THE STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN OAHU, HAWAII: UPDATED 2018

the view fro stairway to heaven

At 3 am we slipped past the guard and began to climb the Stairway to Heaven (Haiku Stairs) on Oahu, Hawaii, one of the wonders of the world.

UPDATED 22/1/2018: Fines have been reported as approximately $1000, with people receiving them recently. Security has been upgraded and there are now not only security but also a frequent (but not constant) police presence. Discussions about tearing the stairs down or repairing them continue as it has for years with no major breakthroughs on either side.

I have included a section at the bottom of the article about the back way up the Stairway to Heaven. This route is longer, legal and you still get to reach the viewpoint of the Haiku Stairs. You don’t actually use the stairs to reach the viewpoint but you can still walk down the stairs for some photos before returning down the legal route. This would be my advice to those wanting the experience of the Haiku Stairs but also want to avoid any chance of a big fine or running into the police. I’ve also included the contact of a local guide who takes people up the back way!

My post was originally written in 2016 and the situation may have changed since then regarding security, fines, the condition of the stairs and legality.

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The Stairway to Heaven on Oahu, Hawaii, also known as the Haiku Stairs, is possibly the greatest attraction on the entire island. 3,922 stairs lead up the imposing mountain ridge, often at a vertical incline, with only a hand-rail to catch you from falling into the valley below.

Originally the stairs were built in 1942 by the U.S. Navy as a top-secret facility for transmitting radio signals to ships that were sailing in the Pacific Ocean. The stairs were then opened to the public until 1987 when they were deemed unsafe because of disrepair.

The city of Honolulu spent almost a million dollars repairing the stairs and was considering re-opening the stairs in 2002 but resident complaints and safety concerns halted the re-opening and the stairs have been closed ever since. That hasn’t stopped hikers and tourists sneaking past a guard who is posted at the bottom of the stairs to experience the thrilling 4000ft long hike along an 18-inch wide staircase reaching heights of above 2000ft.

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Want a short, simple guide to Oahu’s best hikes? I wrote this article:  10 Best Hikes on Oahu

These are the 11 Best Cliff Jumping spots on Oahu

 

Stairway To Heaven Hike

I had been on Oahu for over a year and despite contemplating the hike many times, the rumor of a $600 possible fine had scared me off. I am a college student trying to pay rent and that kind of fine could incur real financial trouble for me. I listened to time after time as my friends would recount their experience of an amazing sunrise experience or about how they managed to sneak past the guard through the bamboo forest. I was also enticed by the many photos I had seen highlighting this extraordinary climb and views.I didn’t want to miss the unique opportunity of taking my own photos of this unbelievably scenic hike before I left Hawaii.

For another amazing sunrise on Oahu head to Lanikai Pillbox!

Stairway To Heaven Hike view

Stairway To Heaven Hike

 

As time passed, the instances of the $600 fines being handed out seemed to have become more commonplace and many people began meeting the police at the bottom of the hike after they had descended back down the stairs. My nervousness about being caught kept my desire to attempt the hike at bay.

I had two friends visit and had promised them if the opportunity arose we would try and do the craziest hike they could imagine so they were already pumped for the Stairway to Heaven. One fateful night, the weather seemed perfect and we made a last minute decision to go for it.

GETTING PAST THE GUARD

We were dropped off in the neighborhood at 2 am in the morning on a very clear night, only a few light clouds hovered over the mountains looming above. As soon as we stepped out of the car a neighbor came rushing out of his front yard yelling at us with his phone pressed angrily to his ear. Startled by the old man walking towards us we quickly shuffled away to the “main entrance” only to find someone jumping out beaming a flashlight at us.

Well, that was an interesting start! We crept off in the opposite direction towards an alternate entry point, well aware that the old man had been on the phone to the guard and quite possibly the police, warning them of our arrival. This heightened our sense of adventure considerably.

Walking through the neighborhood with our crew of six, as quietly as possible, our presence soon became blatantly obvious as a chain reaction of dogs blew our cover. With no other choice we hurried down the street to a small lane that led up a hill. We had to clamber over a barbed wire fence one by one that was very close to a neighboring home. I can definitely understand why people jumping this fence every night would be very annoying. I did feel some remorse for the neighbor trying to get a good night’s sleep but unfortunately our mission was going ahead despite the barbed wire fence.

