The Haiku Stairs, often referred to as the “Stairway to Heaven,” is a steep hiking trail on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. This awe-inspiring trail is known for its breathtaking views and the thrilling journey it offers. Its history dates back to World War II when it was originally installed by the U.S. Navy as a secret facility for transmitting radio signals. Today, despite being officially closed to the public, it attracts adventurists and nature lovers from all over the world. With roughly 3,922 steps leading up the verdant Koolau mountain range, it provides a truly unique hiking experience.

Highlights

  • The Haiku Stairs offers breathtaking views and thrilling adventure.
  • Dating back to World War II, the U.S. Navy installed a secret facility for transmitting radio signals at the summit through a wooden ladder and metal staircase that remains today.
  • Despite its current closure due to safety concerns, adventurists, and nature lovers can ascend the Haiku Stairs via the Moanalua Valley Middle Ridge Trail and enjoy stunning panoramic views of Oahu and the Pacific Ocean from atop its summit.
  • Conservation efforts by various environmental groups and local communities focus on preserving its natural beauty.

History

Stairway to Heaven hidden in fog, Haiku Stairs Built in World War II, Hiking in Oahu, Hawaii
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The Haiku Stairs gained strategic importance during World War II. The U.S. military recognized the value of the ridge as a vantage point for transmitting radio signals. A wooden ladder was constructed, followed by a more durable metal staircase to facilitate easier access to the radio station at the summit. The antenna installed at the top was crucial for communicating with naval fleets operating throughout the Pacific.

These remarkable stairs were constructed in the Haiku Valley between 1942 and 1943, serving as a clandestine passage to a secret naval radio station. A duo by the names of Bill Adams and Louis Otto meticulously mapped out this challenging ascent, leaving behind invaluable spikes to aid future climbers. Initially made up of ladders, these were later replaced with sturdy wooden and galvanized steel steps, some of which still endure today.

Each section of these stairs measures 6 feet in length, boasting 8 steps and handrails on both sides. Securely fastened with metal pins, they carry an average slope of 30º, ensuring a thrilling adventure for those brave enough to ascend. Unfortunately, in February 2015, a devastating landslide rendered the staircase inaccessible and forbidden to climb. However, there exists an alternative route through the Moanalua Valley Middle Ridge Trail for those seeking a safe passage to the summit.

Detailed Description of the Stairs

The Stairs of Stairway to Heaven
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The Haiku Stairs are a steep, rugged series of galvanized-steel ship ladders. Beginning at the valley floor, they gradually ascend over 2,500 feet through lush, tropical vegetation and misty cloud forests. Each of the roughly 3,922 steps, stationed approximately 12 inches apart, is reinforced by a central metal railing, providing vital support on this vertical escapade. The stairs wind up the rugged Koolau mountain range, often leaving climbers feeling as if they’re on a Stairmaster in the sky. By the time you reach the top, you’ve traversed a staircase that spans a distance equivalent to more than a quarter of Mount Everest’s height.

Please note: Haiku Stairs is a formerly private property, you’ll be trespassing upon setting foot on these legendary stairs. Beware of the consequences, as hiking or stepping on the stairs can result in a hefty $1000 fine. With guards patrolling the bottom and police helicopters surveilling the area, the stakes are high.

Hiking Haiku Stairs via Moanalua Valley

Man Hiking Stairway to Heaven (Haiku Stairs) on Oahu, Hawaii. High quality photo. Looking up the stairs.
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The legal path to reach new heights is by taking the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail to the iconic Haiku Stairs. This exhilarating 9-mile trail is perfect for experienced hikers looking for a challenge.

Begin your adventure at the Moanalua Valley Road trail and at around 2.5 miles, veer left to enter the valley. You can easily access this valley by taking Exit 19B off the H1. Simply follow the signs up Moanalua Valley on Ala Aolani St. until you reach the end of the road at the Community Park. Park outside the Moanalua Valley Park to find the trailhead, conveniently located just after the green gate.

As you embark on the hike, keep an eye out for the Kulana’ahane trail sign. However, remember not to follow this particular trail. Walk an additional 15 feet and you’ll spot a small, unmarked trail on your left. Despite its size and lack of signage, this trail is unmistakable and will lead you to the radio tower and the top of the ridge.

Accessing the viewpoint at the top doesn’t require using the stairs. However, for a bonus experience, you can still take a leisurely stroll down the stairs for some fantastic photo opportunities before returning to the designated trail. To streamline your journey, consider parking a car at both ends of this route.

Key Sights to See

Aerial view of CCL Building bunker at the top of Stairway to Heaven or Haiku Stairs with mountains, coastline and Chinaman's Hat island in the background in Honolulu, Hawaii viewed from a helicopter
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The Haiku Stairs journey doesn’t just offer a thrilling climb but also treats the visitors to some breathtaking sights. As you ascend, you’ll be greeted by the lush greenery of the Koolau mountain range, a sight that’s spellbinding in its own right. Halfway up, you’ll come across the Haiku Valley Overlook, offering a panoramic view of the valley with its rich flora and fauna. The top of the stairs is a spectacle to behold, with a sweeping view of Windward Oahu and the sparkling Pacific Ocean. The landscape unfurls beneath you, a breathtaking tableau of emerald green interspersed with the blue expanse of the Pacific Ocean. On clear days, you can even see the neighboring islands in the distance. Finally, reaching the summit, you are greeted by the remnants of a once-top secret U.S. Navy radio station, a relic from the WWII era, which stands as a testament to the historical significance of these majestic stairs.

