What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of Hawaii? The gorgeous beaches with soft sand, bright blue waters, and towering palm trees, right? But there are many more things you can explore in this incredible land. If you are willing to visit Honolulu, Hawaii, or have already set foot on the land, you must have heard some rumors about the Stairway to Heaven or the Haiku Stairs. What is this mysterious stairway everyone's trying to hike? How can you get there? Is this place legal to hike? We will tell you everything about this risky stairway in this article.
Prepare for a climb to the heavens in Honolulu.
The Stairway to Heaven is a steep and narrow trail that goes up more than 2,000 feet to the summit of a ridge on the Ko’olau mountain range. The trail has nearly 4,000 metal steps built during World War II for a secret military project. Today, it is a popular destination for adventurous hikers. From the top, you can see amazing views of Oahu and the Pacific Ocean. Is it an easy hike? Not at all. Hiking the Stairway to Heaven is one the riskiest and most illegal things in the world. Yet people do it for curiosity and the breathtaking views from the top.
History of the Haiku Stairs
In 1942, the U.S. Navy built the Stairway to Heaven as a top-secret facility for transmitting radio signals to ships out in the Pacific Ocean. The stairs were open to the public until 1987, when they were closed because they were unsafe due to disrepair.
In 2002, the city of Honolulu tried fixing up the stairs and thought about re-opening them. But because of complaints from residents and concerns about safety, the reopening was stopped, and the stairs have been closed ever since. But can this stop locals, hikers, and tourists from reaching the heights of over 2000ft? No, they always sneak past a guard at the bottom of the stairs to experience the thrilling stairway.
Hike to the Stairway to Heaven
Are you one of the curious travelers who want to get this unforgettable experience by yourself or with your friends? Then here’s a friendly reminder, you're taking a big risk. This hike is not for everyone. It's not like walking in a park. Many authorities and locals say it’s illegal, risky, and tough.
And the trail is not always open. It gets closed frequently due to problems like vandalism, erosion, landslides, and accidents. The duration of the hike depends on the weather, your fitness level, and how fast you hike. It could take anywhere from two to five hours to reach the top.
Where to start?
To start your journey up the Stairway to Heaven, you need to find the Haiku Stairs at the end of Waimea Valley Road. After that, you will need to do some climbing to get there. Start your hike at the Rainbow Falls entrance gate of Kalawao State Park and head away from the ocean until you come to an intersection with a large sign that reads 'Stairway to Heaven.' You will need to figure out how to get to the trailhead without trespassing on private property or getting caught by security guards.
Be careful when stepping on the stairs
The stairs are steep, narrow, slippery, and uneven. Some parts are missing or damaged. You could see the sharp edges and gaps on them. There are no guardrails to hold onto, so you could easily fall off the edge. Make sure to eat well and have good condition on your body and mind because you will need a lot of stamina, balance, and bravery to reach the top. And if it is windy or foggy, you will have to put in more effort.
What to bring for your journey?
You need to be well-prepared and equipped if you are planning to hike the Stairway to Heaven. Following things can help you get through it.
- Bring a backpack with water, snacks, insect repellent, sunscreen, a first aid kit, a flashlight, and extra clothes.
- Take a camera or smartphone with you to capture the stunning views.
- Sunglasses, a hat, and gloves can protect you from the sun and the metal.
- Weather is unpredictable, so bring a rain jacket or poncho to stay dry in case it rains.
- Get hiking shoes or boots with good traction and ankle support to help you climb the rough steps.
- It is better to bring a hiking buddy or group for safety and companionship.
Reaching the top of the stairway
The views from the top of the Stairway to Heaven make all the effort and risk of hiking it worth it. You can see all of Oahu from east to west. If the sky is clear, you can even see Molokai and Lanai. The best time to be at the top is during the sunrise and sunset. If you managed to get to the top on time, you would see the sky painted in vibrant colors and how the sun creates dramatic shadows on the mountains and valleys.
What’s this old cabin?
You will also notice an old cabin with huge antennae on top when you reach the summit of the Stairway to Heaven. This is the radio station that the United States Navy built during World War II. They used this radio station to communicate with ships at sea and warn of enemy attacks back then.
Hiking the Stairway to Heaven is a challenge for risk-takers. You can get an unforgettable experience of history, culture, and nature in one risky adventure. But it is also a controversial, risky, and illegal attraction. You will even have to pay fines for hiking the stairway at the end. Whatever happens to the trail in the future, its legacy will always be remembered by all the adventurers who have seen its beauty and felt its excitement.