5 Plants And Animals That Live In The Desert The 5 Top Hawaii Hiking Adventures: Hawaii’s Most Outrageous Trails

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The 5 Top Hawaii Hiking Adventures: Hawaii’s Most Outrageous Trails

Hawaii tourism is a treat most casual visitors don’t experience – they’re coming to relax on the beach, enjoy the highest levels of amenities, and just travel a short distance ( for example, from their cars or walking to the beach). There is another “side” to Hawaii, though – and that is the sports in these beautiful natural areas. One of the oldest axioms about adventure insists that you must step out of your “comfort level” for true adventure to happen! Therefore, some of the Top 5 trips listed here are quite difficult, and can take even the most enthusiastic backpacker out of their comfort zone – but they will be able to bear witness to the features a wonder of Hawai’i that few have seen.

Because the islands are in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, have a unique history, and are very large in area – the land is vast, exciting, and often unique even to the experienced world traveler. Travel conditions can be strange and dangerous – from forcing wind rock trails in the green forest of Tahiti – to active lava conditions on the Big Island where you can get close to a “lava river”. So… from the thousands of hikes to choose from, which are the five best in terms of inspiration, extreme anger, beauty, and adventure? The opinion of one author, who is a 30-year veteran of Hawaii tours, is shown below.

Figure 5: Alakai Swamp Trail. Waimea Canyon in western Kaua’i is often called the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”. As you go up the spectacular road that goes to its side, it seems to be similar to the Grand Canyon – with dry, red canyon walls and water-filled streams here and there. Its dimensions are very small, but the resemblance is real. The upper part of the canyon adds to the canyon’s strangeness, that is, there is a large plateau between the canyons that does not drain to the bottom of the canyon. It is a 4-5 million year old collapsed crater, and because of the “drainage problem” it hosts unusual vegetation and topography in an isolated high swamp. While walking among the amazing, unique plants and scenery, you can see Mount Wailaelae, which scientists often refer to as the wettest land on earth (on its windward side). The beauty, unique ways of life, and unusual characteristics of the Alakai Swamp region make it a world-class destination. Distance: 8.0 miles Difficulty: Moderate to Intermediate Elevation Change: Approx. 50 meters

Figure 4: Haleakala Crater to the Pacific Ocean. Maui’s most famous hike begins at the eerie and impressive mountain crater, called Haleakala. It is full of cinder cones, and ancient lava flows. Many visitors go up to admire the sunrise here – but very few consider traveling all the way down to the sea! It’s a wild ride with more than 10,000 feet of elevation change. It’s all good news, but those with bad knees aren’t best off trying it. With the twists and turns of the route up and down, hikers are treated to indescribable views of places like Koolau Gap, and every so often with vistas down to the Pacific coast. Some experts have rated this as one of the top 5 tours in America. The vistas, remote control, elevation change, and many tropical landscapes are worth it! Distance: 22 miles (one way) Difficulty: Very Difficult Elevation Change: +10,000 feet (but all down)

Figure 3: The summit of Mauna Loa, The Big Island of Hawai’i is over twice as large as the rest of the Hawaiian Islands combined. It hosts 2 mountains over 13,600 feet above sea level. Both of these – Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea – are large and diverse – with rainforests on the windward side and actual deserts on the low side.. You can drive to an incredible sky of astronomical observatories at the top of Mauna Kea, but there are only arduous hikes to the top of Mauna Loa (and Mauna Loa volcano is classified as still very “active” by geologists). There are actually three trails to the top of Mauna Loa – so I maintain that if you take the short route it is still very difficult! Because of the high altitude, even this short trail is difficult at 12 miles. There is a cabin at the top, though, which has buks, blankets, and often even water (must check with NPS rangers). Distance: 12 miles Difficulty: Elevation Change Elevation: 1000 meters

Figure 2: Kalalau Trail The Na Pali Coast is often referred to as the most beautiful place in the world and the most beautiful islands in the world! The world famous Kalalau Trail begins and ends on the Na Pali Coast. It begins where the road ends on the north shore of Kaua’i, and then is 17 miles to Kalalau Valley. The trail follows the Na Pali rocks at various altitudes – sometimes at sea level, and sometimes up to 1000 feet above sea level. Within the first 20 minutes the vistas are as fine as any in the world. The valley was eventually inhabited by several thousand Polynesians before the arrival of Europeans. It is full of ancient fruit trees, vegetable patches, wild goats, wild pigs, and even coffee trees, Distance: 22 miles Difficulty: Hard Elevation Change: 300 meters

Number 1: Big Island Active Lava Hike Traveling close to red hot lava can be dangerous, but it can also be one of the most thrilling experiences of human life. In 2011, active red hot lava erupted from several constantly changing areas on the Big Island. Thirty miles from Hilo, Kilauea Caldera has a small crater inset within it called Halemaumau Crater. It has been flowing for years now, but the national park only allows you to see it from a distance (about 1 kilometer), and so you don’t really see the lava. During the day, you see smoke billowing and at night you can see a red hot glow emanating from a lava lake that is empty and often hundreds of feet below the rim. More active and accessible lava flows, some of which you can walk to, have appeared in many areas in the eastern half of the island over the past 100 years. If you go when the stream is accessible, and you can reach it – you can walk as close as you dare (be careful not to burn your eye lashes). Sometimes there are active streams or craters up to a 6 mile long desert – and many visitors over the years have been lost. Length: 100 yards to 12 miles Difficulty: Variable Elevation Range: 0-200 meters

Logistics: Where to base camp and get supplies It’s not easy or straightforward for a first-time visitor to each of these adventure zones. There are of course many options, and it is difficult not to believe it can only be done for a small amount for the first or second visitor. However, for Alakai Swamp on Kauai at the YWCA’s Camp Sloggett, you can rent a room, rent a bed, or camp right in Kokee State Park. Camp Sloggett is within throwing distance of some of the best day trips on the planet. It is best to get all supplies in Lihue, although the town of Waimea at the base of the canyon has a few small shops. For a long hike on Maui from the highest mountain (Haleakala) down to the ocean, you need to backpack the entire trip. You can take a taxi, a bus, or a friend to the train – or hiking with backpacks to the trail heads is very acceptable on the islands. And for the Kalalau trail on the north coast of Kauai, there is another lodge only one mile before the road operated by the YMCA (on the beach side of the road at Haena Beach 5 miles past Hanalei). It is only basic bed or camping, but it is right on an incredible beach! For two hikes on the Big Island there is actually an inexpensive volcano Hawaii hotel centrally located there. I recommend you camp on The Big Island at Volcano Village (within 1 mile of the national park entrance only) because you can set up for two of the five most extreme hikes in Hawaii that you put yourself here! National park officials and some localities can advise you on conditions and permits. Then, if I were you, I’d fly to Kauai and do two more… since it’s the only other island with two of these five fabulous hikes.

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