From here we had to sneak our way through knee-high undergrowth as quietly as six tired and anxious people in the dark can. A silhouetted figure appeared in the foliage twenty yards behind us and began yelling but we quickly scuttled towards the path and out of the shrubbery. We were now approaching the guard and we could make out a car in the distance. Already on private property and having passed multiple no trespassing signs we were understandably quite nervous.

TIME TO CLIMB THE STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN ON OAHU, HAWAII

No one was at the car so we walked straight past it and towards the stairs. I felt a huge relief as we began our ascent up the stairs as it is commonly known that the guards and police don’t usually climb the stairs to confront people. It felt like we were safe and could now enjoy our 3am hike to heaven.

In 2015 a huge storm damaged several sections of the stairs to the point where they were severely mangled. It isn’t incredibly dangerous but it definitely makes things interesting. A number of the stairs are loose and each step had to be taken with that in mind.

We hiked without headlamps and the full moon guided us up the narrow, damp staircase. I stopped frequently to peer down at the Highway that continually got smaller and smaller as we climbed towards platform one.

Stairway To Heaven Hike

The full moon illuminated the stairs ahead of us and the smell of damp metal covered our hands as we made sure to always have a good grasp on the slippery railing. We continued to make our way carefully up towards platform two, where we found an abandoned cabin with old machinery lying inside. It felt as if we were on a post-apocalyptic movie, the last survivors searching for any other signs of life.

ABONDONED CABIN Stairway To Heaven Hike

After almost two hours we were moments from reaching the summit. The final section of the hike has boards rather than stairs, which create a catwalk 2000 ft in the air on top of a sharp ridge.

THE TOP OF STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN!

At the summit, we found another old cabin with huge antennae on top. We wandered around for a little investigating our playground in the clouds before we returned to the warmth of the bunker to wait for the sun to rise. Packing a spare change of clothes was a game changer. Being able to put on a dry shirt and jacket made a huge difference in combating the wind at the summit.

Stairway To Heaven Hike

After a short wait the sky began to glow a pale blue, then a purple and all of a sudden the sun attempted to break through the haze. It wasn’t the sunrise of the year but it shone yellows and oranges throughout Haiku Valley and lit up the stairway we had just climbed.

Stairway To Heaven Hike

More than thirty people witnessed the sunrise with us and we watched them begin the descent down the group by group. We began to contemplate when we should head down and which way we should go. The Moanalua Trail, is a 6-mile route down that would help you avoid the guards but you would also miss the views of the stairway on the way down and it would take 3-4 times as long.

Stairway To Heaven Hike

DSC08280

THE JOURNEY BACK DOWN

We decided to follow the crowd and headed down the stairs, only one old man remained at the summit when we left. The hike down was a photographer’s dream with hundreds of prime photo opportunities. We weren’t in a rush so I decided to hike most of the descent by myself so I could enjoy composing and setting up different shots.

 

Stairway To Heaven Hike

Stairway To Heaven Hike

It is amazing to walk up in the dark and then see where you hiked as you descend down in the daylight. It took us less than two hours to make it to the beginning of the stairs. We could see the guard’s red truck parked at the foot of the stairs where it was in the morning but we decided to take the risk.

MEETING THE GUARD

In the end, we didn’t clamber through the bamboo forest as many others do, we took a deep breath and walked straight up to the guard. He smiled, exhaled his cigarette smoke as he beamed, “I’ve called the cops, they must not have come,” as he began laughing to himself.

Not sure if he was joking or not, we nervously chuckled, thanked him and went on our way.

Winding our way in and out of bamboo shoots we emerged from the forest inside an elementary school to the dismay of a worker. We apologized and put our heads down and followed his orders to take the gate out. We were almost free.

Making our way towards the final gate, we spilled into the neighborhood and saw no signs of any police or angry neighbors. I couldn’t believe we had just hiked the Stairway to Heaven.

This is truly one of the wonders of the world and makes you feel incredibly small, almost like an ant climbing a hill. The atmosphere of the hike is dreamy, eerie and post-apocalyptic. It is definitely something you should attempt when visiting Honolulu.

