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Surviving the Napali Cliffs Hike in Hawaii
Four sunny days backpacking
Hints on Surviving the Napali Cliffs Backpack trip
The Nappali Cliffs hike is FANTASTIC-but only if you have a good head for heights and are used to going up up up and then down down down on narrow trails which may have a big drop off on one side.
You Dont Have to Wait Like I did
Friends told me about this hike 25 years ago, but I didn't have any details and thought Hawaii would be crowded and hectic.Once I got there I realised my negative assumptions were totally wrong and wished I had gone to Hawaii years ago. We read up on the hike in my travel bible "Lonely Planet Hawaii." Then my partner emailed for permits and we both started packing as light a pack as possible: sunscreen, powdered soup, ramen noodles, cook kit , water purifying system etc.
Be Prepared for Rain
It rains a lot on the north shore of Kauai.
Hikers and campers need waterproof clothes and waterproof tent, good hiking boots or shoes with great tread, collapsible hiking poles, bug repellent,headlights,lightweight stove,and rock hopping/ stream crossing skills. We were lucky most days it was mild and reasonably dry in the daytime and rained at night. Most people we met on the hike were loving it. But we met a few who booked the hike with Hawaii State Parks, paid their $22 per day fee, flew to Kauai, drove or hitch hiked to the start of the hike, and then turned back near the start or somewhere before the end of the trail at mile 11. Some reasons why people turned back were:
"It was too steep, and dangerous. I didn't want to risk my life.I didn't know it was going to be so muddy.I didn't want to walk on such a narrow bushy path.We couldn't see where the path was going. The rivers were too hard to cross. I got to the dangerous part at mile 7 and there was such a steep drop and the wind was blowing hard and I just froze."
The Scary Part of the Hike
The scary part is mainly between mile 7 and mile 8. The first day, like most people we hiked 6 miles up and down and through narrow and muddy trails over spectacular headlands to the first campsite deep in the forest by a small waterfall. We cooked dinner in the cook shelter and slept well. It rained in the night but our tent is very waterproof and we were able to dry our tent in the cook shelter after breakfast. We tackled the steep cliffs in the morning while we were energetic. Some unfortunate back packers got stuck on those steep cliffs in heavy downpours and powerful windstorms. That could have been dangerous.
Be in Shape
To enjoy the hike you need to be in shape. We are retired women in our mid sixties and very experienced backpackers. We thought we would hike two miles per hour. We managed one mile per hour. We were unusually slow due to the steep terrain, the creek and stream crossings, and our dwindling fitness. Most younger hikers were much faster. But a few of the young people were almost as slow as us. At the mile 11 beach we met a young Alaskan trail runner who had run all the way to mile 11 in about two hours. He was smiling, drinking his water and eating his gummy bears and preparing to run back. He figured his return time would be about 2 hours and fifteen minutes. Very Amazing trail running.
Delicious Fruit Grows Wild in the Valleys
The trail alternates between exciting cliff faces with great views, and densly vegetated vallies and ravines. One nice part of this beautiful hike is the delicious fruit growing wild in the lush forest. Friendly people gave us guavas, oranges,passion fruit and wild plums. There were wild tomatoes and arugula at the side of the trail and giant aloe vera for your skin.Generally the weather is mild even when it rains. But storms and possible gale force winds can occur so check the weather reports before you set out. Also bring water purifying drops or better yet a good water filter because there are goats and rats and cat and people above the water sources. That means you can get really sick from drinking untreated water. Google for more info and read up on the hike and if you decide to go- YOU WILL be CHALLENGED and HAVE FUN!
GET YOUR HIKING and CAMPING PERMITS
Hiking and camping permits: Hawaii State parks, 3060 Eiwa street room #306 Lihue Hawaii zip 96766 phone 808 587 0300
Camping gas cylinders Peddle and Paddle, in Ching Young Village Mall which is just on your right of the highway as you go through Hanalei, the last town before the beaches and caves at the trail head.