This road was recently improved. We drove it in August of 2003 in a Dodge Neon without any problems. It was still a bit rough for the last couple of miles but it was obvious that they were still planning on improving that section as well.
Above the falls, the boulders seemed to double in size and the terrain got steeper. This, of course, meant more waterfalls to climb around. One trail around a waterfall was a 12 inch wide shelf with a steep drop-off on one side down to the river 30 feet below.
As we pushed deeper into the crater, the 5000 ft. vibrant green moss covered walls closed in on all side. As expected, it rained on us off and on most the day. Waterfalls dropped from the top of the crater in every direction. Other less ambitious people wanted to share the fruits of our toil. My wife counted 65 helicopters that buzzed overhead during our 12 ½ hour slog. As we marched further, it was apparent no one had been as far into the crater as we were in a long time. Not including the helicopters, we never saw a single person on the entire hike. The rare pink ribbon marking the route was our only reminder of prior explorers.
At around 2 pm, our hopes of reaching the Blue Hole faded. Time was the enemy. As we reached the end of the caldera, seven hours into the hike, we realized that to have any chance of getting out before dark, we had to retreat immediately. So on the spine of a steep ridge covered in waist high bushes and ferns (see photos which I posted), I snapped a few photos of one of the most incredible places in the world and we headed back.
On the way out, we somehow lost the route and ended up bushwhacking up a steep slope covered in nasty vegetation that was tall, thick, and sharp. The skin on our legs, arms, and hands was slashed and cut. We traveled at a snail’s pace. The bush was so thick it got dark inside. On one occasion, either out of necessity or frustration, I launch my body forward just to get through. We fell to the muddy ground time and time again. Eventually we battled our way back down to the river. After sunset, navigation became more difficult. Another dark and anxious hour passed before we emerged from the jungle. I’ve never been so happy to see a rental car before.
During our journey that day, we got lost more times than I can count. Everything we brought got completely soaked. Our bodies were cut, bruised, battered and we were filthy, hungry, and exhausted. It was one of the best days of my life!
Great story! Hopefully you'll add it as a trip report (click "TRIP REPORTS" link). You can integrate the photos you've submitted and basically add any HTML you like.
Due to the extensive hiking in the rock covered river, Leki (or some other type of hiking sticks) are very helpful.
Due to the publication of the first part of this route up to the 2-stream waterfall in the most popular guide to Kauai, the first 2 miles this route are becoming "highly" trafficked. (That term is certainly relative, as Kauai sees a fraction of the tourists of other islands.)
However, probably because of this influx of comparative amateurs, all flagging that is described in this route has been REMOVED. Consequently, if you want to attempt to get all the way to the back wall, you've got to have killer instinct, a rapid pace, and an early start. The trails are misleading, there is no flagging, and there are more and more people tearing up the hints of trail that do exist in an attempt to reach the crater.
It is MUCH farther than this entry will lead you to believe. And since there is no longer any flagging to guide you to the correct places once you leave the middle stream, the chance of error is extremely high. I recommend planning on a hammock/rain fly bivouac (which is, perhaps, illegal?) if you intend to make it all the way there and back. (There is no place clear enough for a tent back in there.)
Condition of the road in May 2009 was very poor...high clearance required beyond the T-junction 2 miles past the Arboretum. We had very dry conditions for 3 day preceding our trip, but the road had massive potholes and deep mud.