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Alaka'i Swamp via Pihea Trail

Kauai + Niihau, Hawai'i

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Alaka'i Swamp via Pihea Trail

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  • Views of the ocean and the nearby cliffs start right from the trailhead.- Alaka'i Swamp via Pihea Trail
  • The trail descends steeply on rocks and mud.- Alaka'i Swamp via Pihea Trail
  • Watch your step on the slippery mud!- Alaka'i Swamp via Pihea Trail
  • Green foliage spills onto the trail.- Alaka'i Swamp via Pihea Trail
  • Dry mud becomes wet mud as the trail continues to descend.- Alaka'i Swamp via Pihea Trail
  • There's a nice view from the top of Pihea Lookout.- Alaka'i Swamp via Pihea Trail
  • Much of the trail follows a dilapidated boardwalk.- Alaka'i Swamp via Pihea Trail
  • A remarkable variety of plants thrives along the trail.- Alaka'i Swamp via Pihea Trail
  • You'll test your balance on some of the mud crossings.- Alaka'i Swamp via Pihea Trail
  • The swamp water is colorful in places.- Alaka'i Swamp via Pihea Trail
  • In the harshest of environments, life survives.- Alaka'i Swamp via Pihea Trail
  • Once you reach the high alpine bogs, stop to take it all in. - Alaka'i Swamp via Pihea Trail
  • The Alaka'i Swamp is a unique place.- Alaka'i Swamp via Pihea Trail
  • The view from the end of the trail is often socked in with clouds.- Alaka'i Swamp via Pihea Trail
  • Keep your eyes peeled for unusual plants and animals along the way.- Alaka'i Swamp via Pihea Trail
  • The trees seem to make a tunnel over the path.- Alaka'i Swamp via Pihea Trail
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Unique hike to the highest swamp in the world.
Cons: 
Muddy trail. Run-down boardwalks.
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Region:
Kauai + Niihau, HI
Congestion: 
Moderate
Pets allowed: 
Yes
Net Elevation Gain: 
450.00 ft (137.16 m)
Parking Pass: 
Not Required
Preferable Season(s):
Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
Total Distance: 
8.00 mi (12.87 km)
Trail type: 
There-and-back
Trailhead Elevation: 
4,280.00 ft (1,304.54 m)
Current Local Weather:
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Hike Description

Hike Description

Pro Contributor

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.

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