Hiking to Haiku Stairs a.k.a. Stairway to Heaven is no easy task. The trail is actually closed and illegal to hike. However, there is a back route to reach the stairs via Moanalua Valley Middle Ridge trail which is long, challenging, and more dangerous.This hiking adventure has been on our bucket list for a while now ever since we saw the stairs while driving on the interstate, H-3 of which you can see from this freeway. So, we were determined to take on this unique and beautiful journey.
History of Kamananui Valley
Before we dive into the dirty details of this extraordinary day hike, let’s talk about some of the history of this particular trail and the stairs. Otherwise known as Kamananui Valley, this section of the trail towards the Haiku stairs is mostly flat, comprised of lose rocks, and muddy or water stream crossings. The lush forest lined path and bridges will take you on a journey through history.
On the trail, there are several remnants of Hawaii’s past during the 1500s-1800s. These include stone petroglyphs and articles left by early missionary; Samuel Damon. The brick fireplace from his residence is here now covered in moss, vines, and leaves. And a staircase that once led to the home, now leads to know where.
The Haiku Stairs or Haiku Ladder is a very steep hiking trail on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. It’s comprised of wooden stairs that are spiked to the south side of Haiku Valley. This ladder (stairs) was installed to enable the construction of antenna cables to create a continuous communication link between Wahiawa and Haiku Valley Naval Radio Station. The antennas transmitted extremely low frequency radio signals that could reach U.S. Navy submarines as far away as Tokyo Bay.
The wooden steps were later replaced with metal steps and ramps. Today, this hiking trail is closed and there is a hefty fine if caught, possibly up to $1000 fine. There is however, a different and somewhat legal route to take to reach the stairs. Follow along as I take you on this exciting excursion of hiking to Haiku Stairs | Stairway to Heaven Hawaii.
The Adventure Begins
The forecast is calling for full sunshine and clear skies on the day we decided to hike to the Haiku Stairs. The morning is gorgeous with its fresh dew, quiet, and peaceful skies awaiting for sunrise. We are joined by our local native friend, Mr. R. as we head out armed with our backpacks, water, lunch, and hiking gear.
We arrive at the parking lot area of Moanalua Valley Park-Directions, gather our things and start trekking towards the stairs around 7 a.m. Restrooms are available at this park and they are clean. We kept up a great pace and only a few people caught up to us. Early on the trail is quite smooth and wide, but later becomes full of lose rocks and very muddy.
We continue on for about three miles approximately until the trail becomes much more challenging with climbing and slithering through mud and trees. This hike has a little bit of everything that any adventurer would love! Rocky paths, thick mud, water streams, swinging ropes to use for climbing, and gorgeous views!
Climbing The Ridge
After passing through about 17 stream beds and bridges; we come to the point where the fun begins. Be cautious, the early part of this route is noticeable, wide and somewhat smooth.
However, the ridge part of the trail isn’t quite as obvious and you might miss it. Once you pass through the final stream to begin the ridge section of the trail, you will incline about 900 feet for about a mile. The second mile will bring about an 1100 feet elevation along with tree roots, mud, and sharp drop offs.
Further up on the ridge section, it is more exposed and open that of which strong winds can be present and again sharp drop offs on either side.
There are approximately three sections where a rope is available to assist with climbing and descent on the ridge.
We reach the summit of the Moanalua Valley Middle Ridge Trail finally. Now there is still a short distance of about a half mile to the radio towers and the top of the Haiku Stairs. The views are amazing from up here!
The Radio Tower
You must not be fooled as you are so close to the stairs now and lose focus. This section is even more muddy and slippery. More tree roots, and several areas you lose your footings.
Reaching The Haiku Stairs
The moment we have waited for! We finally reach the stairs and radio tower and continue to be in awe. As the beautiful blue and partly cloudy skies linger on, we are lucky to enjoy a gorgeous day of mostly sunshine today.
More fabulous photos of the Haiku stairs and views from up here!
Although very tempting to continue on and take the stairs down and finish the hike, this is highly illegal. Please do not take this path. We are now ready for our return trip down the ridge after about an hour at the Stairs/Radio Tower enjoying the views and having lunch. We took our time, proceeded with caution, and made it back to the parking lot about 9 hours later.
FitLife Tips and Gear
FitLife Hiking Tip: We had hiking poles with us and are so grateful to our friend and hiking pal for providing us with his poles. They were extremely helpful during this challenging hike. On the hike, a couple hikers mentioned to us how much they wish they had poles to assist them here.
FitLife Hiking Gear: I had concern about my feet getting soaked and start swelling. As a part of my preparation, I wore water resistant socks and waterproof shoes. I couldn’t be happier with my Columbia hiking shoes and my Darn Tough socks! After the hike, I was pretty dirty and my shoes were filthy and muddy. Having dry feet made my hiking experience so much better! We cleaned them right up with soap and water, back to good as new too!
Hiking to the Haiku Stairs | Stairway to Heaven is one unbelievable hiking experience! The scenery and the views are incredible and the hiking adventure is intense! If you are looking for a rugged, Indiana Jones type experience, then this hike is perfect! Hawaii offers so many hiking adventures that can add a little spark to your visit. Be safe, enjoy and have fun!
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