Hiking Kalopa State Recreation Area

About an hour’s drive from the famed Kohala Coast resort area and beaches, Kalopa State Recreation Area and Forest Reserve offers visitors a different view of the island. Situated three miles inland from Mamalahoa Highway at the 2,000-foot elevation, visitors to the park enjoy the kind of quiet and solitude that’s rare on busy beaches. Expansive lawns and picnic tables make this a perfect place to hang out with good friends (or a book). But perhaps a bigger attraction are the hiking trails.

The Kalopa Gulch Trail System borders (no big surprise) the Kalopa Gulch, offering views down into the 150 to 200-foot deep gulch an occasional glimpses of pools of water. What you might not expect to hear is this: Kalopa Gulch (and nearby Hanaipo Gulch) were “formed largely by meltwater from the Pleistocene glacial icecap of Mauna Kea.” Glaciers! In Hawai‘i!

What a gorgeous hike this is. We made our way up and down fern-lined trails through stands of eucalyptus, silk oak, paperbark, ironwood, and tropical ash – and saw only one other hiker.

The trail is moderate in difficulty, mostly due to a few steep (but short) climbs. We hiked along a portion of the Perimeter Rim Trail and then cut back to the cabins via a trail that bisects the reserve. That section of the trail is about four miles long and took us two hours to complete. I was hiking with teenagers who maneuvered the trail’s ups and downs easily, but if that sounds like too much of a hike for your family, there is also an easy family nature hike (0.7-mile loop trail) that takes you through a native ‘ohi’a forest, perfect for introducing younger kids to the plants of the area and the fun of hiking.

The park offers a couple of camping options, too. Tent camping is allowed on a large grassy area of the park, or there are group cabins:

These accommodations consist of 8-person units provided with bunk beds, toilet facilities, and hot shower. A centrally located recreational dining hall is equipped for cooking and serving the entire group. Furnishings include a gas range, water heater, refrigerator, freezer, limited dishes, cooking and eating utensils, tables and chairs, as well as restrooms.  NOTE: As of October 1, 2009, linen, bedding and towels are no longer provided in the Kalopa cabins.

Rates: $55 per night for 8-person cabins, special rates for large groups.

Entrance to the park is free, however there is a requested donation (get out your purse…) of twenty-five cents for each person who uses the trail.

11 thoughts on “Hiking Kalopa State Recreation Area

  1. I dunno, 25 cents seems pretty steep… It looks gorgeous. Very much like New Zealand, in fact!

  2. This is why I love the Big Island. It has so many secrets and unusual places that you would not expect. I was amazed at how completely different the island is in different places – like different worlds. This looks completely gorgeous.

  3. Sheryl on said:

    Ok, ok., you’re really teasing me. I MUST get to Hawaii. Your photos are descriptions are just beautiful and very enticing.

  4. I don’t think I went to this particular place when I visited the Big Island, but it looks similar to some of the places I visited. It’s amazing how varied the terrain is on the Big Island: beaches, volcanos, hiking trails, etc.

  5. Oh dear, I want to be THERE! It reminds me of some of the hikes we tok in New Zealand with rain forest right beside glaciers. Gorgeous photos. And by the way, congratulations on your new expanded web site.

  6. The more I read your blog, the more I want to visit Hawaii. I’ve never been, but all of your great destination suggestions leave me longing for sandy beaches and hiking someplace new. Thanks.

  7. I really enjoy hiking in Hawaii and this looks like a great place to visit!

  8. Kris-
    Lovely photographs. I wanted to go there immediately. Meditating in the forest by a waterfall, yum! Eating your lunch and then hiking out. What fun!!

  9. Wow, this park looks amazing; exactly what I will do when I finally get to Hawaii. Kris, your knowledge is so deep, would you have time at some point to write a guest post highlighting a few great hikes in Hawaii, or just on the Big Island for my blog, http://www.Health-Conscious-Travel.com? I’d love that!

  10. This looks like a gorgeous hike! I’ve only been to Kauai but I’d love to check out the Big Island areas you’ve highlighted.

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