Kalepa Ridge Trail

McCabe David / February 23, 2021

The Kalepa Ridge Trail is one of few semi-secret, hidden gems of Kauai. This short but steep hike reveals unbeatable views of the Kalalau Valley and the jagged, dramatic cliffs of the Na Pali Coast. For this reason, it is sometimes referred to as the Napali Coast Lookout. In our opinion, the views from this trail are the best available for seeing and photographing the Na Pali cliffs by land.
As there was not much information available, we have created this guide to the Kalepa Ridge Trail to answer the most common and important questions about finding the trailhead and hiking it. When it comes to photographing the world-renown Na Pali Coast by land, you will be hard-pressed to find better opportunities than those from Kalepa Ridge.
If you like the photos you see here and would like more inspiration for your own visit, be sure to open a new tab and browse our guide to Kauai’s best photography locations after you are done here. You’re sure to discover some of the other incredible scenery, vistas, and landscape that the Garden Isle has to offer!
The Kalepa Ridge Trail is technically not legal, though it also is not illegal. It is listed as an open trail. However, upon arrival you will discover signage indicating the trail is closed… so which is it? To be honest, finding a straight answer on this is hard. What is important is that fines and punishment are rarely, if ever, issued. The state of Hawaii has been forced to close many Kauai hikes and trails due to liability and legal issues, as well as maintenance costs, but most of these are not policed.
Like the Kalepa Ridge Trail closure, many hikes around Hawaii have “trail closed” signs for the protection of the state, yet they are still advertised locally. Meaning, they are not policed but merely signed appropriately to ensure Kauai and the state of Hawaii aren’t liable if you are injured or worse on your hike.
The question then is should you hike the Kalepa Ridge Trail? We must first mention, as always, that our goal is not to condemn or condone, but to educate. Everyone’s ethical compass is different, and we recognize that many people follow the intent of the law more than the letter. With that in mind, you must know that if you decide to attempt the hike, you do so at your own risk. It is not maintained nor permitted officially. While you will undoubtedly see plenty of people, including locals, hiking this trail, fines can technically be imposed.
If you are unwilling to boldly defy the signage or concerned with the legality of the trail, we have added a section on alternative hiking trails for exploring the Na Pali coast. While the Kalepa Ridge Trail is considered the best (and shortest!), it is better to explore alternative options than miss out or challenge your moral code.