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Puuokila Trail, Kauai

Parking: Take Hwy 50 to Waimea and turn inland toward Waimea Canyon on Hwy 550. Go past Kokee State Park and past Kalalau Lookout to end of the road at Puuokila Lookout.

At 4,280 feet, the Pihea Overlook is the highest point along the rim of the Kalalau Valley. The trail gives you hours of viewing on foot what tour helicopters see for a few seconds. Added to this view is a continuation hike across Alakai Swamp to Kilohana Overlook of Wainiha Valley - making this one of the most remarkable walks you can make anywhere.

Starting at the viewpoint, you know you're in for a mud stomp, as the ragged downslope at the beginning is indicative of the trail's worst parts for the first mile. A hiking pole is recommended. In some places, you'll need all four limbs to negotiate the trail - over sections of steps cut into hard-packed, greasy dirt - though it is not hazardous for the cautious hiker.

The Pihea Overlook is on a spur trail beyond the junction with the Swamp Trail. From the Pihea Overlook, don't forget to turn your back on the ocean and take a survey inland of the Alakai Swamp, especially if you're headed that direction.

Kauai Trailblazer
Available from BestBooksHawaii.com

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