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Distance:
3.5 Miles / 5.6 km
Type:
Out-and-Back
Difficulty:
Hard
Time to Hike:
1 hour, ~45 minutes
Features:
Surface Type:
Dirt
Park:
Nounou Forest Reserve
Town:
Kapa'a, Hawaii
Directions:
22.061325, -159.346637
2
Added:
June 29, 2022
Updated:
July 07, 2022
Please consider making a donation to the Maui Strong Fund to help the victims of Hawaii's recent wildfires.

The Nounou East Trail (Sleeping Giant) at the Nounou Forest Reserve in Kapa'a, Hawaii (Kauai) is a difficult 3.5-mile out-and-back hike that leads to the top of the mountain, out to a ridge nicknamed the "Giant's Nose" that features 360-degree views above a 3-sided cliff face. The hike also includes a ledge that features views from mountain ridge caves just below the "Giant's Nose". Hikers will get many different views of Kauai including the dramatic northern Moloa'a mountain range, views of Wailua, Hawaii directly below, and sweeping views towards Kauai's remote interior and its mountain ranges.

Hike Description
This hike begins at the main lot for the Nounou East Trail and immediately begins the 1,000+ foot vertical ascent right from the start. The trail meanders its way through lowland forests full of grasses and interesting-looking trees, but as the trail gets higher in elevation, the forest changes to a more jungle-like feel; however, that isn't for quite a while. There are plenty of views and sights along the way up. If you hike this mountain in the early morning, you may see hundreds of cows and cattle in the northern valley below - they make their appearance known pretty well since hikers can hear their call from the top of the mountain, thousands of feet away.

View of Nounou Summit - Mile 0.25
If you don't like rock scrambles, but enjoy a very short hike with some elevation gain, hikers can make it to mile marker 0.25 which features a nice view of Nounou's (Sleeping Giant's) summit. Just 0.25 miles beyond here is an annoying rock scramble.

Rock Scramble and Vista - Mile 0.5
Around mile 0.5, hikers will be faced with the first rock scramble of this hike. The rock ledge is about 6-feet tall with minimal hand and footholds, making this scramble actually a bit difficult even for an experienced hiker. Getting down this one is actually harder than going up, just to note for your descent. Just beyond the rock scramble, or above it, is a nice view of Nounou's summit to the south along with Wailua, HI just below your feet.

Vistas - Mile 0.8 to 1.3
Between miles 0.8 and 1.3, hikers will pass at least five different vista points, mostly of southward and eastward views - so these include views of Nounou summit and Wailua, HI below.

Moloa'a Mountain Range Vista - Mile 1.45
Around mile 1.45, hikers will get a beautiful clear view of the Moloa'a mountain range to the north, which is one of Kauai's most dramatic mountain ranges on this side of the island. Its long ridge line abruptly ends at two jagged mountain peaks on its eastern side - you can't miss it.

Keep Left - Mile 1.5
At mile 1.5, hikers will reach a junction with the Nounou West Trail. Stay left on your ascent here. Obviously stay right on your descent at this junction.

Picnic Area Views - Mile 1.55
At mile 1.55, just beyond the junction with the Nounou West Trail, lies a picnic area where hikers can chill out and relax. There are two vista points here - one facing westward into Kauai's mountainous interior and one view, about 70-feet away, with more views of Wailua, HI and the Pacific Ocean. Note - this is where your hike should end if you are not comfortable with a 25-foot vertical rock scramble to reach the top of "Giant's Nose" which sits at the end of a 3-sided massive cliff face.

Reaching "Giant's Nose", Rock Scramble, and Cave Vistas - Mile 1.6 to 1.8
At mile 1.6, just beyond the picnic area, is a trail that runs along a ridge line just below the summit of Nounou (Sleeping Giant). Here, hikers will traverse the ridge and climb rock stairs to then reach a 25-foot vertical rock scramble. This rock scramble can be dangerous and should not be attempted by those who do not feel comfortable on that type of terrain. At the top of the rock scramble, the trail heads left out to the last mountain ridge on Nounou - the "Giant's Nose". This mountain ridge has sheer cliffs that drop hundreds of feet into the valley below - one false move could easily send you to your death. Traversing this ridge slowly and carefully, hikers can make it out to the end of the "Giant's Nose" where you can get 360-degree views. On my hike here, I decided to stay 5-feet below the end of the "nose" which made me feel a lot safer, though looking back, I wish I had climbed the remaining 5-feet to fully take in the stunning views. Regardless of where you end your hike, safety comes first, and you can enjoy 360-degree or panoramic views from pretty much anywhere on the ridge of the "Giant's Nose". Last, hikers should explore the cave vistas which are located just below the top of the "Giant's Nose". If you hike back to the beginning of the scramble, look to your right-hand side to find another skinny trail. This skinny trail leads out ~50-feet to caves that were cut away in the mountain's ridge likely by natural forces - either old volcanic activity or volcanic activity that led to excessive erosion - but the caves give hikers the chance to explore a bit more and they feature the same views as from the top of the "Giant's Nose".

Hiking Down
The hike out isn't very difficult, but can be hard on the knees. It's recommended to bring trekking poles to aid in the elevation change along this hike. Take your time on the scrambles and remember that 6-foot scramble is pretty annoying to descend on, despite its short height.

