This page is intended to evolve into a "gathering spot" for hiking information on "off route" trails on Mount Waialeale, the Olokele Plateau and the wilderness of Kauai. If you have a Waialeale tale or link to relate, please contact! (Please, no epic ascents of the Sleeping Giant). Feel free to link or make suggestions or contribute to this page and add your own route.

Before you proceed further, you must click on the following link and read the warning/disclaimer . If you use information from this site or the pages linked to this site, you do so at your own risk! Hiking and traveling in the back country of Kauai and on Mount Waialeale is dangerous. Without the proper permits, camping is illegal.

Hikes Beyond the Guidebooks

Kawaikini from Bog 3

Because of couple of recent attempts to dayhike Kawaikini and a couple of email's taking us to task for showing the ways of Waialeale, we'll expand, elaborate the warning. So far, the dayhike attempts have been by individuals in superb physical shape and vast alpine experience. But even they testified to getting confused/lost for thankfully brief periods and underestimating the difficulty. Inevitably somebody is going to get in over their heads.

If you don't want to be pig food (they will eat your body), heed the following.

  1. Don't try it. The chances of sucess are slim. Dangers, not so slim.
  2. Ignoring the above, take a warm-up dayhike out to say, Bogette. See what you're getting into.
  3. Don't go alone (I know you will ignore this one).
  4. If you don't tell somebody where you're headed and leave a map, bon appetit to the hogs.
  5. If you don't love your GPS and maps and challenging navigation, do us all a favor. Go hike the Sleeping Giant.
  6. Count on it being wet and cold. If you are benighted because of about fifteen different reasons, be prepared. Death from exposure is possible.
  7. Read the site, read the links, know your Alakai.
  8. Bottom line, we don't recommend it. At least, before we do it.

The Hikes

Obsession helps. My Personal Journey to Kawaikini. A series of adventures (and misadventures) leads to Kawaikini, the summit of Waialeale, and the establishment of

1862: First Haole Ascent. Although the Hawaiians had several ancient routes to the top of Waialeale, in 1862 they guided a party of Haoles to the summit (and did the trail breaking no doubt.)

Eric Knudsen's treks. Several Waialeale ascents from almost a century ago.

The Crown of Lemuria A near miss from the eighties.

Soaked Why to not hire a guide! Not sure if they got soaked by the weather or the guide.

An Epic Six day Trek to the Waialeale Raingage and back via (mostly) the old USGS route, February 2005.

Extreme Day Hike II An effort to Flash* Kawaikini. Completed Feb 12, 2006 leading the Gang of Four

The Gang of Four tags ascends Waialeale and tags Kawaikini, 12 February 2006. Excellent account on the County High Pointers page. Scoll down to Kauai County. Here's a small sample of the excellent photos (and weather), taken at the summit.

Dayhike Kawaikini Attempt Apr 22, 2006, Bob Burd attempts to reach Kawaikini in one day! Bonus, more extreme Kauai dayhikes on the same site. Superman returns on Chrismas Eve 2007 and does the deed. Awesome! 17+ hours. Both accounts, excellent.

Go Fish! Killing Trout on the Koaie near Koaie Camp.

First Kayak Descent of Kaoie Gorge Fascinating account of a kayak descent (and unplanned bivouac) of the Upper Koaie Gorge.

Extreme Dayhike I Kokee to Waimea via Mohihi Waialae trail in one day!

Post your Waialeale adventure here.
Contact us!

*To flash: In climbing parlance, to do a route on first sight.


Waialae Gorge
Spare Change
Gang of Four Photo Sampler

We took three day hikes, reconning future trips and filling in blank spots on the map. First, we followed the Nualolo Trail and turned off on the Anaki Hunter's trail, eventually ending up on a narrow point looking down on the Pacific (Anaki on the map), watching the huge surf below. We studied the drainage north of the edge, looking for the route down to Milolii.

Surf's up at Milolii. For a sense of scale, this photo was taken from about 1600 feet at the end of Anaki Ridge.

Then we did the Powerline Trail up from the Lihue side and tried to follow the ridge line toward Waialeale. For about a quarter mile, the going was easy as we followed a pig trail through knee high grass and moderate mud. Then the trail became a tunnel through thick Kauai growing crap. Seeing that there was nothing of interest for at least two miles or about ten hours of brush busting, we called it quits.

