Had a grand hike up Sleeping Giant (Nounou) Mountain with incredible views of the East shore.
Another view of Wai'ale'ale and the Wailua Homesteads, further on the trail.
After about two miles we made it to the top.
With some spectacular views of the East Shore!
We had to share the picnic area near the top with this dude. These "king toads" are quite big and plentiful but harmless.
Emily and I decided to take the dogs, Uila (WEE-la) and Koa (KO-a), up the Moalepe Trail up near us between the Wailua Homesteads and Kapahi. After passing by some pastures on a gradual ascent along a washed out dirt road, we got up into the foothills for some incredible views of Sleeping Giant, bits of the ocean and Kaua'i's central mountain, Waiale'ale (which was covered in clouds, as usual).
The trail is 2.5 miles and you may catch the quarter-mile markers beginning around 2 if you keep an eye out. There is a sign marking the end of the trail at a bridge with a cool grotto area. I strongly recommend continuing on the Kuilau Trail up around the grotto area to a breath-taking lookout about 100 yards beyond the sign.
A half mile further (so 3 miles out) is a picnic area with a near-360 view, open grassy area big enough for a football game or frisbee, and simple picnic pavilion. If you stay on the trail you will end up at the Keahua Arboretum, another possible starting point that is not as far (you would be taking the Kuilau Trail to the picnic area).
Getting There: This is an East Side hike up behind Kapa'a. Take Olohena Road all the way until it ends with Waipouli Road. You will see the dirt road clearly marked beyond the metal the gate.
What to Bring: Bring at least a quart of water, especially on a hot day. Sun protection is recommended as lots of the hike in the beginning is exposed. The trail is rated as moderate with gradual gains and descent; very few steep sections. A few muddy spots but overall not bad at all (for Kaua'i!). Trail can be slippery at points but most of the time it is wide enough for a vehicle. We saw cyclists and horseback riders in addition to hikers - dogs did fine and great one for them!
This was my first real hike in Kaua'i, and I couldn't ask for more spectacular weather and views! I must have seen at least ten helicopter tours, and I can guarantee I was paying a lot less to see some gorgeous scenery.
Getting There: You will find the trail about a mile from the main Hanalei Bridge. From Princeville, take a left immediately after crossing the main bridge. From Hanalei, it is the last right just before crossing the bridge to go up to Princeville. Drive about one mile, and you will see a dirt parking lot on your left. Across the road to the right is the trail head.
Trail Itself: The first mile can be quite muddy, but push on for some great views. There are some ground netting early on that helps with mud and slippery slopes. About a mile up and there is the first lookout at a power line tower. Another mile up (the mud has decreased, but you still need to watch your footing) and there is an even better near 360-degree view of the Hanalei Bay and surrounding valley. You could easily stop here, having climbed 1,250 feet, but I went on a very narrow trail that followed the ridge line up and down slippery slopes with ropes until I reached the tallest point marked by a tall evergreen (about 4 miles up, 8 miles round trip I estimate). There were about two more peaks I could see beyond where I went (see below), but I was satisfied (and out of water!).
What to Bring: At least 2 quarts water to make it to the top, sunscreen, hat/sunglasses, good shoes that can handle mud, hiking stick or other gear for steep ascents, gloves to protect your hands on the ropes if you go beyond the initial two miles, lightweight long pants to protect from brush. Most of the time you are going in and out of shade.
My legs burned several days after this hike; perhaps a day recovery if you only did the initial two miles (what's on the map). I would only take dogs on the first mile or so, when the trail is wider, but if you're going in the rainy months (late Nov - early Mar) be prepared for plenty of mud early on.