Backcountry Off Trail Hike Kauai Na Pali Coast Nikon Z9 PhaseOne Photography

Capturing Kauai: Windswept Magic on Kalepa Ridge

Travelling the Kalepa Ridge Trail on the Na Pali Coast on the Island of Kauai is an extraordinary experience.  There are few adventures more beautiful or potentially more dangerous.  The trail traverses a knife-like ridgeline as it extends out from the Kalalau Lookout on the Northwestern edge of the Island.  The trail is 1.8 miles in length (out and back).

The views are breathtaking for most of the trip. From the endpoint of Ni’ani’au, the Kalalau Valley, Kanakou, Alea’lau, Ka’a’alahina Ridge, Kalalau Beach. Kalalau Trail, Ho’ole’a Falls, Honopu Ridge and Honopu Valley present themselves in their full glory.

All the Key Spots Big and Small in View

The trip is an up and down adventure.  Technically there is only a 500 vertical foot drop.  The elevation change is materially more.  The trail-bed is superb, however, it is narrow.  There are a few spots on the trail where the change in vertical is dramatic.  There are a number of spots where a slip can result in a plummet of 3,000 feet.  There is also a number of spots where level ground is present.  These spots are full of trees and native grass.  These spots make you feel as it you are in an arboretum.

The arboretum that is Kalepa Ridge.
The arboretum that is Kalepa Ridge

The Kalepa Trail is not an official one. It is not maintained. Travel on the trail is explicitly discouraged by the State Parks of Hawaii.  Signs to this effect are posted in and around Kalalau Lookout.  In short, you are on your own on the Kalepa Trail.  The Kalepa Trail, like others on Kauai, is a completely different experience if moisture or rainwater is involved.  This trail’s status moves from Demanding | Difficult to Dangerous | Treacherous with the presence of moisture.

I travel on these trails with hiking cleats and hiking pole at all times.  They change the game in general and are difference makers when wet weather is involved.

Looking down to Kalalau Beach from Ni’ani’au.

I am covering the length of the trail as reconnaissance.  I am trying to establish the best lighting and time of year for future late-afternoon, sunset, sunrise and astrophotography shoots.

Looking up to Ni’ani’au from the Na Pali Coast on Christmas Morning.

One rule-of-thumb on these trails: have your camera-at-the-ready, you might catch a rainbow.

Rainbow on Kalepa
Kalepa Ridge Trail Map

— Jeff’s Worthless Trivia & Other Thoughts — 

The implication of the micro-climates in this area of the island can be material.  Sun, rain, mist, and fog | cloud banks can happen within few moments of each other.  All conditions occur while hiking on this day.

You Never Know Who You’ll Bump Into

Upon leaving the trail, I sit down on the grass at Kalalau Lookout to remove my boots.  The view from Kalalau Lookout is enveloped in clouds.  A lady is standing at the fence talking with other strangers.  I over hear the lady expressing her disappointment because she says she is a landscape photographer, there is no shot to be had, is on a family vacation, and leaves in the next day.

I reach out, and suggest to the lady she wait 15-30 minutes.  The lady thanks me, but says the guideline of family trip rule the day – so no photo today or a return tomorrow.  I understand her and also follow that type of rule.  We chat for but a few seconds more and I am on my way.

Somehow, the lady finds me, my websites, and sends a very nice email later in the day. What a thoughtful thing to do. Not only is the lady a photographer, she is a superb one at that.

A link to the works of Kristen Ryan is [here]

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