Should You Hike the Dangerous Kalalau Trail?

Kalalau TrailThe Kalalau Trail is one of the most beautiful hikes on the planet.  Hiking along the Napali Coast is awe inspiring and I wish everybody could experience it for themselves.  Unfortunately, not every one should hike the trail.  The trail is very dangerous.  I can’t recommend it for those who aren’t in good shape.  I also can’t recommend it for those who aren’t willing to be smart and obey rules and warnings.  There are some true accidents that can’t be avoided but there are many other accidents can be.

The Kalalau Trail has been called one of the most dangerous trails in America (See list at the bottom of the post) as well as one of the most dangerous trails on Earth.  In the past 4 months alone we’ve seen articles like these:

Many other accidents/injuries go unreported.  The fact is that streams along the trail can swell up to very dangerous levels with little or no warning, rocks can fall from the cliffs above hitting hikers and campers, the trail has sheer cliffs and narrow, often slippery trails, and strong riptides have claimed many lives at Hanakapi’ai.  One of the rainiest spots in the world is just a few miles away.  It rains between 330-360 days each year on Mount Waialeale totaling an average of 450 inches of rain each year.

Along with all these hazards you also have put up with many ups-and-downs, unstable, loose and narrow paths, sunburn, heat exhaustion, dangerous plants and animals, and leptospirosis.  There are no emergency services along the way.  There is no cell phone coverage to use to call for help.

Everybody who hikes on the trail should understand these hazards.  Everyone should be capable of making smart decisions to minimize these risks along the trail.  If hikers can’t do that, then I don’t suggest they hike the trail.  I would suggest that everybody familiarize themselves with the trail’s Health and Safety concerns.  Know the local weather forecasts and obey the rules outlined by the State of Hawaii when you get your permit.

People spend months planning and saving for this vacation of a lifetime.  It’s not worth risking your life hiking where you shouldn’t be or crossing a stream where you shouldn’t be, even if it means missing your flight home.

The Kalalau Trail is amazing.  Make your trip amazing by following the rules and being cautious.



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  1. Joe
    August 11, 17:49 Joe

    To answer your title question, I’d have to say… it depends. We started the trail on a typically beautiful, partly cloudy morning in December of 2011… it was a nice hike until we got to a little short of Mile 6… and the rain came big time… we expected rain… and were prepared as far as gear was concerned… but nothing could prepare us for the condition the trail quickly became. The muddy ledges, nor more than 8″-12″ wide were eroded so bad they were slopping down… making it nearly impossible to walk on… long story short… we made it… it was amazing and beautiful and I want to go back… but the trip out was much more relaxed as the trail had dried and it was a piece of cake. So think twice… or even three times… if heavy rain is expected. Rain will pretty much always be expected… so that makes that decision even more difficult.

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  2. Jim
    January 05, 23:09 Jim

    Considering the slippery conditions Joe noted during and after the rains, is it advisable to wear crampons on the soles of our boots? Will these “load up” with mud on the bottom of the boot and create an even more dangerous footing? My wife and I are hiking the trail in March. We booked extra days for weather flexibility also. If far from Kalalau beach or Hanakoa camping, one may be forced to move on, despite the conditions.

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  3. Josh
    February 10, 02:15 Josh

    My fiancée and I hiked the trail a year and a half ago. And as Joe said. It depends . For us, we grew up in northern British Columbia. The terrain was not a problem for us as you become sure footed growing up where we did. What is a problem, aside from the above listed. Is definitley physical fitness .. I am a heavy smoker and although i made it in and back without incident. I was more driven on stubborness than physical ability. being more fit would have made the hiking part much more enjoyable. That being said. The biggest problem we found was the way we packed ( this was our first multi day hike ever) mind your weight and don’t attach things to your pack that impede your mobility like tents or bed rolls on the bottom of your pack … I found all that weight on my back made crawlers ledge far more dicey than it needed to be. Although I have never been that tired and worn out and have never wanted to just give up so much in my entire life .. The hike, the challenge, the people we got to meet, and of course, above all else, the beach at the end was a thousand times worth it .

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  4. March 16, 15:25 Kalalau Trail 2014 | Brad Gone Mad

    […] If you are considering taking the hike be sure and read this article about the dangers and  hazards of the Kalalau Trail. […]

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  5. Al
    November 03, 14:14 Al

    Oct 2015. Just hiked the Kalalau trail with my son. Me 55 yrs in good shape. Him an Eagle Scout a few days before his 18th birthday. Made it to the beach in 8-1/2 hours in beautiful weather! Practice hiked in the hills of Indiana before going. Each pack 27 lbs with food and water intending to stay one night and hike back out.
    Tough climbs. The rivers were low so crossing was fairly easy rock hopping. Got one foot soaked at last river. With all the hype over crawler’s ledge, we passed it easily, it brought a welcomed stiff breeze and shade. I paid attention to where every foot step went, but did fine. Trickier parts of the trail were more concerning after the ledge, being the loose red dirt on the exposed steep hills with nothing to stop you if you slipped.
    Drank more than 4 liters of water. Son ended up dehydrated when arriving at the beach.
    Spent the night and opted to use a service provider to return via the water rather than risking additional health issues due to the dehydration. A Godly intervention that possibly saved us from problems during our return, when approaching the trail head area it was raining hard.
    It was great! But be prepared if you go. It is very unforgiving to errors in judgment.

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  6. February 06, 07:31 Hiking in “Heavenly” Hawaii: Likes vs Lives | soleseeking

    […] However it still shocks me when I see people older than me dressed inappropriately for certain activities and weathers, or attempting feats that are clearly far beyond their fitness level. The single biggest eye-opener was on the island of Kauai in Hawaii, when I and some friends hiked to Hanakapiai Falls in the Nā Pali Coast State Park. You may be thinking how this is a location far different to that of Alaska, but a large difference in temperature doesn’t mean this popular holiday destination is any less dangerous. In fact, the 11-mile trail that encompasses the particular hike I did is regarded as being in the top 10 of America’s most dangerous hikes. […]

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  7. March 17, 03:11 Voyager en famille hors des sentiers battus

    […] Should You Hike the Dangerous Kalalau Trail? […]

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  8. March 31, 08:56 Top Reasons You NEED to Experience Kalalau Trail | Kalalau Trail

    […] Though many and most Hawaii visitors’ heads are filled with daydreams of waking up in a 5-star resort each morning and ending their days sipping on a Mai Tai, how about being just a little different than the rest of them and embarking on a challenge instead? With the posed dangers that all hikers of the Kalalau Trail face from finish to end, don’t be fooled into thinking this is your average every day hike. A combination of loose dirt, that Hawaiian humidity, soaring cliffs, and the chance of falling rocks, this is the time where you can strap on those boots of yours and embark on a journey that will challenge you both physically and mentally. But remember, the bigger the challenge, the bigger the reward.  (Make sure to read more about the Dangers of hiking the Kalalau Trail) […]

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  9. November 05, 23:19 To Be a Good Traveler, You Need a Hobby Other Than Traveling – Ecocult

    […] of everything, familiar with none, and they are dangerous. They are the ones who try to hike one of the most dangerous trails in the world in Hawaii in sandals and have to be helicoptered out when they twist their ankle. They’re the ones that […]

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