Elevation gain: ~2,162 steep ft, all the elevation gain is on the way back
Difficulty: Hard/challenging, not for the faint of heart or knees
The upsides of the Kukui Trail are the wild views of the colorful west side of Waimea Canyon (a kaleidoscope of red ochre, charcoal, and every shade of green) and the great workout you get as you climb all the way back up to the top. The last section at the bottom is an enticing path through a forest, which ends at the rocky river. Go quietly and if you’re lucky you might be graced by the sight of frolicking feral goats.
There is a some satisfaction to traversing to the river that seemed impossibly far away when you viewed it from the scenic turn outs high above. Reaching the rocky river bed itself was a bit anti-climatic, aside from rooster and goat sightings. I imagine it might be fun to scramble along the river, but I ran out of time.
Critters that you might encounter: the ubiquitous Kauai roosters and shy feral goats.
Notes: Strongly suggest hiking shoes and a pole or 2 might help as well. Wouldn’t attempt if it is raining or has rained heavily —terrain is also slippery when dry. This is seasonal pig and goat hunting area -yikes – not sure how that works, given that it’s a popular hiking area. Gives “I survived the Kukui Trail” new meaning!
Here’s what a good portion of the steep descent / ascent looks like before you enter the woods- surreal 3d blurred effect due to rain & operator error, but you get the idea.
Getting there: Highway 550, about 0.75 miles past the 8-mile marker. Parking is along the road.