Pihea Trail enchants hikers in western Kauai

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KOKEE STATE PARK, Kauai -- Looking out over a thousand shades of sloping green vegetation, a visitor here told her companion: "It all looks painted; nothing is real."

"Where are the dinosaurs?" the companion responded in amazement.

The two were on the popular Pihea Trail here, which overlooks the Kalalau Valley on one side and miles of wilderness on the other.

For first-time and repeat visitors to this park, located at the top of Waimea Canyon on Kauai's west side, the scenery is mesmerizing. Any trip to Kauai should include a travel agent recommendation for clients to visit the park.

Kokee State Park is one of two such parks that skirts the edge of the massive canyon, the other being Waimea Canyon State Park.

Taking either Waimea Canyon Drive from Waimea or Kokee Road from Kekaha get you to Kokee State Park. The roads merge into one and travel 19 miles up to the Kalalau Lookout, situated at the end of the road where the Pihea Trail -- one of 19 in the park -- begins.

You can see the Kalalau Valley from the trail in the morning before the mist rolls in.

"Pihea, that's my favorite trail," said Michelle Hookano, assistant to the executive director of the Kokee Natural History Museum, which every summer leads guided hikes on park trails in exchange for donations.

"Most of our trails are not just for strolling. There's elevation gains in all the trails. and it's more severe in some than others."

The museum is located about a 12-minute walk from the end of Kokee Road. It features exhibits on Kauai weather; Hurricane Iniki, which tore the island apart in 1992; Hawaiian tools; and birds, plants and animals.

The Kokee Natural History Museum has a map for sale called Trails of Kokee that costs 50 cents.

For more information on Kokee State Park and other Hawaii state parks, visit www.hawaii.gov/dlnr.

For information on the Kokee Natural History Museum, visit www.aloha.net/~kokee.

Taking a guided stroll

By Doug Oakley

KOKEE STATE PARK, Kauai -- The Kokee Natural History Museum leads a number of guided walks on some of the park's 19 trails.

The museum's Wonder Walks run through Sept. 8 and are given in exchange for donations.

Hikes this summer are scheduled for June 23 and 30; July 6, 7, 13, 14, 20, 21, 27 and 28; Aug. 3, 4, 10, 11, 17, 18, 24, 25 and 31; and Sept. 1 and 8.

Space on all hikes is limited, so interested agents need to call (808) 355-9975 for reservations. Hikers should bring light rain gear, water, sunscreen, protective clothing and hiking boots. All hikes start at 12:30 p.m. at Kokee Museum.

For more information on the museum, visit www.aloha.net/~kokee.

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