The Kalalau Trail is a challenging trail in Hawaii and is often named one of the most beautiful and dangerous hikes in the USA. So, it is no surprise that we were extremely excited when Lindsay agreed to share her experience on the trail with us.
A bit more about the trail – The Kalalau Trail is a 22 miles/36km return walk along the Nāpali Coast of the beautiful island of Kauai, Hawaii. Starting at the Ke’e Beach, the trail leads you through 5 lush valleys, multiple streams, and rugged sea cliffs to the secluded Kalalau Beach. Both the streams and the scary cliff walking make it one of the most dangerous trails in the USA, especially when it rains. But you would probably agree, looking at Lindsay’s pictures, that it is breathtakingly beautiful and worth it!
So let’s not wait another minute and hand it over to Lindsay!
*All pictures in this post are from Linday’s hike, thank you for sharing these with us to make the interview more alive and personal!
To start, would you be able to tell us a bit about yourself?
Hi, I’m Lindsay! I am turning 40(?!?!) later this year, but I wholeheartedly believe “you never slow down, you never grow old”! I enjoy traveling, exploring, and playing outside as much as possible. I love to hike, bike, kayak, paddleboard, snowshoe… you name it. I also play volleyball competitively and run marathons and ultramarathons. In my spare time 😉 I work at a lab which performs genomic testing to help match cancer patients with target therapies and clinical trial treatment options. My partner in life, crime, and travel, Brendon and I have also rescued three blind cats who rule our household.
How did your passion for hiking and the outdoors start?
I am very fortunate to have grown up in the beautiful Berkshires of Western Massachusetts with my three siblings before computers took over the world, so we were outside playing together ALL THE TIME.
After college I moved to Boston for work and quickly realized to stay sane, I needed to be able to escape from the city. A friend invited me to join for a day hike in the White Mountains in New Hampshire and that’s when I really got hooked on hiking. I was energized by the challenge of the trails and the reward of amazing views….and trail snacks!
What is the one piece of gear/item you would never go without when going outdoors?
I have lots of wild and crazy curly hair, so I am never without a good headband to keep it all out of my face!
You hiked the Kalalau Trail; on the beautiful Island of Kauai! The trail seems challenging and leads you to the very secluded Kalalau Beach; we would love to hear how your experience was on the trail?
The trail and the Na Pali coast are absolutely breath taking and we had an incredible journey! Despite the dangers of having to cross multiple streams that can swell to dangerous levels and sweep hikers out to sea in seconds without warning, rocks falling down onto the very narrow, exposed, slippery trail, and deadly riptides, the trail is also very quiet, peaceful and even spiritual.
We really lucked out with near perfect weather. On an island known as one of the wettest spots on earth (note to self, add hike to the Blue Hole to the bucket list!), it waited to downpour on us until the last quarter mile on our way out. Free shower!
We started out early from the trailhead up the rocky first mile climb and down into Hanakapiai Valley and across the first stream. We encountered only a handful of other hikers and one baby goat all the way through a few miles of slick but sticky mud full of over-ripe guava and up and down and up and down and up and down and up and down again on the trail. After a pit stop for lunch complete with fresh picked lilikoi at the halfway point at Hanakoa, we faced Crawler’s Ledge. Yeah sure the trail here is very narrow and rocky and exposed and pretty high up hanging over the ocean, but it’s not nearly as bad as I expected based on the videos from the internet, and we (carefully) breezed right through and towards the final stretch down into Kalalau Valley, across Kalalau stream and to the mesmerizing Kalalau beach! We stopped a bunch of times to take pictures, it felt like every time we turned a corner, we were looking at the most beautiful view we had ever seen.
We found a gorgeous spot to setup camp at the far end of the beach near the waterfall and dropped our packs…finally. We explored the empty beach, chatted with some friendly “locals”, and enjoyed a dinner of cold boiled rice and jerky on the beach behind a full double rainbow. Not long after watching a beautiful orange sunset and checking out the bright starry sky, we called it a night and climbed into our hammocks. Laying there listening to the sound of the crashing waves echo against the huge cliffs behind us, I couldn’t help but think how lucky I was to be able to be in this paradise and how I hoped the ocean would quiet down a bit so I could sleep… but exhaustion took care of that pretty quick.