We recommend that if you do this hike, try as hard as possible to attempt it with someone who has been before. Show respect for the neighbors as much as possible and know that you are likely trespassing and breaking the law.

Stairway To Heaven Hike

Stairway To Heaven Hike

Stairway To Heaven Hike

The Alternate Route to the Stairway To Heaven

As I mentioned in the blog post there is an alternate route down and therefore, also an alternate route up. You can completely avoid the guards and security at the start of the trailhead if you follow the Moanalua Trail. The hike begins at the Moanalua Valley road trail and is a 9.3-mile round trip. You will get muddy.

Although it is legal, it is still a tough hike. There are multiple sections with rope climbs and very steep, muddy ascents. Once you reach the top you can walk down the stairs and get some cool photos. In fact, you can go quite a far way down the stairs because the guards and police usually only wait at the bottom. I think they are too lazy to chase people up the stairs every morning. So for you Instagram chiefs out there, you can get all of the angles and shots you have dreamed about.. legally. This route also does a good job of not waking up the neighbors as you jump fences and sneak around at 3 am.

I highly advise you guys to hike Stairway to heaven this way. You will avoid a fine of up to $1000 and be getting involved with the police. You won’t piss off the poor neighbors who have to deal with everyone running around their neighborhood each morning. You will still get the same shots of the stairs as you would going the other way just with a bit more effort.

If you are interested in climbing the back (legal) way up to the summit you can contact @mike.karas on Instagram and chat with him about when his next tour is running.

Should the stairs be pulled down?

There have been several possible solutions thrown around about the future of Stairway to Heaven on Oahu, Hawaii. How could it be possible to make the hike open to the public and also respect the neighbors right to privacy and safety in their own yard? Here are the options that have been discussed so far in the media, forums and by the state.

1. Charge tourists/out of state visitors $50-100 to hike the stairs while the hike remains free for residents of Hawaii. The money can be spent creating a small parking lot, maintaining the trail and creating a safe entrance and exit points.

2. Require all people to purchase a permit for $10 from the Parks and Recreation Department before hiking the Stairway to Heaven. This paper would need to be shown at the entrance to the stairs or checked at any time during the hike. This would take the liability away from the state and is similar to the rules and regulations for camping grounds.

3. Paid tours with guides could remove the liability from the state and put the responsibility on tour companies who would need to act responsibly and safely with their clients. This isn’t a great option for residents who don’t necessarily want a guide.

4. Close the hike, pull down the stairs and the liability is then gone. Unfortunately, this won’t ever work because people will still hike up to the summit and without the stairs, there may be a higher risk of injuries or fatalities for hikers.

5. Use a lottery system similar to other national parks, which allow only a small number of lucky lottery winners into the park each month.

What do you think the best solution could be? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

 

 Where is the Stairway to Heaven?

Here’s a map to help

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96 Discussion to this post

  1. Lexes says:

    Hi!! i’m traveling to Hawaii from November 26th- December 10th. If anyone wants to do this hike with me, shoot me a dm on Instagram @lexesohara ! I would love someone to go with, especially if it’s with a group. I don’t want to miss out on this opportunity. Experiencing this sort of beauty is why I’m coming!

  2. […] This large staircase located in Oahu, Hawaii contains around 3,922 steps and brings literal meaning to the phrase "staircase to heaven". The original purpose of the stairs being built was to lead people easily to the top of this mountain to emit radio signals to ships in the Navy across the Pacific Ocean according to journeyera.com. […]

  3. Philip W Holman says:

    I want to do this hike. However, I am afraid of heights. Is it possible if you take it slow? I dont care if it takes all day to do. This is on my must do when I go to Oahu this spring.

  4. Cam says:

    Anyone keen for this Friday (16th Nov)

  5. Marco Bocanegra says:

    Hello all! I am planning on doing this hike Friday morning 11/9
    Would deff want someone to tag along with that has more knowledge towards this hike.
    Let me know! DM @Marco.bocaa instagram

  6. Jason says:

    Me and my wife will be doing the hike sometime during our stay on the island Nov15-26, looking for others that will be going.

