Southeast of Hanalei on Kauai, the Okolehao Trail is a steep trail leading to an exceptional view over the Hanalei River Valley and the surrounding mountains. The trail starts out through lush jungle and transitions to a very stout climb through dense Norfolk pine forest on Hihimanu Ridge to a stunning vista. It is a 1,200 foot climb over 2.3 miles to the vista point. The Okolehao Trail follows an old overgrown dirt road that was used long ago to access Ki plants that were used to make a distilled beverage from its roots.
By the way, it can be a very muddy hike. So, it is stongly recommended to only attempt this when dry. Coming back down this out-and-back route can be comical when wet since the mud is very slippery.
To reach the Okolehao Trail trailhead from Hanalei, head east on SR560 for 1.5 miles to the bridge over the Hanalei River. Just before the bridge, turn right heading south on Ohiki Road for 0.6 miles into the Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge. The parking area is on the left (east) side of the road. The trail starts across the road from the parking area (you may see a trail sign on the bottom of a bridge crossing a viaduct known as China Ditch).
The lower section of this trail is maintained by the Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge. Sections of the upper trail is maintained by the Sierra Club Kauai Chapter.
Here are some notes on adventuring in Hawaii. First, unlike mainland forests, the tropical island forests can grow very dense and can mask dropoffs. Plus, the trails can be very wet and slick most of the year (December to February is the main rainy season, but expect rain all year round). Stay on the trail to avoid disorientation. Second, speaking of disorientation, be aware that most Hawaiian topographic maps use the Old Hawaiian Datum. When trying to use the latitude/longitude from those maps with a GPS unit, you will think you are 0.4 miles south/southeast of where you really are. Kind of important in a dense jungle. Third, the bacteria Leptospirosis is found in the local waters and mud. It causes flu like symptoms within 2-20 days of contact, and can be fatal if not treated with antibiotics. Fourth, when hiking about, walking sticks can be very helpful for stablity in the slick conditions, for probing mud hole depths and clearing webs of the tiny crab spider.
Note: As of April 2010, the first couple miles of the Kalalau Trail are still under going much needed maintenance by the Friends Of Kalalau Trail. These crews are working twice a month and the rehabilitation work should be complete by the end of 2010.
Overall, Okolehao Trail is the 12th most popular hiking trail of all 45 hikes in Hawaii.