Travel & Adventure

Stairway to Heaven

One of the last hikes I attempted while on Oahu is also one of Oahu’s most infamous and talked about hikes. It seems like everyone has heard of, or at least seen pictures of, Oahu’s Stairway to Heaven (also known as the Haiku Stairs).

View of the windward coast on Oahu
Our view for just a few seconds before the clouds rolled in. Photo by Gerardo Hurtado

Approximately 3,922 steps long, the top of the stairs offers an indescribable view of the windward side of the island. The original stairs were built by the US Navy in 1942 to access a top secret radio station used to transmit radio signals to ships throughout the Pacific. During the 1950s the US Coast Guard took over the site as an Omega Navigation System station and the original (wooden) stairs were replaced with metal steps and ramps. In 1987 the trail was officially closed to the public, but that hasn’t stopped most.

The stairs today are still closed and illegal to trespass on. Cops patrol the local neighborhood and issue tickets to those attempting the hike. The neighborhood has even resorted to hiring their own security and setting their own traps to keep people off the trail.

View of the stairway from the top. Photo by Gerardo Hurtado

My husband wanted to do this hike from the minute he heard about it. I on the other had was a little skeptical and not sure it was worth the fine and possible arrest. If you read my H3 Summit Saddle – Preparing for the Stairs you’ve read my preparation and backstory in regards to this hike (if not go take a read and I’ll wait here).

Once we did the H3 Summit I no longer had any excuse and had to tackle the stairs. I had promised. It took a few weeks to get a clear weather forecast for the stairs after we did the H3 Summit hike, but we finally conquered the Stairs on January 13.

Of course, we took the back way, the Moanalua Valley Trail, no way was I risking that citation or arrest. In total, the hike took 9 and a half hours (6 hours and 20 minutes moving) and we covered 10.1 miles (out and back total) according to my AllTrails App. I felt accomplished, but I would never do it again.

Cloud covered mountains
Our view for 99% of our time at the top. Photo by Gerardo Hurtado

Despite us waiting for a clear weather forecast, we ended up doing the hike in thick clouds and rain; a very bad day to hike the stairs. By the time we got to the top we were soaked, exhausted and worse of all, just like the H3 Summit hike, the clouds were so thick we really couldn’t see anything. Again, if you read my H3 Summit post, this hike was much like the H3 Summit hike, only longer, a little more challenging and ended at the infamous stairs. Once we got to the top we took a few shots on and off the stairs, cooked ourselves some quick instant ramen to warm up and then trekked back down the trail.

Like I said, I left this trail feeling accomplished, but it was dangerous, it was long and in my own personal opinion, there are more fun hikes, with just as good of views all over the island.

Muddy boots looking out over clouds
My husband’s destroyed feet and view as we ate our instant ramen. Photo by Gerardo Hurtado

*This hike is challenging and dangerous. The Stairs are illegal. I am not advising nor recommending that anyone attempt this trail, I am simply sharing my experience. This post outlines my personal experiences and opinions on this hike. I am not a professional or expert, nor do I have any formal hiking or survival training. Please hike and explore at your own risk.

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