Energized from quick early morning splash in the chilly waterfall and some “just add cold water” granola, we left the magic of Kalalau beach and headed back towards civilization. We couldn’t get enough and actually went back the following day, with much lighter packs, and did the eight mile round trip trek to Hanakapiai Falls.
I highly recommend taking a helicopter and/or boat tour to get another perspective on just how incredible the NaPali Coast is.
How did you discover the Kalalau Trail and what was the reason to hike this specific trail?
After having travelled to Maui a few years ago (hiking in the Haleakala volcano is amazing btw!) we were itching to get back to Hawaii and decided to explore Kauai this time around. We always love to hike in new places, so Brendon searched ‘hikes on Kauai’, and the Kalalau Trail was on top of every must do list. A gorgeous trail along the coast to a secluded beach? Obviously we had to do it! (What he didn’t tell me at the time was that the internet also had a lot to say about the Kalalau Trail being one of the most dangerous trails in the United States and possibly even the world…)
Located in the Nāpali Coast State Wilderness Park, the trail traverses 5 valleys, with very steep sections over sea cliffs before dropping to sea level again providing the only land access to this mesmerizing part of the coast. With this diversity on the trail and the remoteness, how did you prepare for the hike?
We were both a few months into marathon training and we run trails near our house and hike in the White Mountains pretty regularly, so we weren’t too worried about being in shape going into the hike. I had never backpacked before so we needed gear!
Brendon, as the team planner, was in charge of researching logistics, trail maps, packing lists, etc. He figured out the important things like that we needed a permit to hike, that hammocks and ultralight sleeping bags were enough for camp, and that since there are plenty of water sources along the trail, we could use a water filter system and not have to carry much water. I, as the team commander of all anxiety, helped by searching how many people had died and how they had died on the trail, and watching way too many internet videos of the infamous “Crawler’s Ledge” section of the trail. I was also in charge of convincing my mom, who was traveling on Kauai also, to wake up at 5am to drive us to the trail and then to please come back for us at 5pm the next day and wait no more than one hour for us. If we weren’t there, she was to come back at the same time the next day just in case we had decided to camp another night… assuming we hadn’t fallen off a cliff or been swept out to sea.
What is your best memory of the trail?
I think my best memory was waking up early and climbing out of my hammock and walking over to the waterfall at the edge of the beach as the sun was coming up to filter water for our hike out. There is something very special about the feeling of standing on Kalalau beach after a tough hike with no one and nothing but ocean in sight and reality thousands of miles away. I’ve tried, but just can’t find the words to describe it.
After this amazing achievement and crossing the Kalalau Trail off your bucket list, do you have any other trails on your bucket list which you plan to hike in the (near) future?
I am very fortunate that my work allows me a six week sabbatical period, and right now my plan is to head to Patagonia and hike as much as humanly possible, exact trails to be determined! I’ve also hiked so many of the 48 4000 footers in New Hampshire at this point that I should probably complete that!
For all those inspired by your story and experience on the trail, what is the one tip you would like to give them?
Do your homework and plan ahead! The permit process can be a little cumbersome to navigate and they sell out in seconds. If you don’t score permits, there are plenty of other amazing hikes on Kauai that are absolutely worth checking out!
Oh and bring hiking poles! I have never hiked with poles before, but between the slippery mud, the multiple stream crossings, all the climbing up and down, and the very narrow crumbly trail, you’ll be happy you had them.
Lastly, when our hiking-lovers want to know more and follow your adventures, where can they find you on social media?
Well, I’m not social media much, but I’m happy report back to Tell Your Trail on more hikes and collect some more awesome trail maps in the future!
Lindsay, thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview with us, it was an absolute pleasure!
Do you have an amazing story about one of your trail adventures which you would like to share with the community? Please reach out to us via firstname.lastname@example.org as we would love to hear from you.
Jay & Maud