Get ready for a one-of-a-kind experience as you embark on this trek to what has been called the highest swamp in the world. The Pihea Trail takes off from a viewpoint that's worthy of a stop all on its own: the Pu'u o Kila Lookout. Enjoy views down the Kalalau Valley from the lookout platform and from several spots along the beginning of the trail. Don't be alarmed by the number of people swarming the upper portion of the trail; the further you walk, the quieter the trail will be.
If you do this hike after a stretch of dry weather, the beginning of the trail will be mostly dried mud and rock. In wetter weather the mud gets thick, wet, and very slick. Plan accordingly, and don't wear your nicest shoes!
Along the way to the swamp there is a short spur trail to Pihea Peak that offers some views toward the ocean. If you've already gotten some nice views, continue to the Alaka'i Swamp Trail.
In 2016 the swamp boardwalk was in the process of being replaced, one section at a time. Older sections of the boardwalk are covered in wire mesh, which is broken in many places. Wear sturdy shoes on this hike.
The boardwalk allows you to cross a seemingly impassable mud bog for miles on end. A lush rainforest envelops much of the trail. Eventually the trees become shorter and more sparse. The plant life begins to change, and the water under the boardwalk becomes more evident. Look for colorful bacterial mats in the water and, if you're lucky, a view at the end of the boardwalk all the way to Hanalei Bay.