Island History

Kalalau’s Cliff Trails

The ancient Hawaiian trail that led down from Koke‘e into Kalalau Valley began at Puuokila Lookout (4,176 feet), but this trail was wiped out by a landslide sometime after 1860.

Later, a couple of young Kalalau men blazed a new trail up Kalalau Valley to a spot about halfway between Kalehu, located about a half-mile west of the present Kalalau Lookout, and the Puuokila Lookout.

The spot was named the Kilohana of Kalalau, not to be confused with the Kilohana Lookout that overlooks Wainiha Valley within the Alakai Swamp.

In 1887, Makaweli’s Francis Gay and a young, unnamed Hawaiian cowboy who lived in Kalalau Valley also climbed up to the Kilohana of Kalalau on this new trail.

And during 1893, when the outlaw Koolau was hiding in Kalalau Valley to prevent his deportation to the leper settlement at Kalaupapa, Molokai, a guard was posted at the head of the trail to stop him from escaping the valley.

Early in the 1900s, a Kekaha man named Leluahi regularly climbed down this trail to refill a 5-gallon demijohn of okolehao from Kalalau Valley.  Incredibly strong, he’d then climb back up roughly 4,000 feet with the full container on his back.

Then the Kilohana of Kalalau trail slipped away.

Sometime afterwards, Augustus Knudsen, Gerrit Wilder and Herman and Ronald von Holt blazed another new route down a hogback situated approximately in the center of the valley.

A few years later, two Kaua‘i boys, Eddie Cheatham and James Hogg, blazed yet another new trail on the waterfall side of Kalalau Valley.

And on Oct. 30, 1942, Koke‘e forest ranger Deidrich Prigge and Army Captain Walter Ricker ascended Kalalau Valley on a trail that Prigge said was the original ancient trail.

Staghorn fern has since obliterated all trails to Koke‘e from Kalalau Valley and vice versa.

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