A Short Hike on the Moalepe Trail

The Moalepe trailhead. The gate can be opened so vehicles can use the road if necessary..

Located in the hills to the west of Kapaa, off Olohena Road, the Moalepe Trail winds up through protected pastureland and into the forest until it connects with the Kuilau Trail. From the trailhead to the junction with the Kuilau the total distance is 2.5 miles.

Starting up the trail. Those are rocks in the dirt.
Gates along the way allow vehicles to access the pastureland.
Most of the pastureland is separated from the trail by barbed wire.

On Monday we pretty much had the trail to ourselves. We hiked up approximately 1.5 miles, then turned around and hiked back down for a total of three miles. Brett and YaYu could have easily gone to the end, but I had to call it quits because my legs grew wobbly and I became quite dizzy. I still had a good time and got a good workout, but upon reflection I’ve realized that several factors were working against me to keep me from reaching the end, some of them my own fault.

YaYu walked in front most of the way, and showed us where to step to stay out of the mud.
We had a gorgeous view of Makaleha on the way up.
At around a mile and a quarter, the forest begins to appear.

Below are some of the things I figured out for the next time we hike.

  • Although the trail is not steep, it is a steady incline all the way up to the end – we gained 370 feet during our 1.5 miles. I am a quick walker, and pushed myself too quickly up the trail which in turn quickly got me tired. I need to learn to slow down when I’m climbing.
  • I did not eat anywhere near enough for lunch before we hiked, just a half of a sausage and a small papaya. I had brought along two Japanese rice crackers though, and ate those on the way down, and felt fine by the time we got back to the trailhead. That was the biggest tip off that my empty stomach was a strong reason for my lightheadedness and the weakness in my legs.
  • It was also quite hot and humid once we got to the trail. We had been expecting a nice breeze, but instead not a leaf was stirring along the way and for most of the hike the sun was beating down on us. I wore a wet tenugui (Japanese cotton hand towel) wrapped around my neck, and that helped immensely, but I still felt overheated. For any other hike in similar weather I am going to need something wet on my head as well to help keep me cool(er). I also didn’t hydrate enough on the way up, which probably also contributed to how awful I felt at the 1.5 mile point.
  • Although the trail may look smooth in the pictures, it was anything but, and we spent the entire hike, both up and down, moving from side to side to avoid rocks and branches, mud, deep ruts, and other hazards which required extra effort. The trail functions as a utility road for part of the way (tire tracks were visible), and is also used for horseback riding, and to say it is not well maintained would be an understatement. I reminded myself on the way back down that walking paths in England are, for the most part, maintained footpaths and usually much easier to walk on.
  • I had no trouble from my bursitis on the ascent, but it flared up on the way down, painful to the point I had to stop a couple of times and stretch in order to keep going. The unevenness of the trail caused the bursitis to flare up, just as it used to when I walked on cobblestones, as my hips never bother me these days on our usual daily walks which are on flat, even terrain. I’m going to have to do more frequent stretching to keep the bursitis in check as otherwise the only alternative will be cortisone shots. Interestingly, my knee did not hurt at all, but again, it was a fairly gently slope down.
Our stopping point at a mile and a half was just out of sight in this picture. Although the forest was cooling things down, I couldn’t go any further.

Although we did not make it to the top of the trail because of the issues I experienced, I was happy with our effort. I gained a lot from the experience, especially figuring out things I can do better. We still got in a three-mile hike and enjoyed some of Kauai’s beautiful countryside. Brett and I plan to try the hike again in another three weeks or so.

Back at the trailhead at the end of our hike, I was happy but still feeling a bit shaky. My shirt is drenched from the wet tenugui I wore around my neck to help me stay cool.

7 thoughts on “A Short Hike on the Moalepe Trail

    1. It was very, very beautiful – especially when we entered the forest part of the trail. I just wish I had been better prepared for the heat and had eaten more before we walked!


  1. Too bad you couldn’t make it to the top, but the lessons learned will help you the next time!!! 🙂

    When I was on Kaua’i a few years ago we hiked the Sleeping Giant!! The view was amazing!!! WE tried to hike it once and were not prepared (hydration, etc.) so went back better prepared and it was perfect.


    1. That’s what I keep telling myself – I learned some good lessons to take forward.

      We have been talking about climbing Sleeping Giant, but from what we’re hearing the trails are currently in pretty bad shape. Apparently there has been little to no trail maintenance going on in the past few years. Brett said the Moalepe didn’t look as if it had been maintained since he last walked it in 2017.


  2. I would get some hiking poles. They are a lifesaver. It’ll help with balance and uneven ground. I used them in Ireland and they were so helpful. Especially for downhill. I also carry protein with me, nuts, bars and some kind of hard sugar candy. I have type 2 diabetes and get very lightheaded when I hike. I discovered that a candy every mile or so keeps my blood sugar more level. Walking decreases it a lot causing lightheadedness. I bought my poles from Costco but at some point will buy a better set. They are great for a beginner and will help you learn how to use them.


    1. Hiking poles are on my Christmas list! Seriously! I know I am going to need them for walking the Cotswold Way so no better time to get adjusted to them like the present.

      I am so grateful I carried those crackers with me – I don’t think I would have made it down otherwise. Next time, more water drinking and a protein bar will come along. Hard candy is a good idea too. Thanks!


      1. Definitely get them now and get used to them. I find I use them on flat ground as well. Just to establish a rhythm with them. They are a game changer for me.


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