“It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” – Edmund Hillary
Hihimanu Ridge. This hike has been on our list since we first landed on Kauai, we have crossed off every other hike on our list (minus 2 at the moment), putting it on the back burner because of my fear of heights. When i first saw pictures of this trail and the view at the top, I knew without a doubt I HAD to do this trail, after all it was my idea to put it on our list to begin with. But every time Lucas brought it up, “Hey what about Hihimanu today?” I would find another trail and another excuse to keep putting it off. Finally I agreed it was time. What was I waiting for?
Lucas has done the Okolehao Trail dozens of times through his work, its the first part of the Hihimanu Ridge Trail, but this trail was completely new to me, I was excited, nervous, but ready to overcome the fear that had been holding me back all this time. We loaded our packs, made sure we had plenty of water, and we were off!
The Okolehao Trail begins in Princeville off Hanalei River. Take Ohiki Road, a one-lane road skirting the taro fields at the north end of Hanalei bridge, and drive about 0.7 miles to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service parking area. Across the street is a small bridge marking the trailhead.
The first part of the trail is typically one of the muddiest sections mainly because it sees the most wild pig activity and foot traffic. After the fist one-eighth of a mile you will ascend a few hundred feet in elevation (this section is VERY slippery and fairly steep). The first lookout point is off to your right near the power lines it gives you a good view of Hanalei Bay and the beginning of the Napali coastline. It would be a picturesque view if the power lines weren’t in the way of the picture. After stopping there for a brief minute to take it in and drink some water we continued the trek up the trail. After a few hundred more feet of elevation gain and a little less than a mile up we get to the first major lookout of the trail where the Aloha bench is. This is where MOST people stop it gives you a great aerial view of the Hanalei river and Hanalei Bay. The Hanalei river is great to paddle board or kayak and is very calm and typically quiet. Over half of the river is actually in the Hanalei wildlife refuge so the wildlife and fish are abundant! At this point you have about another mile before the trail starts getting sketchy.
As you continue along the trail you will come across your first few ropes that will help you descend and ascend, this will become the norm the rest of the trip. Keep trekking along and they become a bit trickier and you must become more and more reliant on the ropes as the trail goes on. Before you know it your at the hardest rope climb on the trail, a straight up mud wall (roughly 80 degree angle) where you HAVE to rely on the ropes to make it up, if i had to guess it was about 60ft or so to the top, I thought for sure after this ascend we were rounding the tip top and we would be there, but the trail continued. We knew we were almost to the top because the trail became narrower, the drop-offs on each side became more pronounced and the views kept becoming better and better. We finally reached a top platform where we could easily see the two peaks we had to climb, so close! Lucas continued on from here, as I was completely content with the first peak, I had overcome so much and as Lucas put it ” You punched your fear of heights in the face.” I was so overwhelmed with the view and the journey we just took getting here that I just sat in awe while he continued his trek of the final peaks.
As he hiked ahead I got our binoculars out and watched him complete the hike. What an amazing accomplishment for both of us. The two peaks were not that bad, you just had to be careful of where you stepped as part of the trail was about a foot or so wide before it dropped off on both sides. My views were stunning but his at the end were down right incredible. A completely 360 view, a very rewarding hike! This hike has quickly become our favorite on the island, next time I will push myself all the way to the last peak 🙂