head and hiking down the road to the Nualolo trail head and getting that out of the way early. It isn't the safest during midday when we did it and by the time you are off the trail you will probably be ready just to be at your car!

Starting out it is an ascent up, the guide book we read stated that the it was a descent so we were surprised to see this right off. It isn't that much but more that we expected. Once you get to the top of that you definitely start descending into the forest. It is probably forest for the first 1.5 miles at least. There are markers on the trail that tell you the distance you have hiked. They seem to have stopped at some point on the trail though.

After you get beyond the tree line the descent really picks up. There are a few places where it is fairly steep and you are holding on to roots of the shrubs just for that extra bit of stability. The loose dirt/rocks beneath your feet are encouraging your hands to reach out and grab those roots. I read in the guide book we had that it was probably easier to climb out on the Awaawapuhi side, I would absolutely agree with that!

Once you get to the bottom and follow the trail a little further you come to a junction point and sign. The end of the Nualolo trail is at the Lolo Vista. Venturing out there you have to hike on some fairly narrow trail with a pretty good drop off both sides.

Going back off the peninsula of the Lolo Vista we head back to the junction point. At the junction point is where you decide if you want to make this a loop and head down the Cliffs trail or if you want to just climb back up the Nualolo trail. We chose the loop.

Well, we started down the Cliffs trail. Soon we came to a sign that cautioned of narrow and washed out trail ahead. Check that out! Yeah it was pretty narrow but not that bad. I wouldn't however recommend bring dogs on this trail.

This trail is pretty flat and for the most part follows the edge of that valley. There is a small waterfall if you are there in the wet season unfortunately it was dry for us. It looks like there is a small pool that you could get in and cool off. There is also a very grassy section, it's like a corn maze. trails going every which way and you want to be careful too because the edge of the cliff isn't too far. Fortunately there were carnes that others had left so we kind of followed that out of that section. There is also a picnic area down there you could have a snack or just sit.

As the sign stated leaving the Nualolo trail about 2 mile later we ran into the Awaawapuhi trail. From this junction we headed left to the lookout area. Very nice, I liked the the Lolo Vista better but this has very nice views as well. We had a nice rest and still had most of our water at this point. Time to pay your dues for the spectacular views. This is a beautiful trail but not an easy trek out. It is pretty steep in places and for long stretches at a time.

We made it to the top, which you are actually at a higher altitude going back up this trail that the other, but you're not done yet. You still have a mile and a half back to the car down the road.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

This is a moderately difficult hike.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your hike to support this local community.

2009-10-19 datadude
    WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

    Most recent Triplog Review
    Nualolo - Awaawapuhi Loop
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    The rockstar Kalalau Trail might be the gem on Kauai, leading to the spectacular cliffs of the Na Pali Coast, but the Nualolo and Awaawapuhi trails are pretty close since they approach the same area from above, dropping from the 4000 foot high Kaunuohua Ridge to about 2500 feet above the coast with scenic cliffs that drop to the amazing valleys and Pacific Coast below.

    I had read many things about this loop, which links the Nualolo and Awaawapuhi ridge trails with the Nualolo Cliff Trail and a portion of road walking to connect the trailheads in a ~12 mile loop. Upon arriving however, it became apparent that this loop is no longer possible as signage clearly indicated that the connecting Nualolo Cliff trail is closed due to a landslide. Upon returning home I learned it has been closed since 2014. Prior to that it was closed from time-to-time as conditions changed and was always marked as dangerous.

    So my plans had to change, and I set off on the Awaawapuhi Trail planning on an out and back. It was raining as I started, but descending off the mountain, the rain stopped and the clouds cleared within the first mile or so. This trail is in excellent condition. It is wide and the slope is moderate. Eventually the forest canopy opens and I could see the cliffs of Na Pali as well as back up to the still cloudy, rainy forest where the trail begins. The trail ends after 3.25 miles at a signed view point where it forks to two separate views. The right fork ends at a sheer cliff looking down into the Awaawapuhi Valley and the ocean below. The left fork continues beyond the viewpoint fence down the ridge, becoming ever steeper and narrower. I did not go as far as some others have gone here. It's a 2-foot wide ridge with 1500-2000 foot cliffs on either side. The exposure here is not for the faint of heart!

    I turned around and began my climb back up. At the junction for the Nualolo Cliff Trail, I contemplated the signs and decided to explore the trail, content to turn around if I found myself in uncomfortable terrain. Much of this trail is still in fine shape, though it is evident it hasn't seen regular travel in over two years. There were sections of thick overgrowth, and three drainage crossings that were all but completely lost to nature. From time to time I would see a ribbon tied to a tree or a small cairn, indicating that others have made the traverse, or at least the same investigation I was embarking upon. The first drainage had an odd fence that seemed to serve no purpose except to hamper my travel. I figured out later that the Park Service had installed it for that very purpose! :oops:

    About 1.75 miles in, I reached the area of the landslide and erosion. Signs still stand from before the closure indicating the danger. I investigated, and it didn't look too bad, so I continued on. There wasn't much tread and there's not much of anything below the trail. A slip here would certainly be your last. But it was dry and I felt that crossing wouldn't be terribly risky, so I carefully shuffled across until reaching the old warning signs for those approaching from the other side. From here it was less than a quarter mile back to the Nualolo Trail (and another one of those odd fences :-$ ).

    It's half a mile down on Nualolo to the Lolo Viewpoint, which is spectacular. The Awaawapuhi view is stunning, but Lolo extends farther toward the coast and has views up the Na Pali Coast that can't be seen from Awaawapuhi. Clouds dropped in and out, and showers and rainbows surrounded me. I waited 15 or 20 minutes hoping for the coastal views to open up, but it seemed to be pretty socked in toward Haena so eventually I just started my way up again.

    The lower section of the Nualolo Trail is near vertical. It climbs directly up the ridge with no switchbacks. It's slippery and difficult. There are a couple of 200+ foot climbs in under 1/10th of a mile. The slope moderates later on but I was tired. About a mile from the end, I reached the forest, and it started raining. Apparently that's the way it had been up here all day. There's a final climb to a ridge before dropping down to the trailhead just below the Koke'e State Park Lodge where I met up with 9L and Claire who had done a couple of other hikes during the day.

    If you're going to attempt this loop -- which for the record I absolutely do NOT recommend to ANYBODY not named BobP or JJ -- I would do it the opposite way I did. Down Nualolo, across, and up Awaawapuhi. For the smarter out-n-back, choose Awaawapuhi for the more pleasant trail and outstanding views. For the more difficult trail and spectacular views choose Nualolo.

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    Paved - Car Okay

    To hike
    The trail head is located just off the highway 550 and is the turn-in (dirt) just before the Kokee Museum.
    page created by datadude on Oct 19 2009 2:51 pm
    help comment issue

    end of page marker