Ala’kai Swamp Hiking Tour – 8 miles roundtrip (4 miles one way) (moderate-hard)
Kauai’s Alaka’i wilderness is calabash of native birds and plants, many of them endangered and on the brink of extinction.It has been called the world’s highest swamp, and it is a wonderland of forested streams and sedge-dotted bogs. Much of it is nearly a mile high, a long, narrow plateau suspended amid the mountains. From its sides, thin, jagged ridges and waterfalls plunge into deep valleys and canyons.
Virtually impenetrable, Ala’kai Swamp Hiking tours can be led only by arduous hikes or by helicopter on days when the clouds clear. The vast majority of island visitors and most residents have never seen it. At its eastern end is Wai‘ale‘ale, long proclaimed the wettest spot on Earth. In some years it is likely the wettest; in others perhaps not, but it is clearly very, very wet. The U.S. Geological Survey calculates the average over the past century or so at 426 inches.
To the south, it falls away to Waimea Canyon, the aptly nicknamed “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” On its northern flank, the Alaka‘i drains into the stunning, precipitous ridges and valleys of Hanalei, Lumaha’i and Wainiha valleys. And to the west, into the folded geography of a region known simply by the name, Na Pali, “the cliffs.” Many of the Alakai’s birds are endangered today, and many more are extinct.
For some of them, civilization has made most of the island uninhabitable, and only the Alaka‘i remains sufficiently remote and untouched for them to survive. Much of the Alaka‘i Swamp Hiking trail is a dense jungle. It is cut occasionally by the beginnings of streams, which splash through the vegetation, seeping around moss-laden stones.
The water is the color of tea, stained from steeping in the leafy forest floor. The scenery drastically changes from open valley to rainforest as you head into Alaka’i Swamp, the trail is said to be the highlight of many visitors’ journeys to the island, and it’s one of our favorite hidden gems as well.
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