Climbing Nounou Mountain (Sleeping Giant), you’ll ascend as much as 1000ft for panoramic views of Kauaʻi’s Eastside. Approach the mountain on the Nounou East Trail (2 miles), or the Nounou West Trail (1.5 miles) or from the south on the Kuamoʻo-Nounou Trail (2 miles). The trails meet near the center (all distances given are one-way).
Most visitors prefer the exposed Nounou East Trail because it offers sweeping views of the ocean and distant mountains. The well-maintained trail is moderately strenuous and steep, with switchbacks almost to the ridge. At the three-way junction near the top, take the left fork, which leads to a plateau, marked by a picnic shelter. Now atop the giant’s chest, only his head prevents you from getting a 360-degree view. There is a trail to the left that leads along a slender ridge to the true summit. Signs say that it's off limits, but some take their chances – just know that it is risky and not recommended. If you go for it, take extreme care and be smart. You wouldn't want to be one of those newsy footnotes. You know, the one about the guy who died falling off a cliff while taking a selfie. Not a great look.
Do this hike early in the morning, when it’s relatively cool and you can witness daylight spreading across the valley. The hard-packed dirt trail is exceedingly slippery when wet; look for a walking stick, which hikers sometimes leave near the trailhead. The trail starts at a parking lot a mile up Haleilio Rd in the Wailua Homesteads neighborhood. When the road curves left, look for telephone pole 38 with the trailhead sign.
The Nounou West Trail starts about 500ft higher and ascends faster, but it’s better if you prefer a cooler, shadier forest trail. There are two ways to access the trailhead: from Kamalu Rd, near telephone pole 11, or from the end of Lokelani Rd, off Kamalu Rd. Walk through a metal gate signed as a forestry right-of-way.
The Kuamoʻo-Nounou Trail runs through stunning groves of Norfolk Island pine trees, with their peeling paper bark and mossy roots, planted in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps; it connects with the Nounou West Trail. Marked by a brown-and-yellow Na Ala Hele sign, the trailhead is right on Kuamoʻo Rd between mile markers 2 and 3.