The already-fantastic scenery becomes better and better as we continued westward along this final section of the Kalalau Trail. The cliffs above have morphed into the fluted shapes and sharp spikes that have been so immortalized in pictures; the vegetation and terrain have transitioned almost entirely into a semi-arid sort of state, meaning there are almost continual views as the trail threads its way across the tops of rounded cliffs, with waves continuously booming and pounding against the bedrock below.
Approaching Kalalau Valley
Every so often we encountered a little hanging valley along this section of coast, hiding a little enclave of forest against the ravages of the weather. The trail ducks into each of these, allowing you to briefly experience a quick microclimate change before coming back out onto the open slopes.
Flanks of Kaaalahina Ridge
Around turn after turn, new and exciting vistas appear, and it was very hard not to burn through gigabytes of flash card space with pictures. Overhead, down below, ahead, behind. The views were nonstop. And fantastic.
After a spectacular final traverse beneath Kanakou - a perfectly-proportioned peak that towered above us - we arrived at a red, earthy saddle above a long sloping descent. This was Red Hill - a notable landmark on the trail and the point that marks the official entrance into Kalalau Valley. From the height of land, we could now peer down and see a bit of the long, lonely swath of Kalalau Beach - our final destination!
Looking east from Red Hill
After taking many pictures afforded by the stupendous viewpoint atop Red Hill, we started our descent into Kalalau Valley. A faded sign proclaiming Kalalau Valley as sacred land and urging you to give it your 'utmost care' marks the start of the descent.
Many guidebooks and descriptions describe Red Hill as a difficult climb and/or descent, but I feel it is neither. The slope is only moderate and the footing is good, and it is only about five hundred feet of elevation gain or loss. Hardly a major obstacle.
First glimpse of Kalalau Beach
Andrew atop Red Hill crag
It is, however, very scenic. The open red soil means you have a nice aerial view of everything as you descend toward Kalalau Beach. At the base of Red Hill, you enter open forest and lose the views for a short while.
Once we reached Kalalau Stream - the main watercourse that drains the big Kalalau Valley, we knew we were only minutes from the end of the trail and where the backcountry campsites were located. We were once again low on water, so we decided to save a return trip and tanked up before going to set up our camp. We then proceeded on, soon emerging right onto the edge of Kalalau Beach itself.
Jenn fording Kalalau Stream