Parking
Hikers will find parking at the coordinates provided. The parking lot is large enough to fit about 15 vehicles. Please note that this is a popular hike, even early in the morning on a weekday. When I arrived around 8:15AM on a Monday, the lot had just 2 parking spaces left. Luckily, this is not the only parking area or trailhead for Nounou (Sleeping Giant).

Warnings
Dangerous cliffs: This hike follows several cliff areas where the drop down is hundreds of feet, which would cause immediate death. Watching your step and taking your time is key on this hike. It's also best to probably not hike these cliffs if it's been raining heavily since the rocks and ridges will be very slippery and even more dangerous.

Rock scrambles: This one is important - there's a 6-foot rock scramble located at mile 0.5. This is a vertical rock scramble and may not be for everyone. If you do not feel comfortable with rock scrambles, this hike may not be for you. In all honesty, this 6-foot rock scramble is the hardest one despite the 25-foot scramble below the "Giant's Nose" ridge due to the lack of foot holds. Going down this 6-foot rock scramble is honestly more difficult than going up it. As noted, there's also a 25-foot rock scramble located around mile 1.7 - just below the "Giant's Nose" - which can be sketchy, especially if the rocks are wet.

Lack of water: This trail has no streams to filter from for water. Experienced hikers can likely get away with 1 liter of water for the entire hike if you start early in the morning. For mid-day hikes, it's best to bring more water just in case.

Respecting the Land
Hawaiian land is considered sacred to native Hawaiians and many locals, so please stay on-trail, take nothing but photos, and leave nothing but footprints. Respect the locals - don't stay for long and have a backup hike planned in case the parking lot is full.

Explore 51 trails near Kapa'a, HI
  1. Parking

    22.061325, -159.346637
  2. Main Trailhead

    22.061331, -159.346647
  3. View of Nounou (Sleeping Giant) facing west

    22.062453, -159.347289
    View of Nounou (Sleeping Giant) facing west
  4. View of the top of Nounou (Sleeping Giant) with the "Giant's Nose" 360-degree cliff on the right-hand side (end of the hike)

    22.06245, -159.347306
    View of the top of Nounou (Sleeping Giant) with the "Giant's Nose" 360-degree cliff on the right-hand side (end of the hike)
  5. View of Wailua, HI (Kauai) with a rainstorm dropping precipitation

    22.062731, -159.348389
    View of Wailua, HI (Kauai) with a rainstorm dropping precipitation
  6. Top of a 6-foot vertical scramble

    22.062817, -159.348419
    Top of a 6-foot vertical scramble
  7. View facing south along Nounou (Sleeping Giant) mountain

    22.064608, -159.347856
    View facing south along Nounou (Sleeping Giant) mountain
  8. View of Wailua, HI (Kauai) with beautiful blue and turquoise pacific ocean and sunlight reflection on water

    22.063306, -159.349258
    View of Wailua, HI (Kauai) with beautiful blue and turquoise pacific ocean and sunlight reflection on water
  9. View facing south from Nounou (Sleeping Giant) mountain

    22.063575, -159.350358
    View facing south from Nounou (Sleeping Giant) mountain
  10. View facing south from Nounou (Sleeping Giant) mountain of Wailua, HI (Kauai) below and mountains in the distance

    22.063719, -159.352403
    View facing south from Nounou (Sleeping Giant) mountain of Wailua, HI (Kauai) below and mountains in the distance
  11. View of the Moloa'a Mountain range facing north from Nounou (Sleeping Giant) mountain

    22.063683, -159.353181
    View of the Moloa'a Mountain range facing north from Nounou (Sleeping Giant) mountain
  12. Left-hand turn (on ascent)

    22.063733, -159.353989
    Left-hand turn (on ascent)
  13. View from the picnic area

    22.0633, -159.354828
    View from the picnic area
  14. View of a hiker standing on the "Giant's Nose" atop Nounou (Sleeping Giant) mountain

    22.062772, -159.354431
    View of a hiker standing on the "Giant's Nose" atop Nounou (Sleeping Giant) mountain
  15. View from Nounou's "Giant's Nose" ridge of Wailua, HI (Kauai)

    22.062006, -159.354178
    View from Nounou's "Giant's Nose" ridge of Wailua, HI (Kauai)
  16. Cave vista

    22.062034, -159.354192
    Cave vista
  17. 25-foot vertical rock scramble

    22.061858, -159.354339
    25-foot vertical rock scramble
  18. View of Wailua, HI (Kauai) from Nounou (Sleeping Giant) mountain's picnic area

    22.063222, -159.354522
    View of Wailua, HI (Kauai) from Nounou (Sleeping Giant) mountain's picnic area
  19. "Respect Kauai" bench at vista of the top of Nounou

    22.063442, -159.351503
    "Respect Kauai" bench at vista of the top of Nounou
Explore other trail routes for this hike, added by the MyHikes Community via Trip Reports.
No community routes found. To add your own route as a Community Route for this Trail guide, please leave a Trip Report with a GPX file on this Trail.

Hazards

Rockfalls / Ledges / or Scrambles

Seasons

All
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1,037 '

Total Change
1,166 '

Ascent
1,166 '

Descent

Photo Albums

1 Trip Report

No Star-Ratings
Write-up by:
Admin user profile picture
3.5 miles / 5.6 km
Trail added
June 29, 2022
Hiked on
June 26, 2022
Updated on
July 07, 2022

Weather Forecast

In Kapa'a, HI

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