Kauai's Foggy Mountain High to Waimea Canyon Low : Battered Suitcase

10th Apr 2021
Photo of Kauai's Foggy Mountain High to Waimea Canyon Low : Battered Suitcase 1/3 by Stephen Lee

After hiking along the Kauai coastline on Sunday, we were ready on Monday to visit two of Kauai's state parks, Waimea Canyon and Kokee State Park. I had done some research on the parks, but apparently failed to understand what I had read. When my daughter pulled out of the parking lot, I was sure she was going in the wrong direction. Of course I was wrong. It's a good thing she was driving.

I also thought the two parks were some distance from each other. However, it turns out that they are actually next to each other. In fact the road that leads to the parks goes from one to the next so that you hardly realize that you have changed parks. There are actually two roads that lead up to the parks which eventually merge together. We missed the first road from the town of Waimea, Hwy 550. We ended up using the second road, Hwy 552 out of Kekaha. The road up offers nice views of the countryside.

Shortly after we merged onto Hwy 550, we saw some cars parked along the side of the road. We pulled over to see what the view was, and we were looking down into a canyon at a very tall waterfall. We didn't realize it, but we were looking into the Waimea Canyon which is the first state park on the road. There was a young man there seemingly enjoying the view. He was very talkative and was offering to take people's picture. We wondered what his story was as he seemed to be there alone. After taking our photos, we continued on. There were a few other places where cars were stopped as well as some designated view points, but we didn't stop deciding we would catch these places on the way back.

We eventually arrived at Kokee State Park. At the main parking area there is a natural history museum. Information we read indicated that the rangers who worked there could help us determine a good trail for us to hike as we wanted to get out and see the area. Unfortunately the museum was closed so no help there. However, there was a map outside with information about various hikes in the area. After studying it, we decided on a hike we thought would work for us. We had to drive a little farther up the road to a lookout point and start from there.

We thought the hike was going to take us along the mountain with views of the water below so we were a bit surprised when the trail started on the side of the road away from the water. The trail was pretty level, but narrow. The biggest problem was the mud. We would come to a low spot in the trail, and it would be very muddy. We would try to go around the muddy section by walking in the grass on the side. The mud was slippery, and we were concerned about falling. I had brought some hiking poles, and my wife and I each used one to help us along the trail.

We eventually reached a spot where we were unable to walk around the muddy spot in the trail. We were not wearing shoes that could go through the deep mud so we turned back disappointed that we had really seen nothing but the shrubs and trees along the trail. However as we left, I did see some interesting fern fronds unfurling with a lot of red along them.

Not only had we been stymied from hiking, we were also unable to see the view. We walked to the viewpoint where we had parked, but we could see nothing due to the fog.

Continuing on we reached the next viewpoint. We also paid for parking here, which was $10. After we left Kauai, the state started charging a per person fee for out of state visitors along with the parking. There is a pay station that takes credit cards so it is easy to pay.

The fog that we had seen before continued to be an issue at this view point. However, we could also see that it was moving so we hoped that it might clear up. Looking away from the coast into the nearby valley the movement of the fog was quite visible.

Photo of Kauai's Foggy Mountain High to Waimea Canyon Low : Battered Suitcase 2/3 by Stephen Lee
Photo of Kauai's Foggy Mountain High to Waimea Canyon Low : Battered Suitcase 3/3 by Stephen Lee

From the viewpoint there was a wide but irregular path going down. We followed it down some, but because it was wet, it made us somewhat nervous as we were again afraid we might slip and fall. There were some viewpoints along the edge of the trail, and as we waited, the fog did begin to clear up somewhat. We could first begin to see the mountains and then the valley and the Napali coastline. While we never got a completely clear view, we were able to see most of the beautiful view. There are boat trips that go along this part of the coast and give you a different perspective. Besides being quite expensive, they were also fully booked during our visit.

After seeing all we could see, we began to head back down the road. There were two main viewpoints from which one can view the Waimea Canyon. The first one we came to doesn't have a view of the waterfall, but it does have nice views of the canyon. What is striking about the canyon is the red soil contrasting against the green trees and bushes. It is a very unique color combination seen in nature. As one continues down, there is another side-of-the-road viewpoint of the waterfall that is worth stopping for.

The final viewpoint is the main park viewpoint. This spot is a wide open view of the canyon that includes the waterfall. It is an amazing view, and in my opinion rivals the Grand Canyon in terms of how spectacular the view is. There were only a few people at the viewpoint, and it is quite wide so there is plenty of room to walk around and see the canyon at its best.

On our way back to our condo we made a couple of stops. The first was a place called Glass Beach. This is near Port Allen Harbor, an industrial area, and is actually a beach with small pieces of glass. The beach itself is kind of small, but it is interesting to look at the glass bits. The glass is from broken bottles and window glass that was discarded in the area years ago so there are different colors to the glass if you look carefully.

Our second stop was the Kauai Coffee Company. While many people know Kona Coffee, Kauai coffee is also a large coffee producer. We stopped at their shop to buy some coffee for my son before heading back to the condo.

While our day had its share of disappointments, there were also some moments of great beauty and pleasure. That's often the way it is with travel, especially when you are outdoors. The weather is one thing we cannot control. So we took the opportunities we had and enjoyed them. Tomorrow will be another day.

If you would like to read the original post and see more photos on my blog Batteredsuitcase.net check it out here.

Credit: The two photos taken of the long red dirt path in Kokee Park were taken by Silvette Lee