Tips for Climbing

The Stairway to Heaven AKA The Haiku Stairs Hike in Oahu, Hawaii.
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The Haiku Stairs, while incredibly rewarding, do present a significant challenge. The path is steep and the climate can be unpredictable, making the steps slick with rain. Despite the difficulty, with the right preparation and mindset, conquering the Haiku Stairs can be an unforgettable adventure.

  • Always wear appropriate footwear for grip and ankle support.
  • Pack plenty of water and high-energy snacks to keep you going.
  • Start the climb early in the morning to avoid the heat of the day and to have plenty of time to descend before sunset.
  • Remember to take frequent breaks to rest and soak in the breathtaking views.

Environmental Impact and Regulations

Stairway to Heaven (Haiku Stairs) Oahu, Hawaii
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The future of the Haiku Stairs is currently a topic of intense debate. With its increased popularity, especially among tourists, the Stairs face the threat of degradation due to overuse and lack of proper maintenance. It is crucial to implement suitable preservation and management strategies to ensure its longevity, or else we risk losing this extraordinary natural treasure.

Current Legal Status

The current legal status of the Haiku Stairs is a point of contention. As of now, the trail is officially closed to the public and has been since 1987 due to safety concerns. Despite this, many adventurers continue to defy the ban, resulting in a constant tug-of-war between residents, government authorities, and hikers. There have been numerous discussions and debates about the future of the stairs, with proposals ranging from complete removal to restoration and official reopening. However, as it stands currently, trespassers could potentially face fines, making any attempts to climb the staircase a legal risk.

Conservation Efforts

There is a significant focus on preserving the Haiku Stairs’ natural beauty and delicate ecosystem. Several environmental groups and local communities actively engage in conservation efforts. This includes regular clean-up drives, efforts to limit unauthorized access, and educational initiatives to inform visitors about the importance of preserving this natural wonder. Authorities have also implemented strict regulations to mitigate the impact of tourism, such as limiting the number of visitors, enforcing strict littering penalties, and prohibiting off-trail exploration. It is through these collective efforts that we hope to ensure the Haiku Stairs’ splendor endures for future generations to appreciate and enjoy.

Rules and Regulations for Visitors

Haiku stairs in Hawaii
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While enjoying the beauty of the Haiku Stairs, it’s crucial to adhere to certain rules and regulations in place to protect both visitors and the environment.

  • Stay on the Designated Path: Straying off the trail can lead to erosion and damage to the surrounding flora and fauna.
  • Pack Out What You Pack In: Leave no trace. Any litter should be carried out with you.
  • No Camping: Overnight stays are not permitted on the trail or at the summit.
  • Noise Control: Keep noise to a minimum to avoid disturbing wildlife and other visitors.
  • Pets: Pets are not allowed on the trail for their safety and the safety of local wildlife.
  • Respect Wildlife: Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not feed or attempt to touch any animals.

Best Time to Visit

The ideal time to visit the Haiku Stairs is during the dry season, from May to September when the weather is more predictable and the trails less slippery. Early morning visits are recommended to enjoy the breathtaking sunrise from the top and avoid the afternoon crowds. However, as the stairs are technically closed to the public, visitors must be aware of the legal implications and respect local rules and regulations.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

The Haiku Stairs, also known as the “Stairway to Heaven”, is a steep hiking trail on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. It’s known for its stunning views and 3,922 steps that lead up to the top of the Ko’olau mountain range.

As of now, it’s illegal to climb the Haiku Stairs due to safety concerns and respect for the residents. Trespassers can face fines and even community service.

The Haiku Stairs got their name from the area they’re in, Haiku Valley. The stairs were built during World War II for military access to a radio station antenna at the summit.

Although the stairs themselves are off-limits, you can still enjoy the view from the Haiku Valley. One legal and popular alternative is the Moanalua Valley Trail, which offers similar scenic views.

Given that the Haiku Stairs are officially closed, hiking them is not only prohibited but also potentially dangerous due to the steep nature of the trail and ongoing deterioration of the stairs.

The future of Haiku Stairs remains uncertain. While there have been discussions about restoring and officially reopening the stairs, for now, they remain closed due to liability issues and concerns from the nearby residents.

How To Get There

By Bus

If you’re planning to reach there by bus, take the number 56 or 57 from Ala Moana Center in Honolulu. Both these buses pass by Haiku Road, which is a short walk from the base of the stairs. Make sure you get off at the Haiku Road stop, right after the Kaneohe District Park.

By Car

If you’re driving, take the Likelike Highway (Route 63) from Honolulu. Turn right onto Kahekili Highway, and then another right onto Haiku Road. You’ll find free parking available along the residential streets. However, remember to be respectful to the residents and avoid blocking their driveways.

Again, please note that access to the stairs is technically illegal due to safety concerns, so it’s advisable to research and reconsider before attempting to find the trailhead.

Help Safeguard the Serene Beauty of Haiku Stairs

As we gaze toward the future of the Haiku Stairs, it falls upon each one of us to embody the spirit of responsible tourism. This transcendent destination has offered us unparalleled experiences and majestic vistas, and it is incumbent upon us to ensure it continues to do so for generations yet to come. By adhering to trail guidelines, respecting local customs and culture, and leaving no trace of our visits, we can contribute to the preservation of this natural marvel. Remember, we are not merely visitors, but custodians of these beautiful places that grace our world.