Hiking Sleeping Giant East Trail in Kaua’i, Hawaii

Note to my fellow wanderers: This guide was written from my first-hand experiences. I try my best not to over-glamorize any location I travel to because I want HappyWander’s content to be as authentic as possible. My goal is to provide you real information so that you can have the best possible adventures wandering the world. Enjoy!

If you’re looking for a great change of pace hike in Kaua’i, add the Sleeping Giant east Trail to your list. The Sleeping Giant East Trail Hike is an out and back adventure that offers great views of Kapa’a and bouldering challenges throughout.

Overview of Sleeping Giant East Trail

Located on the east side of Kaua’i, Sleeping Giant is a is rather inconspicuous compared to other well-known mountains in the area. But as a hike, you shouldn’t overlook it. In this section, I’ll help answer several frequently asked questions you may have yourself.

Hiking Sleeping Giant East Trail in Kaua'i, Hawaii Map

This is a map (via alltrails.com) of the route I did.

Where to Park

One of the benefits of the Sleeping Giant East Trail hike is that it is easily accessible on the East side of the island. Parking is limited, however, so be sure to get there early. I arrived at 9:30 on a Thursday and there were 2 spots left after I parked.

Hiking Sleeping Giant East Trail in Kaua'i, Hawaii Parking Situation

Here is the address:

Distance Traveled

According to Alltrails.com, I traveled close to 3.2 miles. That seemed about right.

How Long Does it Take to Hike?

I arrived at around 9:30 AM and finished at around 12:15 PM, so it took a little over 2.5 hours. The trail was very muddy for what seemed like half the hike, especially on the higher altitudes. I started the hike in sunny weather, but half way through, it starting pouring for the remainder of my way up the mountain, and got even muddier.

Elevation Change

According to Alltrails.com, you climb a little over 1250 feet of elevation.

Sleeping Giant East Trail in Kaua'i, Hawaii Elevation

Sleeping Giant East Trail in Kaua’i, Hawaii elevation profile (via alltrails.com)

Difficulty

If you exercise regularly this hike is not too difficult. This trail will require some cardio as you ascend up the mountain, and it may be more challenging when it’s muddy, which it was when I hiked it. There are also some scrambling and bouldering areas towards the top of the mountain, especially climbing to the peak of Nounou Mountain.

Overall, I’d give this hike a 6 / 10 in difficulty.

Permits

There are no permits required for this hike.

Cost

There is no cost to hike Sleeping Giant East Trail. Free is the best!

When to Go

You can go on the Sleeping Giant East Trail year round, even in the rainy season (like I did) in December. Like any of the trails in Kaua’i, it’s better to go when it’s not raining or didn’t rain heavily the day before. When I started, it was beautifully sunny. However, halfway up the trail, it started pouring and made things super muddy in the higher elevated areas.

Recommended Gear

Hiking Sleeping Giant East Trail is a great half day hike experience. I’ll highlight the gear that I brought, as well as additional gear that might benefit you:

  • Layers: Depending on the weather, I’d recommend wearing layers. I wore shorts and a t-shirt because the weather was in the low 70s. If you do go and it starts to rain, you may want a light raincoat that can also be used as a wind shield.
  • Hiking backpack with straps: If you don’t have a backpack with straps, I recommend you get one. They aren’t too expensive on Amazon. Your shoulders and back will thank you later. This hike, while not difficult, still has some ups and downs that can pay your body a toll without the proper gear.
  • Portable charger: If you take a lot of photos / videos like me, you’ll want to bring a portable charger for your phone. I also use the alltrails.com app to navigate so having enough battery is important.
  • Water bladder: If you want to save on weight and also help your backpack be more balanced than carrying a big bottle of water in your bag, a water bladder is important. I personally use a 3L water bladder that would have lasted 2-3x this hike.
  • Hiking shoes: Hiking shoes that are waterproof will benefit you if you go in on this trail. I saw a few people with tennis shoes on, but their feet must have been soaked by the end of the hike because it was VERY muddy in long stretches.
  • Snacks: Who doesn’t like snacks? While hiking, even on a short hike like this, you burn lots of calories. My personal go-to’s on this hike were: Honey roasted peanuts, gummy bears, protein shakes, and protein bars.
  • Bug spray: I didn’t experience bugs on this hike, so this wasn’t really needed. However, you may want to use some just in case, especially in summer.
  • First aid kit: It’s a good idea to bring Band-Aids, a bandage, and some cut cleaning items. I have needed band-aids in the past from slipping on rocks, but I did not on this hike.
  • Sunscreen: While a good portion of this hike is shaded in the trees, there are some areas where you’ll be exposed to sun.
  • Flashlight: If you go anytime near sunset, I’d recommend having a flashlight.

Nice to Have Gear:

Here are a few items that would make your Sleeping Giant East Trail hiking experience even better:

  • Shoe impact insoles: These can help as you traverse hard rocks along the way.
  • Phone tripod: If you go alone or with a group and want great pictures, a phone tripod is key. I use one on every hike I go on. You may not need to use one very often because there were quite a few people on this trail that you could ask to take a picture for you.

The Play By Play: My Route Hiking Sleeping Giant East Trail

So what’s it like hiking Sleeping Giant East Trail in Kaua’i, Hawaii? Read my Sleeping Giant East Trail guide play by play below:

Nounou East Trail

Most of the uphill portions seem to be on this leg of the trail, and it starts almost immediately. This was probably also the muddiest part of the hike once you get about half way up.

You’ll start getting views of the Pacific ocean, likely with the sun shining over it.

Nounou Trail

After the Nounou East Trail and Nounou West Trail converge, you’ve made it to the Nounou Trail. At this point, you only have about 1/3 of a mile left to get to the top. On this portion of the hike, you’ll see (in my opinion) the best view on the entire hike, featuring the top of Nounou Mountain and the beautiful ocean on the East side of the island.

Nounou Mountain Overlook

The final part of this hike requires you to boulder your way up to the top, maybe 15-20 feet. This is one of the more fun parts of the hike in my opinion.

Once you’ve conquered the Sleeping Giant, you’ll notice that the top area is quite small. It was also quite rainy and windy at the top when I made it up.

Hiking Sleeping Giant East Trail in Kaua'i, Hawaii on top

Now you get to boulder / climb your way down that 15-20 feet, which is also fun! Just be careful with your footing and you’ll be just fine.

After Hike Dinner

After hiking Sleeping Giant East Trail, I went to Tony’s Catch, which is an amazing food truck in nearby Kapa’a. I was quite hungry so I ordered 2 Mahi Mahi tacos and a Poke Bowl. Both were exceptionally delicious.

Tony's Catch Mahi Mahi Tacos and Poke Bowl in Kaua'i Hawaii

Tony’s Catch was probably my favorite food place on the island all week.

About My Experience Hiking Sleeping Giant East Trail

Overall, hiking Sleeping Giant East Trail was great. It was a nice change of pace hike in between hikes I did. Below I’ll highlight my favorite parts and least favorite parts.

Favorite Parts

Here are a few of my favorite parts of hiking Sleeping Giant East Trail:

Bouldering:

There are a few bouldering opportunities on this hike, but the main one is near the very top. This wall may seem intimidating to some, but it’s not too bad! I highly recommend you test yourself on this part of the trail to get to the top.

Views:

There are views of the Pacific ocean throughout this hike. I think the best view is when the Nounou mountain peak first emerges about 1/3 of a mile from the top. It looks like this:

Great View on Sleeping Giant East Trail in Kaua'i, Hawaii

Change of Pace:

One of the reasons I loved this hike was that it was very different from other hikes on the island. This one feels different, and offers new terrain and views than the “typical” Kaua’i hike.

Least Favorite Parts

Here is my least favorite part of this hike:

Muddy:

Sleeping Giant East Trail was the muddiest hike of any I did, and that’s saying something in Kaua’i in December. However, with the proper hiking shoes that are waterproof, you’ll be just fine if you watch where you step. If you don’t watch your footing, you may find yourself in mud up to your ankle or slip and faceplant.

Overall Score

Sleeping Giant East Trail offers a change of pace from other hikes on the island. I enjoyed this hike much more than I thought I would. This hike doesn’t get much hype because it’s overshadowed by more famous hikes, but I think this one should definitely be on your list. I give this trail a 8.5 / 10.

Final Thoughts on Hiking Sleeping Giant East Trail in Kaua’i, Hawaii

Sleeping Giant East Trail is a great change of pace hike I think you’ll enjoy. It’s more low-key than some of the other prominent hikes on the island, but it should not be overlooked. If you’re looking for a hike that takes less than 3 hours to do, Sleeping Giant East Trail will not disappoint.

Happy wandering to you!

Anthony Bart
Author: Anthony Bart

Hello! Welcome to HappyWanders! My name is Anthony, I'm on a mission to live a life full of adventure and to help you to do the same. As an ex-corporate worker and current entrepreneur, I've been working to design a life with more time for adventure and less time for the 9-5 grind. If you're ready for an adventure, you're my type of person!

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