Kalepa Ridge Trail (Incredible views of Napali Coast!)

Kalepa Ridge Trail
Kalepa Ridge Trail

Kalepa Ridge Trail Hike

After 9 trips to Hawaii and tons of different hikes… I have a new winner for the best trail in Hawaii.

The Kalepa Ridge Trail provides nonstop payoffs of truly insane views that I didn’t believe could be crammed into one hike!

For amazing views of the Napali Coast most people immediately think of the Kalalau Trail! That trail is popular for good reason, but it is incredibly hard to get a permit for. Or maybe even if you can get a permit you aren’t feeling up to an 22 mile hike that often comes along with the requisite camping.

The last time I was in Kauai I tried to but couldn’t get a permit. I thought the only way I would be able to see the Napali Coast was paying for a helicopter tour (expensive but also actually worth it). Shockingly, I found another option, the Kalepa Ridge Trail!

Not only does the Kalepa Ridge Hike give you views of the Napali Coast, but it leads you along a mountain ridge line where you can see the the famous “ridges” almost the entire time.

No permit required! It doesn’t require a permit, pre-reservation, and is way cheaper than the other options. There is only one catch, technically it is an unmaintained and unauthorized trail, so do it at your own risk!

Kalepa Ridge Quick Facts

  • Length: 2 miles out and back
  • Difficulty: Moderate to intense depending on weather
  • Permit or Reservation: No
  • Cost: The trail is within Kokee State Park which costs $5 per person to enter
  • Parking: Big lot that costs $10
  • Facilities: Bathrooms in parking lot
  • Best Known For: Almost nonstop views of the famous Napali Coast Ridges

If the Kalepa Ridge Trail is so Amazing, Why is it Unmaintained?

Plain and simply, it’s dangerous. The Kalepa Ridge Trail walks you along the top ridge of a mountain. A better way to describe it would actually be you walk along the top of incredibly steep cliffs on both sides.

One wrong step and you could easily plummet to your death. I think the risk associated with this trail is why it is no longer maintained and is technically unauthorized.

I have no doubt that there have been Kalepa Ridge Trail deaths; to make sure this isn’t you proceed at your own risk, and don’t attempt it if it’s just been raining as you don’t want to risk sliding off.

My experience as a non dare devil

I am definitely not a dare devil or adrenaline junkie. I am actually quite scared of heights and there was never a point where I felt unsafe on this trail. It its important to note that the weather was perfect the day we were there. It was not raining or slippery at any point, maybe if it was muddy or raining I would feel different?

Another perspective from a father and 2 boys – We started the hike at the same time as a father and his 2 boys (looked to be maybe middle school age??) and the boys told us it was super sketch towards the end.

On the way back instead of walking along the ridge they walked back along the fence, further inside. (See photo below)

This hike is not kid friendly – Let’s just say this hike would be a parents worst nightmare. There are a million ways you could fall off and die if you aren’t careful. Definitely not kid friendly.

Do not wear flip flops! – This is not a hike you can do safely in flip flops. You are just asking for trouble. You definitely need to wear your hiking boots or sturdy tennis shoes. These are the hiking boots I wear and love them!

Is the Kalepa Ridge Trail legal?

Technically no…however, it was a park ranger who recommended it and told us.

What the Park Rangers Told Us About It

When we got to Kokee State Park we asked one of the rangers about a number of different trails and which ones he would and wouldn’t recommend. The ranger pointed out the positives of other trails in Kokee State Park, but when talking about the Kalepa Ridge Trail he let us know that the trail was closed and officially he was not allowed to recommend we go to it.

That being said, he went on and on about how there were no other trails that offered the nonstop mountain and oceans views like the Kalepa Ridge Trail did, and that if he was allowed, he would recommend it for all the sure-footed travelers without little kids out there.

The park ranger also added that they wouldn’t stop or forbit anyone from actually hiking the trail. It wasn’t hard for us to see what his true opinions were, so we decided to do it.

Almost everyone we talked to on the trail heard about it from either a park ranger or a friend.

Kalepa Trail Location

The Kalepa Trail trailhead begins at the Kalalau Lookout in the Kokee State Park on the Hawaiian island of Kauai.

FYI – The Kalalau Lookout is completely different than the Kalalau Trail!

Kalepa Ridge Trail Map

Located in Kokee State Park

The Kalepa Trail is located in Kokee State Park, which is directly next to the Waimea Canyon State Park.

You can’t miss the gorgeous views of Waimea Canyon as you drive up to the trailhead. While I loved Waimea Canyon, what you are about to see is even better.