  7. Jth007 says:

    I’m in Oahu from 10/28 until 11/29 if anyone wants to do the legal hike. DM me on Twitter @jthalt007.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Bring a boxful of doughnuts for the guard and or the police…with cups of coffee will their day even better. They’ll let you in.

  9. Kaine lundqvist says:

    Anybody 5th or 6th december? Will do it alone if not but would be great to have company, message me on facebook if so. Kaine lundqvist or [email protected] , staying in waikiki and have a car if you need transport.

    Regards

  10. Jimmy says:

    Hello from Vancouver Canada, great post dude! My gf and I will be in Oahu December 8-15 2018 and want to do this hike (preferably legally!) HIT ME UP IF YOU WANNA GROUP UP! [email protected]

  11. Miguel says:

    First, this is a great blog. Thank you for sharing your suggestions. I will be around from Dec 6th to Dec 10th. Anyone going to the Island on those days that want to climb either legal or illegal (I prefer the legal way)? [email protected] if anyone is going those days!

  12. Johnny S. says:

    My gf and I will either be doing this hike (legal) either 10/17 or 10/20 if anyone wants some company–hit us up!

  13. Kevin says:

    Anyone down to do this hike Monday 10/8/18 ?

  14. Greg Mahusay says:

    Aloha. My niece, her bf, her brother and his gf and I want to hike on Tuesday, October 23, legal or illegal. Prefer legal. $1000 fine is pretty steep. Anyone planning to hike that day? We’d be interested in hiking it with someone who has hiked it before.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Hi,
    We haven’t decided yet. Shoot me email [email protected]

  16. Cam says:

    Thinking of doing this on the 15th Nov. Anyone gonna be around then and keen to give it a go?
    flick me through an email. [email protected]

  17. multics says:

    bonjour
    great share.
    In my opinion the most stable iptv boxes are those from Fishbone cccam
    I would like to see more posts like this
    Thanks

  18. G says:

    Keep in mind that the new fine is now $1000.00 if caught.

  19. Teran says:

    I’m thinking of doing this tomorrow. Anyone down?

  20. Willie Smith says:

    Charging a fee seems to be a reasonable approach, but there is still the “who is liable” issue. I think the best way to answer the question (of should it be dismantled) is to think of the issue from those who are most disturbed by it (neighbors). How would you feel it you were the one being constantly disturbed?

  21. Stan says:

    My partner and me will be in Oahu September 21-25. Is anyone interested joining us for the hike?

  22. sam says:

    i’m planning to hike on sept 16/17 is anyone interested ?

  23. Anonymous says:

    Hi guys, im going to Hawaii on Labor Day weekend… is anyone interested in doing that status of heaven with me? If so, please send me an email [email protected]. Thank you.

  24. Ryan says:

    Great read! My girlfriend and I will be in Oahu from Nov 22-dec 1 if anyone else is interested in doing the hike with us.

    Instagram: ryan_hannaford

  25. […] Stairway to Heaven (Kaneohe) – Extreme *Trespassing […]

  26. Matt says:

    Hey going to be in Oahu August 12-15. Does anyone want to do the back way ?

    Instagram: Usmcmjw

  27. Natalie Reyes says:

    How selfish can you be disrupting the neighborhood and security at 3am just to get shots for the gram. Not only that but you are promoting the illegal hike. If you want those pictures then work for it and go the legal route.

  28. This looks so unrealistically majestic, Jackson & Jessie! Thank you for sharing such a wonderful place we can look forward traveling to. With that being said, do you recommend this hike for people around 40-50 years old and 13-15 year olds? It would be nice if this marvelous place gets maintained, we wouldn’t mind paying a fee to hike there!

  29. Chris says:

    Also, I’m a fan of the permit plan option!

  30. Amazing post again! Loving this blog!

    I’m headed to Oahu July 24 – August 3 for the first time. Doing the stairs sounds incredible but I think we’re gonna end up taking the back way.. If anyone is going to be in the area and wants to join or show us the way
    facebook: Chris Pomaski
    Instagram: Pomask88

    Stoked!
    Thanks for this post!

  31. Dan Barrett says:

    Unreal article, thanks so much!

    I’m headed to Hawaii on the 12th July from Australia for the first time. Will be travelling around solo! I want to hike as many mountains and find as many waterfalls as possible!

