I recently went on an exciting hike on Oahu with some good friends. The hike is called “Haiku Stairs” and is nicknamed “The Stairway to Heaven”. After completing the hike, I’ve realized that the name fits the hike to perfection. It is literally a metal stairway of 3,922 steps which makes its way up one of the largest ridges on the island. Yep, 3,922 steps! This is no ordinary staircase either. During many parts of the hike the stairs are more like a vertical ladder going up the ridge. To make this hike even more exciting, we started at 2:30 AM! We had to go to the hike so early for a couple of reasons. One is that we had to make it to the top to see the sunrise, and the other is that the hike is ILLEGAL! Shhh, dont tell! There is actually a guard who is stationed near the entrance starting sometime around 4 AM keeping people from entering the hike.
Of course I am not encouraging you to do this hike because it is not legal, but if you happen to decide to make the trek anyway, here is a site with instructions to safely find the entrance to the hike in pitch black. Here’s how the hike went for us. We woke up around 2:00 AM so that we could make it to the entrance around 2:30 to insure we beat the guard to the spot. Keep in mind this was on my first night in Hawaii after waking up around 3:00 AM Pacific time to make my flight to HNL and when heading to bed i noticed an 8 inch centipede hanging out directly over my pillow so you can imagine how soundly I slept! OK, so we arrived in the neighborhood where we had to park our car and we walked toward a path which the instructions say to do. Luckily we found the right muddy path to follow through a bamboo forest which we had to hold onto the bamboo to keep from slipping and falling because it had been raining and the path felt more like an ice rink. We made it through the bamboo forest and went through a few fences that had been altered to allow people through.
Now we were at the stairs! We couldn’t really see the stairs, but could see a hiker heading down with a head lamp. We started to climb the stairs which were very steep and at some points was practically vertical. We climbed for what seemed forever and finally reached the first platform where hikers rest and take a break. There were a few other hikers at this point when we arrived and they notified us we were about third of the way up! I didn’t say so but at this point I felt like laying down and taking a nap while waiting for my friends to come back down. Luckily my friends were motivating and I’m not one to quit a third of the way through something. We trekked on! After a few thousand more stairs, a few vertical rises, and another platform we finally reached the top! On top of the ridge is an old radio station which we climbed to the top of to eat our snacks and drink some water. We attempted to take pictures at the top but the flash was so bright we couldn’t keep our eyes open as we were so used to the blackness. Then the wait was on. We waited for about an hour for the sun to come up and unfortunately it was a very cloudy day so we didn’t get the most spectacular sunrise, but it was still worth it.
After the sun started coming up we decided to head down to beat the rush as there were probably 30 people at the top by the time the sun came up. The way down was nothing short of amazing as the sun was breaking up. One side of the ridge was complete whiteness with clouds and the other side was looking straight down onto a highway and town all the way to the beach. On the way down you could really tell how steep it was on both sides, which you don’t realize heading up in the dark of night. Although I was very tired and at a few points wished I could call it quits, I am so happy I went on this hike as it is one of a kind and is an experience you cannot have anywhere else. A few tips I have for anyone who decides to take this hike are to bring plenty of water because you will sweat a lot, bring something to eat to give you some energy, wear a headlamp but don’t use a regular flashlight because it just becomes a hindrance while trying to hold on to the stairs, and most important if you are afraid of heights I would not even attempt this.
Before hiking “The Stairway to Heaven” I didn’t know much about it and had never heard of it before, but since the hike I have done a bit of research and have learned some interesting things about it. First that it is very controversial with the local community. The stairs were originally made of wood and were built by the military as a lookout and used it as a radio satellite to contact ships and submarines in the Pacific as far away as Tokyo Harbor. Here is a website made by a man who was in the military and stationed there during the production of the ridge stairs and buildings. He not only has a ton of pictures but some great stories to go along with them. When the military stopped using the radio station, it went unused and eventually the state had decided to rebuild the newer metal stairs and create a hike for the public. Due to complaints from the nearby neighborhoods the hike never opened and the city was forced to put a guard at the entrance to attempt to keep trespassers from hiking the ridge. Obviously this plan isn’t working so well as you can search online and find an abundance of stories and photos from the stairs. Since our hike, I have heard that security has tightened up even more due to more complaints from unhappy neighbors complaining of littering and noisy hikers outside their homes early in the morning, as well as multiple rescue missions forced upon the Honolulu Fire Department which takes a helicopter and likely a lot of funding. Due to all the drama surrounding the stairs, who knows how much longer this amazingly epic yet illegal hike will be accessible.