Canyon Trail to Waipo’o Falls- Big Adventures and Big Views
After a particularly long week at the office I was so ready for the weekend. My family was heading to the west side to stay in one of Koke’e State Park’s cabins for a few days. We were going off the grid which meant three days of no work emails, no mindless Instagram scrolling, and no distraction. I was pumped!
Our tribe decided that we were going to be “nature people” for the day and go on a hike. Our group of six rounded out to my 50-something parents, my siblings, and 10 year old niece. My mom (bless her heart) is not a hiker and she is not shy about telling you that. We we’re low-key surprised that she was going to come with us, but even she had a great time. The hike is rated easy/moderate, but I think that depends on which of my family members you asked. 😉
The trail was muddy in spots, because it rained a good bit the day before. Watch where you step, as the branches and roots you’ll walk over will take no prisoners. This is not the time to wear those cute new slippahs you brought on your vacation! Make sure to wear hiking boots or tennis shoes.
The first leg of the journey is through thick jungle and therefore, is well-shaded. This is one of my favorite parts of the hike. I tried to remind myself to “be present” and I urge you to do the same. Smell the Kahili Ginger, see the different birds in flight, and dare to munch on the strawberry guava that grows so abundantly (toss the shell and thank me later.) These small details are easily some of the best parts of this 4-mile journey!
We followed the signs toward Waipo’o Falls and soon enough we reached the rim of the canyon. Get out your camera. Trust me, this photo-op is a 10/10. It will be tempting to flirt with the edge to get a sick photo for the ‘gram, but pleeeease don’t to get too close. I don’t want to read about you in the paper next week.
The mind-blowing views of the canyon make it easy to understand why the Waimea Canyon is called the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. After a short walk and a couple obstacles, in the form of boulders, you’ll be greeted by an open ridge offering breathtaking panoramic views of the canyon and ocean. Fun fact: You may also get cell service here! Just ask my dad who was stoked to catch the last few minutes of the Buccaneers/Raiders game.
Keep on the trail and you’ll come to a picturesque waterfall and pool. It’s the perfect spot for travelers who are eager to re-energize with a quick and refreshing swim. Ok, this is it! This is what you sweated and walked for! Just kidding.
Carefully go down the short drop to the right. There you’ll find yourself standing at the top of an incredible waterfall that plunges 800 ft down into the canyon. Look around, take it in, and enjoy your feeling of accomplishment. You made it! Not kidding this time. Take photos, play in the stream, or have a snack. You do you. We splashed each other, counted crawfish, and rationed out the two granola bars we managed to pack. (Note to self: bring more snacks next time). After about 20 minutes at the top of the falls, we were ready to turn around and complete the journey back.
After you tackle that short uphill back to the top of the rim, I urge you to turn around. Breathe it all in (pant if you want) and take a mental picture of this moment. It’s not a scene you’ll soon forget!
If you are searching for a little challenge with a big reward, Waipo’o Falls Trail delivers.
Aloha and happy adventuring!
Directions: Journey up Highway 550 and drive north into Koke’e State Park. On your right you will pass the Waimea Canyon lookout offering stunning views of the canyon and some of your first glimpses of the magnificent canyon. Continue about 4 miles and you will come to the Pu’uhina’hina lookout. To the right there is a dirt road that will take you to the trailhead to begin your hike. If your vehicle has 4wd capability you can head down this road. Follow the signage until you reach the parking area. The trailhead and start of your adventure will be to the left! (Our truck was not up for the off-roading required for the dirt road. We parked along the main road and enjoyed the .75 mile walk, or “warm up,” to the trailhead.)
Written by guest blogger and Kauai Resident, Bri Checkley.
We wanted to share with you, this super fun and a short walk (guess it could be a hike for some) that just about anyone will enjoy. This experience is suitable for any age.
I mean, CMON! Does this even look REAL? It is!
Leaving Princeville Shopping Center, heading back East towards Kilauea (just like you were going to the airport) on the right-hand side is the Kilauea mini golf course. You should check that place out too because it’s a super unique spot. Part mini-golf and part botanical gardens ;). Instead of going right, head just a little bit further past to a large sign for “Common Ground”. Make a right on Kuawa road at the common ground sign. It’s just past the Shell gas station on the left. You can probably also Google the words “common ground kauai” and get to the start of this almost flat, 1 mile hike. Here’s a map to help you understand where to park. We recommend bringing water and sunscreen from your Princeville Rental Home or Condo. It can get hot out here.
When you see the sign below, take a picture of it with your cell phone so you know where you are at don’t get lost. If you decide to come back here we recommend talking with the guys at the bike hut next to the mini golf entrance, renting a bike from them and spending a few hours mountain biking this area. You’ll have a blast!
The best EASY hiking on the North Shore.
Once you park the car, head towards the Namahana mountain range. If you don’t know which mountain range that is, it’s the only one you can see from common ground parking lot in the directions above. So head Mauka (toward the mountains) on the dirt road that leads into the jungle. On the right-hand side you will see horse pasture and beautiful open acreage that has been given back to the community by the Porter family. Bill Porter made his fortune in the online stock trading business.
(Bill Porter) He found it a little company called E*TRADE. It later became the online traders choice platform for trading their stocks. Bill died in 2016, but his wife still lives in Princeville. They are definitely some of Kauai’s most generous philanthropists.
As you’re heading back into the jungle, check out all the signs along the way. There’s a little bit of education and information about the food in the area being grown for local fresh farmers to be sold at the neighboring health food stores and farmers markets. The Porter family had a dream for this to be a large chunk of land Groomed for sustainable farming. I think that dream has come true. It’s such a beautiful place to spend part of your day on Kauai. Pack a lunch!
About three quarters of a mile in you will see the road start to veer to the left and fork off to the right. Stay left to head down a short hill to the prize. The stone dam waterfall! Words can’t really describe the type of Shangri-La experience you’ll have here. There’s fresh water being brought down through the lush little valley by an aqueduct as well as some of the greenest grass you can ever imagine. There’s also cool little bridges to walk across and even up on the other side of The Dam, there’s a rope swing. There’s also a little spot to barbecue and sun your self in the tranquil setting this spot provides.
Please make sure if you are eating/snacking during this short walk that you pack your trash out with you. It would be a shame to litter or mess up the special place in any way.
It’s such a fun walk you may want to continue back around the rest of the loop which is another 3 miles to make it a complete circle. This is a common place for walkers or trail runners, or joggers that are looking to get a little bit of exercise on a dirt path as opposed to jogging along Princeville’s paved trails. Once you’ve conquered this trail, here are more places you may want to hike and adventure on Kauai. Be safe and HAVE FUN!
Aloha Pumehana from the Princeville Vacation Rentals Hui.