The Nounou Mountain range overlooks the East Side of Kauai; it is known as the Sleeping Giant due to the shape of the mountain. Though the peak's a site to behold from below, the three trails that access the mountain are something that shouldn't be missed for people who love to hike.
Hikers concur that the best of the three trails up the Sleeping Giant is the East Trail; other trails include the West Trail and the Kuamo'o Nounou Trail. Offering a varied landscape of terrain and foliage, the East Trail weaves past a shelter, picnic table, through gorgeous forest and by spectacular views, only to peak along the giant's throat and chest. This part is gnarly! Even for those who will think about their safety and choose not to climb over the actual giant, this is a wonderful hike that can work for everyone.
East Kauai, as seen from atop the Sleeping GIant — Photo courtesy of John Verive
Let's skip ahead to the important details for a minute: the East Trail up the Sleeping Giant is about two miles each way, sees an incline of about 1,000 feet on the way in and has a reputation for being tough. However, it can be done by a tough family and children that aren't way too little.
But let's get back back to the beginning. The East Trail starts on Haleilio Road, and hikers will make their way through a series of switchbacks along the way. It weaves through dense forests that provide shade, but there are also sections that are wide open to the sun. Along the way, look for wild fruit to enjoy, like guavas and passion fruit.
Now here's an important tip: at the halfway point, there is a fork in the road, and it's very important to know not to go left here. Make sure to take the right path. There are a lot of very dangerous side trails along the main trail, and this is one of the worst. So stick to the right.
Once you're 1.5 miles into the East Trail (There's a marker here.), the West Trail intersects. It's important to stick to the East Trail. Soon after, hikers will find the picnic table - perfect for a lunch break - and some amazing views. At the picnic table is where the trail leads to the giant's head and face, which is absolutely dangerous, crazy, amazing, gnarly . . . we think we got the point across.
For those who (literally) like to live on the edge, proceed up the giant's face, where the narrow trail is surrounding by nothing but a drop on each side that measures hundreds of feet to the bottom. Otherwise, call it a day at the picnic table.