Spare Change

Having heard of two routes descending the Pali to Milolii State Park, I decided to recon Milolii Ridge, planning to do the descent at some future date. I soon discovered, that although the guidebooks call this a trail, a competent 4wd driver (with 4wd of course) would have had no problem, during dry conditions, driving all the way to the end of the road to an excellent, shaded grassy area looking down into Milolii Valley.

I had a mere 2wd and made it over half way, chickening out at the bottom of a steep, rutted section. Not wanted to fret about whether or not I'd be able to drive out and letting that put a damper on the hike, I drove back up the hill, raising a cloud of red dust that must have been visible all the way to Niihau.

Greatly relieved I'd once more dodged the stuck car bullet, I hoofed down the road. It soon became obvious that the section that'd freaked me had been the crux. Past there, it was a cinch.

I passed the end of the road and continued out onto the eroded, narrowing ridge toward the point at the end of the ridge where the route cut down.

At the end of the ridge, I looked around and suddenly realized that I'd had a misunderstanding with the guy who'd told me about descending to Milolii. He obviously had mistaken me for a BASE jumper. Staring down for a while, I could barely pick out a route where a brave (or dumb) goat might descend.

Milolii Ridge from the West. There a route leading from the right end of the ridge down into Milolii Valley and to the beach. With 4wd, you can get to the patch of green at the upper, left edge of photo.

I decided this would be one descent I would follow somebody else's lead. The scenery was absolutely spectacular! Trust me on that. Someday, I'll get back to you about descending into Milolii.

Some Mount Waialeale History

The following summary distilled from scattered reports, sources, etc., that are incomplete and often contradictory. Place names have changed or been forgotten. But what follows is fairly accurate. If you find errors or have anything to add, please contact us.

I spent a lot of time at the Kauai Historical Society chasing down records of early ascents of Mount Waialeale -- at least non-Hawaiian ascents. Undoubtedly it's been climbed hundred or thousands of times by the original inhabitants.

Areas around Kokee and Keaku Cave were frequented by bird hunters collecting feathers for royal capes. Several trails led to the Heiau at the lake.

Note that these routes are of historical interest only. They've vanished under hurricane debris, disinterest, rapidly growing vegetation and the impact of the helicopter.

Invariably the European early climbers climbed behind Hawaiian guides clearing the path ahead, the credit must should go to these anonymous for the most part locals.

The first recognized ascent was in 1862, up the Makaweli River before turning north up Kahana Valley. In 1870 and 1874, the last recorded ascents were made of the trail up Pohakupele Ridge which had been deteriorating since the abandonment of the summit heiau.

For a while other treks went via Kaholuamanu a cabin high in the mountain then up that ridge intercepting what later became the USGS trail from Waialae Cabin. In aerial photos from the seventies, you can still pick out the fenceline atop this ridge. Today Kaholuamanu is a large spread clearly visible as you descend from Waialae Cabin toward Waimea.

In the thirties, a CCC camp was established at what is now Waialae Camp (aka Cowboy Flats) on Waialae Stream. Presumably the trail following the current route of the Mohihi-Waialae Trail up and east until it dove back down to the current stream gage, then up the south ridge, then east along this divide that leads most of the way to Waialeale. Nearing Keaku Cave, the route left the now vague divide and followed the streams near the cave first down, then upstream before a steep climb back to the final divide.

Since, by starting before daylight, the round trip trek to the Waialeale raingage could now be made in a day, Keaku Cave apparently fell into misuse. We've found few references to it in the last sixty or seventy years.

In the sixties, the USGS started using helicopters to service the raingages and stream gaging station along the trail and the trail deteriorated.

A route that followed the divide that the Mohihi Waialae Trail follows south from Koaie Cabin apparently came into use in the seventies. If you study a topo, you can see that this divide eventually meets up with the district boundary divide and leads to the north/south Mount Waialeale summit ridge along which Kawaikini, Waialeale and several other summits straddle.

Keaku Cave isn't really a cave, but a man made hollow (or hollows) situated sixty or seventy feet up a steep hillside above one of the streams in a complex of ravines that connect and drop via a long waterfall into upper Olokele Valley.

It was used by the bird collectors for centuries, but enlarged after the haoles started climbing, apparently to a size for as many as a dozen people and a fire. It's been described as wet and cold or dry and comfortable. We couldn't find it when we passed by in 2005, although we might have been looking right at it as we could see a steep cliff above with some potential hollows behind foliage. I'm not expecting much when (if) we finally locate it.

An extensive network of flagged transects was established apparently in the seventies, just in time to observe the final demise of all of the species of forest birds unique to Kauai with the exception of the puaiohi.

Comments? Flames? Contact us!