Waking Up the Sleeping East Giant in Kauai

by Sep 22, 2019

​Ready for a pre sunrise hike?


Nounou Mountain Sleeping Giant East Trail Head tl;dr

  • Don’t Wake the Sleeping Giant
  • 3 Ways to Get There, East, South and West Entrance
  • 4 Mile Round Trip Inclined Hike @ 1,200 Feet Through Dense Forest

The sunrise is a magical experience, when timed just right the world changes from night to day illuminating the world around you. In Kauai, there’s such a trail where you can witness this natural phenomenon. Come along!

Nadia heard that there was an amazing Sleeping Giant Trail Head and given that we were able to wake up in time, we tried it out. I don’t know why it never occured to me that trying to catch the sunrise means that everything is dark. So you can imagine my surprise when it was really dark and I was less than thrilled to venture forth in the pitch black jungle.

nadia sleeping giant Kauai HI (28)

Driving around in the dark, we eventually found the parking lot which is nice because that early in the morning there was plenty of parking. Of course, it being our first time, we weren’t exactly sure which way to go to find the entrance. Initially we thought to simply wait till it got a touch brighter to start our trek till we a light in the dark.

I thought it was either my mind playing tricks on me or that I was bearing witness to honest to gosh island spirits. Nadia pointed out that it was a person with a flashlight who clearly knew the path and was hiking ahead of us. Gathering my wits to me, I picked our gear and slowly tried to catch up with our impromptu local hiking guide.

I quickly lost sight of the local’s flash light however my eyes eventually got used to the dark, so much so that I only tripped over every other tree root. Going through countless switchbacks and wandering around hoping that we didn’t go off trail the darkness started to give way to the light. Apparently we didn’t go the wrong way after all.

sunrise sleeping giant Kauai HI (15)

It was worrisome that at some points of the trail, either the trail washed away or maybe it was always missing parts of solid ground but they weren’t totally hard to navigate around. Other parts seemed like a lot steeper than normal that hindered our progress, however a short scurry up and we were back on our way.

At one point toward the top there is an open area where you can picnic and rest. There’s a lone bench with a view of the ocean. It’s a great place to catch the sunrise or simply take in the view while catching your breath.

bench sleeping giant Kauai HI (17)

Honestly, maybe I’m just out of shape but I can’t imagine hauling a large picnic up there… Yeah, I’m probably just out of shape.

Nadia and I slowly made our way to the end of the trail, or at least I think it was the end of the trail. At the time we weren’t exactly sure what to find up there but we deftly made our way across this narrow strip of ground that ended with a great view. I encouraged Nadia to stay there as long as possible taking in the hard earned space, and because I wasn’t looking forward to tightroping back across that narrow trail.

In the distance I could see people on a neighboring peak and thought maybe we should check it out. However as searched for a path in that general direction we came across a larger wall. Neither of us wasn’t sure whether this would lead us that way or whether it was simply a wall that went nowhere so we called it a day and slowly made our way back in the island heat.

I had to remind us that it was the start of our trip and that we didn’t want to hurt ourselves earlyon when we had so much more of the island to explore.

What is It

The eastern entrance to Nounou Mountain Sleeping Giant East Trail Head can be hard to find in the pre sunrise morning because it can be DARK!

Once it gets brighter you can see that the mountain looks kind of like the sleeping profile of a giant lying down; you can see a forehead and a nose of sorts. Actually, you can see it from nearly anywhere in the town of Kapa’a, acting as a local landmark to one and all.

The particulars about the east entrance trail:

  • 4 miles roundtrip
  • About 2 hours hiking time
  • 1,200 foot elevation of Forest
  • Expect some adverse trail conditions
    • Think steeper rock climbs and parts of the trail washed away

start sleeping giant Kauai HI (91)This is what the entrance looks like when it’s not pitch dark.

Where is It

The eastern entrance to Nounou Mountain Sleeping Giant Trail can be found on the eastern side of Kauai in the town of Kapa’a.

sleeping giant Kauai HI (30)

jm sleeping giant Kauai HI (24)

What to Do There

Nounou Mountain Sleeping Giant Trail Head is a place to hike, get lost, and find yourself again! Other things to look for:

  • Scenic views
  • Bird watching
  • Forest exploration
  • Not falling down the side of the mountain
  • And MORE!

nadia jm sleeping giant Kauai HI (36)

nadia sleeping giant Kauai HI (33)

It’s worth it to wake up early but don’t forget to bring your flashlight!

You're going to eat, you might as well eat something tasty.
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