This report is intended to provide information and perspective for those who are considering an out-and-back day hike.  As a calibration point, I am a very experienced mountain hiker with a couple hundred summits, including more than fifty 14,000-foot peaks.  There are various reasons some might want to attempt a day hike to Kalalau Beach and back, including time constraints or simply a desire for the challenge.  Here are some notes on my experience yesterday (June 6, 2023):


I logged 21.78 miles and 6,550 feet of gain on my Garmin Fenix.  I went to the end of the trail near the waterfall at Kalalau Beach.  I also went down to the beach.  I started at 6 am and the round trip took me 9:10, which includes 35 minutes at Kalalau Beach and about 35 minutes to filter/treat water throughout the day. Took me 4 hours to get to the beach on the way out.  I kept a steady pace all day but I didn’t run any sections of the trail.


I found the trail easy to follow, with the exception of one or two spots coming out of the stream beds.  The terrain is quite rocky, especially for the first 5-6 miles.  One thing to keep an eye out for is that the trail often slopes  laterally off the side slightly, making it easy to accidentally step or slip off the trail in places.  Mud was not a factor on the trail yesterday.  The stream crossings were fairly easy to rock hop across using my trekking poles without taking my shoes off.  I’m 6’2” though so this strategy might not work for everybody.

Food and drink:  

I ate six Hammer Gels, two packs of Clif Shot Bloks, a Chomp, electrolyte tablets, and some chips.  I drank 5 liters of water (probably not enough!) and 1 liter of electrolyte drink. I treated my water using an MSR Trailshot and then also hit it with a SteriPen (UV treatment) just to be extra safe. I sourced my water from less frequented smaller streams, as opposed to the larger streams that see more people and probably animals.


I didn’t get any rain yesterday but would have appreciated some.  The morning temperatures were pleasant but the last few miles on the way out became extremely hot.  The heat and humidity are major differences with this trail compared to mountain hiking.  Bring a wide-brimmed hat and be prepared for some heat! Definitely carry a rain shell in case it rains heavily on your trip.

Crawlers Ledge and Cliff Section:

I thought Crawler’s Ledge was straightforward.  There is some exposure but the trail is solid there.  I actually thought the cliff section a bit further on was more exposed.  For people with no experience with exposure, these sections could cause some pause but just stay focused on the task and you’ll be good. Trekking poles may help, but some people may be more comfortable having their hands free. If these sections are very wet or muddy, they would potentially be quite dangerous and I would bring micro spikes and trekking poles to improve safety.

Comparison hikes:  

I tried to think of a few hikes with comparative cardiovascular effort required.  This is a limited list but it may be helpful to some people with knowledge of these hikes.  Again, the heat on Kalalau is a big factor and all the ups and downs will wear you out!

  1. Easier in effort than Mt. Whitney day hike by main trail.  Similar in mileage and gain, but low elevation on Kalalau make it easier.
  2. Similar in effort to Longs Peak day hike by Keyhole route.  Again low elevation of Kalalau may give the edge in difficulty to Longs despite its shorter distance and lower gain.
  3. Harder in effort than Half Dome day hike from Happy Isles.  
  4. Harder in effort than Grand Canyon South Rim to river and back.

**As a final note, I would not encourage trying to day hike this trail unless you are an experienced hiker with excellent fitness.  It is a big effort and a long day.  I hope some of this information is useful!

NM Kalalau Trail Hiker

(Used on with permission)