Kalepa Ridge Trailhead

The trail begins at the Kalalau Lookout though you will not see any signs or directions telling you where to go. You have to know what you are looking for ahead of time to be able to find the start of the trail.

Finding The Hidden Trailhead

To get on the actual trail you need to walk around the chain link fence that is on the left side of the lookout (assuming you are facing the lookout from the parking lot). You will actually be able to see a worn path going around the end of the fence, which is a clue that you are close to the actual trail. (See photo below)

Kalepa ridge trailhead in Kauai
Kalepa ridge trailhead in Kauai

Once you are on the far side of the fence there are a couple of paths that will lead in various directions through the dense forest. We got lost following a couple of these paths and ended up going in circles.

To get onto the actual trail go around the fence and immediately along the back side of it towards the lookout.

Once you are at the sturdier concrete and metal fence of the actual lookout you will turn left and start to descend.

Soon the forest will begin to open up and the trail will be easy to follow.

Kalepa Ridge Trail Kauai Parking

You will park at the Kalalau Lookout.

The parking lot is reasonably sized and even if it is full, you can wait a few minutes and a spot will likely open up since most people just walk to the viewpoint and then move on. If you aren’t up for the hike, the viewpoint by itself is phenomenal.

There are bathrooms and a pay station for your $10 parking fee.

Kalepa ridge trail parking
Kalepa ridge trail parking

What The Kalepa Trail is Like – My Experience

I am not going to lie – The beginning of this hike is steep. Trust me, side stepping down and when you come back up crawling on your hands and knees. The photos below are us going back up after finishing the trail.

The descent will cause you to have to grab onto tree branches and possibly slide down on your butt. Thankfully the steep part is only for the first quarter of a mile. After that the trail flattens out and for the most part you are following a clear path along the ridge of a mountain.

The trail gets super steep at the beginning. But don’t worry, it doesn’t stay like that for long.

Kalepa Ridge Trail
Kalepa Ridge Trail Kauai hikes

From a quarter of a mile in until the rest of the hike the views across to the ocean and the Napali Coast ridges will be breathtaking. Once you are near the end of the hike views down the other side (your left) will open up and you will be able to see more ridged mountains and the Pacific Ocean.

Kalepa Ridge Trail

Towards the end of the trail you will be walking along the ridge.

Kalepa Ridge Hike Kauai Hawaii
You can see why it is called the Kalepa Ridge hike as you walk along the ridge for a large amount of time.

At the end of the trail you will be on the tip of a mountain with the ability to look down on Kalalau Beach as well as Honopu Beach. You won’t be able to see it from up top, but you are basically directly on top of the Honopu Arch.

The end of the trail

The very end of the trail is the only time I was like, whoa, this is scary. I could die if I fell. You have a choice as to how close to the end you will get, so choose wisely.

Don’t Confuse the Kalalau Lookout and Kalalau Trial

The Kalalau Trail takes off from the northwestern part of the island of Kauai. The Kalalau Lookout is accessed by coming up from the south west part of the island. The drive time between the Lookout and the Trail is about 2 and 1/2 hours (without traffic) so do not mistakenly type the wrong one into your GPS.

Conclusion: Is the Kalepa Ridge Trail worth it?

Yes! If you are willing and able to safely take the risk to hike this “unmaintained” and technically unauthorized trail you will not regret it!

Another note – even though this trail is unmaintained it’s not like you are crawling through the bush. The path was clear the entire way.

Most people can complete this relatively short trail within an hour and 1/2, but if you are new to views of the Napali Coast expect it to take a whole lot longer as you are likely going to be taking necessary breaks to change filled up memory cards!

We stopped to take a ton of photos and even eat our lunch.

Kalepa Ridge Trail
Me and Eric back in the car after hiking.

Other hikes in Kauai we have done:

  2. MAKALEHA TRAIL – Amazing trail that is extremely muddy. 100% worth it!
  4. Pihea Trail – Easy hike on Kauai with Na’pali Coast Views!
  5. Makauwahi Cave Trail – Kauai Hidden gem

Read about all the hikes we have done in Kauai here.

Planning a trip to Kauai? Read everything we know about Kauai here:

My husband and I have been to Kauai many, many times and have written up more guides to help you plan your trip. These are my most popular blog posts and Kauai travel guides to help you plan your trip.

Kauai Beaches

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Kauai Hiking Guides

Read about all the hikes we have done in Kauai here.

Read all other posts on Kauai here.

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Hey there! I'm Claire, the founder of AvenlyLaneTravel.com & AvenlyLane.com. While spending 4 years completely bedridden and miserable from an unexpected illness I decided to begin writing about past travel adventures and now the rest is history. Thank you so much for visiting the website. I hope you enjoy it!


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