I went on hike this morning. I woke up at 4am so I could meet up with friends and be on the trail by 5:30. When we reached the trail head dawn was just barely breaking. It was the coolest hike I’ve ever been on.
You may have heard of this hike. Most people refer to it as “Stairway to Heaven” but the official name, the one you’ll find on the trail head sign, is Haiku Stairs (or Haʻikū Stairs). It’s a steel staircase made up of 4000 steps that ascends a ridge up from the Valley of Haiku near Kaneohe. The steps were built so the military could access a radio station antennae 2000ft up on the mountain during World War II.
There’s a lot of hype around this hike because one: well, it’s awesome and two: it’s illegal to hike it. It’s not treacherous or anything, but there are some issues with the neighborhood surrounding the trail. We did a lot of research before hiking and the general consensus is that if you get to the trail before the security guard shows up (around 7am) you’ll be fine.
Haiku Stairs isn’t the most difficult hike on the island, but the amazing views and the sheer drop offs on either side of the ridge make it one of the most memorable. While on the steps the word that I kept repeating in my head as a stared at the views was “unreal.”
We started early so we wouldn’t be stopped by the security guard but security or not, dawn is the best time to go. It’s nice and cool and you’ll see an amazing sunrise.
A sunrise like this.
Here’s what the steps look like. They are a series of ship ladders bolted together and mounted to the ridge with stakes. It’s intimidating at first, and the first section of the climb is a cardio killer / thigh burner, but overall, the hike is very doable.
You can see drop offs here on the ridge.
Thank goodness for the side rails.
The stairs are broken up into 4 or 5 sections with platforms to rest on between each. That’s a good thing because it’s not easy to rest on the narrow stairs. And when you pass people going the opposite direction you have to step over the side of the rail to let them by.
This is the view to the north. You can see Kaaawa at the top.
It was cloudy towards the top today.
This is the top. These antennae were used to communicate with the naval fleet during World War I. I read that they could communicate with submarines as a far away as Tokyo.
And now we head down. Into the mist.
Going down isn’t too bad but there are some steep parts. A fear of heights would not be good on this hike.
Here’s the view to the south. You can see the three peaks of Mt. Olomana on the left.
Here’s another section of the stairs.
You get a good view of the H3 highway that cuts through the mountain.
Once the sun came out I was able to get a view of the beginning of the stairs. This first section is intense. You go around the fence and from the first step you’re going straight up the mountain. I would advise against eating a 7-11 manapua for breakfast on the day of the hike. I learned this the hard way.
We’re walking back to the car now. The walk back to the street is also scenic.
Sam, Dan, Justin and I are stoked.
Haiku Stairs, a.k.a. “Stairway to Heaven,” pau.
More info on the Haiku Stairs (a.k.a. “Stairway to Heavan”):
There is an extreme hike that starts in Moanalua Valley and ends at the Haiku Stairs. You descend the Haiku Stairs to get down from the mountain.
The hike involves climbing up several sections of eroded ridgeline.
There’s a hidden set of stairs back here that are overgrown.
By finishing a hike at the Haiku Stairs, you get to see the view in the afternoon, when typically the morning clouds have burned off. We got a clear view of Kaneohe on this day.
Read the full story and see all 47 photos for: Hiking the Moanalua Saddle to the Haiku Stairs
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Some people choose to hike the Haiku Stairs at night. This is a little tougher because it’s wetter and more cloudy.
If you hike it before dawn, you’ll typically have to wait around a while until the morning clouds burn off to see a clear view.
Read the full story and see all 7 photos for: Photos from a night hike on the Haiku Stairs
[UPDATE] Directions to the Haiku Stairs trailhead: I’ve been getting emails asking how to get here, so here’s some info. This trail is not the easiest to find, but luckily, we have Google. The map below gives you a general idea of where the hike is and how to get there. I placed the marker icon right at the gate to the service road that takes you to the trail. Parking is your call. I hear there’s a church nearby people park at. Some park in the neighborhood. Some have a friend drop them off or take a cab. Up to you. Just don’t be noisy or obnoxious when you’re around here. And don’t bring a large group through here either.
[UPDATE: 3/7/2011] I used to have directions posted to the trailhead here but I’ve decided to remove them for now. If you read through the comments below you’ll see that people are reporting that the guard is turning away people as early as 3:30am. The new hours are in response to noise complaints in the neighborhood. It looks like this hike is going to be a bit less accessible for now. Let’s hope the state or city opens this treasure of hike back up to the public soon. If you still want directions, you’ll find them all over the internet. (Hint: check Yelp.)
[UPDATE: 5/16/2011] I was added to the Haiku Stairs group on Facebook recently. People post updates and experiences on this trail here. It’s updated frequently so you might find it helpful. Check out the Haiku Stairs Facebook group.
[UPDATE: 10/16/2013] It’s getting more and more difficult to access the trailhead. People have had to start as early at 2am to get there before the security guard shows up.
More info on the Haiku Stairs: