Family Hike up the Sleeping Giant, Kauai

View from top of Sleeping Giant

View from top of Sleeping Giant

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.”
~ John Muir, The Mountains of California

Beginning of West Trail

Beginning of West Trail

Adding to the “Travel Fit” section of our family travel blog ~ hike the Sleeping Gaint! Get out and get moving with the whole family.

Looking for a great family hike to do on Kauai? The Nounou Trail, AKA Sleeping Giant, is a fun, family friendly, scenic hiking trail with  two access points (east & west) leading to the top of the mountain. Hike two miles up and two miles back through the Nounou Mountain Range between the towns of Wailua and Kapaa on the island of Kauai. Hike among the Norfolk and Cook Pines that were planted in the 1930′s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Stop to observe and take pictures of the breathtaking overlooks of Kauai’s lush interior and coastal views. Why is it called Sleeping Giant? According to Hawaiian legend,the giant was tricked by villagers into eating a rocks hidden in fish and poi. After consuming the large meal, the giant took a nap and has never woken.

This blog post and pictures are all from the West Trail of the Sleeping Giant.

How to get there~If you are not familiar with the area, it is important to take note as to which entrance of the trail you park at the East Trail or West Trail. The East Trail is accessible from Hwy. 56, turn west onto Kuamoo and drive 2.4 miles, the trail head marking will be on the right. For the West Trail, follow the same directions but continue on past the East trail head, turn right on Kamalu Road, drive 1.3 miles and the trail head will be on the right in a rural neighborhood in the Wailua Homesteads. All state trails on Kauai will have a metal sign (pictured above) at the trail head that states the name of the trail.


“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity…”  ~ John Muir

IMG_4182What to expect on the way up~ we started about 8:30 a.m. which is nice and cool in September. Ideally, we could have started sooner as it heated up drastically by 10 a.m. My first tip~ hike at your own pace. It’s not a race, take in the beauty of it all and enjoy yourself. As you make your way up the mountain, it is pretty well shaded. In the picture above, it felt as though we were walking through a foggy mist of trees. It was quiet, peaceful and smelled of fermented cherries. Warning~ there are a lot of fruit flies! Be sure to plant your feet with each step as the smashed fruit on the ground can be slippery. Our son enjoyed picking up walking sticks along the way. Sleeping Giant is a pet friendly trail. There are a lot of dogs. Be sure to have your pet on a leash and bring bags to pick up poop. Some people run the trail, so expect to step aside and allow others to pass. This happened to us frequently along the trail. One trail runner actually passed us three times. The trail is very safe, people are friendly and most of them will say “Aloha” as they pass. Please respect the trail and trees, pick up your trash and be mindful of others.

Roots, roots & more roots

Roots, roots & more roots

We took our time on the trail as it was our first attempt and we weren’t in a rush. We completed the entire trail, up and back, in two hours with many stops to take pictures and drink water. If you are an avid hiker, I would imagine you could make it up in 30 minutes time. As you approach the large rock formation towards the top, there is a stretch of the trail with drop offs on either side. Be sure to take your time, not pass others or take pictures in this area. It is a little deceiving as there are bushes on either side of the trail, but when you look closely, it becomes apparent that it is a cliff. I would not recommend that young children hike to the top. There are a couple of spots where we had to climb on large rocks and/or roots. I used my hands while climbing down in a few tricky spots. Wear good shoes, preferably hiking shoes. If you don’t own hiking shoes, wear tennis shoes. Do not wear slippers (flip flops), sandals, brand new shoes or anything with a slight heel. The trail would be an easy place to turn an ankle if not wearing the proper footwear.

IMG_4110This was the first large rock that we came upon and of course, we had to take a picture. What kid doesn’t love to climb on a great big rock? In this area of the trail, it feels as though you are hiking in the Northwest of the United States rather than on a tropical island.

Picnic Area

Picnic Area

Lookout area

Lookout area

The east and west trail of Sleeping Giant both end up at a picnic table area toward the top. There is a large open grass area. It is an ideal place to take pictures, rest and to stop and eat lunch.

Picnic table area

Picnic table area

There are two covered,  picnic tables. Celebrate your climb by enjoying lunch with a fabulous view. The breezes up high on the mountain felt so refreshing after sweating during the climb. There is also a lookout area with a bench, which is a wonderful spot to take a picture. You can set your camera on the timer, put it on the bench and snap away!! The photo above is from the lookout area. We had our own photographer present that day.



Rock Formation towards the top

“Every mountain top is within reach if you just keep climbing.”
~ Barry Finlay, Kilimanjaro and Beyond

Tips: Let me preface by saying that I tend to be over-prepared in most situations. There aren’t any restrooms or water stations anywhere on the trail. If you plan to hike alone, tell someone when and where you will be. Be sure to bring water, sunblock, snacks, wash cloth or small towel, hat and cell phone. We hiked in September when it can be very hot and humid, so be sure to bring at least 3 water bottles per person in a small backpack. Some hikers will advise holding the water bottle in your hand as a reminder to drink often. However, I think you should have your hands free on this trail. Due to hiking in the morning, we didn’t pack a lunch; however, always bring snacks! You never know if/when you or someone you are with may need food. It’s great to snack on healthy food items such as dried fruits, trail mix, granola bars etc. for energy as you hike. We bring a small towel or wash cloth which can be multifunctional. Use the wash cloth to wipe off sweat or to clean off scratches or scrapes which may occur during the hike. It is always best to have a small towel in the event someone were to get injured. It’s wonderful to be one with nature and practice technology-free family time!!!! So turn your cell off if you wish, but don’t hike without it. Keep at least one charged phone with you in the event of an emergency. Lastly, we froze our water bottles which turned out to be a huge relief as I was getting really hot and feeling nauseous at one point and the ice, cool water over my head really made me feel better. Bring your inhaler, Motrin or whatever you usually carry with you for emergencies. Hike safe, be smart and have fun.
View from top

View from top is featured monthly in Destinations Travel Magazine

One comment on “Family Hike up the Sleeping Giant, Kauai

  1. Kevin says:

    Excellent review of the Sleeping Giant trail. My parents still live in the Wailua Homesteads and this trail is very close to our house. Every time I head back to Kauai, we hime this trail. Thanks for sharing!

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