    I’m thinking I’ll do Oahu and Kauai for the 12 days that I’m there. Can you guys recommend things I should do and see that the average tourist wouldn’t even dream of doing?!

  32. Wendy a regular visit to these islands says:

    Visitors should pay $50 to walk the stairs. That money should be spent to maintain all the stairs and handrails. It’s an amazing wonder in this world and it should be experienced. There is plenty of money coming into Hawaii from tourists so repair the stairs

  33. Visiit says:

    I really enjoyed reading your article. I really appreciate the effort you have given to this post. I am looking forward for your next post.

  34. […] más recomendado es comenzar de madrugada, sobre las 5AM, con una linterna. Aún así, recuerda que se trata de una actividad con un elevado […]

  35. Jay says:

    Is anyone planning on going Memorial Day Weekend? I wanted to check this out while I’m on the island.

  36. […] is another, legal way though: the back way! Here’s a great article that explains more about the back route to the Haiku […]

  37. […] Stairway to heaven hike (if you’re experienced) – Read this bloggers experience! […]

  38. Anonymous says:

    Not cool dude to promote this even knowing it’s illegal and dangerous. We live in the area and you have absolutely no idea how it affects the neighborhood and the consternation it causes when folks have to be rescued or hospitalized. Go somewhere else! You really are not showing any aloha at all by encouraging others to break the law!!

  39. Oleg says:

    Me and my Brother tried going up today before a cop stopped us. We know where to go, and what to do to get passed the guards. If there is anyone willing to go today, or in the next few days, let me know. Here till 25th of April.

    • Daniel says:

      Hay I’m dan
      I tried he stairs a couple of days ago and had trouble with the locals and police, ended up going the back way. It was still amazing although we didn’t make it to the very top.
      It’s my last day tomorrow and am thinking of having another crack at the stairs.
      Which way did you guys have in mind??

    • TJ says:

      Hey, I’m TJ
      Me and my wife came here just to hike the stairs and we encountered the police as well, who told us to turnaround. Any help to get past them would be greatly appreciated.

      Thanks

    • Spencer Moss says:

      Yo man! Let’s go today. Hit me up on Instagram @spacechange

  40. Teo says:

    Is there any local guide that can take me up there?

  41. London says:

    hey do you think a 14 and 15 year old can do this hike? It would also be with a local who has experience and has done the hike a lot.

  42. […] Full blog post: The Stairway to Heaven Hike […]

  43. Been to Oahu a number of times, never climbed the Stairway to Heaven. Always wanted to though. Maybe next time.

  44. David W. Jessup says:

    GreaT The first building with a person standing on top was the upper cable house. It ran from there down to the SE corner of the Haiku NRS. The machinery inside drove a smaller cable tool carrier from there up to the second building that contained equipment to communicate between Haiku and the NRS radio receiving station on the West side. My job (1946) was to maintain that equipment so after riding the cable car I walked from the upper cable house up to the smaller communication building at the top. Occasionally one of the wooden steps would break just to make the climb more exciting. I no longer have a web site but still have lots of photos.

  45. Smrithika says:

    Anybody going to be there for thanksgiving weekend and interested in doing this hike ?

  46. Sam says:

    Is anyone going this weekend? I’m heading to Oahu today 10/20 and plan to do this hike this week. I would love to go with someone who has been before

  47. Grace Z says:

    Thoughts on a family of 5 taking this hike later this year? Two adults, 17 year-old, 15 year-old, & an 11 year-old? How difficult is it? Thanks.

    • Jackson & Jessie says:

      It isn’t a hard hike compared to some others. 1.5 hour up max and 1 hour down. Some parts are like climbing a ladder.. vertical/straight up. Some parts are damaged but not the vertical parts. Some loose steps. Is it entirely safe? No. I am not encouraging people to do the hike but it wouldn’t be too hard for a family like yours to do so. The other thing to consider is the guard and if you are very unlucky the police as it is technically illegal despite being hiked regularly by many. Good luck whatever you decide.

  48. oltravelbook says:

    thats a great write up!

  49. oltravelbook says:

    thats a great piece of writing you got there ..good job..loved reading it

  50. You’re a really practical web site; couldn’t make it without ya!

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