Hiking the Stairway to Heaven, also known as Haiku Stairs was an amazing experience that really got me into hiking. This past summer I booked a flight to Hawaii solo and decided to surf, hike and live like a local for 4 days. Most people experience Hawaii within the resorts and stay within the city center. I don’t know why. Hawaii’s natural resources are pure bliss. Most tourists rarely venture out of the shopping malls built by corporations to increase shareholder value. This destroys Hawaii’s natural environment and I empathize why locals give uninviting looks to tourists. Even so, I was shocked to see tourists taking photos in front of newly built malls like they were historical monuments. Coming from a metropolitan area like the Bay Area, I had no intentions of staying within the city center and wanted to experience all that Hawaii had to offer as a local. I booked an Airbnb along Hawaii’s famous North Shore.
Hike at your own risk
Alltrails.com rates the hike as difficult. Honestly, it’s dangerous. Especially, when wet after a storm. The trail is closed to the public and hikers that trespass can be fined up to $1,000 and jailed. This was the riskiest and most difficult hike I’ve done. I didn’t expect the hike to be very strenuous, but I made it out alive and a lot more confident.
Since I was going alone, I wanted to meet like minded individuals. I found a few friends on alltrails.com while researching epic hikes in Oahu. If you’re traveling solo, more than likely, there will be other solo travelers that would like to hike, check out the comments for people inviting to connect and make some friends. I met Veni and Troy, two awesome globetrotters you’ll see in the videos below.
The Stairway to Heaven was built in 1942 as a military outlook to spy on Japanese ships from the sea during WWII. Recently, there was a storm that damaged portions of the stairway and a group of hikers had to be rescued via helicopter overnight. To add, there was a death that contributed to the state closing the trail.
You can read it here at unrealhawaii.com.
There are portions of the hike where you can slip and fall to your death. This is serious.
- 2.2 miles
- 3,9222 steps incline
- 2,000ft altitude
- Closed and restricted to public
- Guard at gate
- Surveillance cameras at trailhead
- Located in residential neighborhood, be respectful.
What to wear
- Back pack – Osprey Daylite Backpack
- Sweater or jacket (water resistant) – Patagonia Torrentshell Jacket
- Extra pair of pants
- Hiking shoes (a must) Men’s Saltzman/Women’s Saltzman
- Gloves for better grip – BiCycleStore Winter Gloves
- Watch – Vestal Digital Guide
Be prepared for a workout, be alert and aware of your surroundings. There are portions of the hike where you can slip and fall to your death. This is serious. At the 2nd half of the hike, the stairs are steep and it’s like climbing a down ladder. If you’re afraid of heights, it’s even more terrifying when looking down and climbing at the same time. See the video below.
If you plan to catch the sunrise, I suggest heading there at 3:30am. The trailhead is difficult to find and is located in a residential area. If you want to go undetected, the trailhead starts at a canal and leads into “bamboo forest” where you have to hike up and around the guard to the entrance. It took us a bit to find the trailhead, but we got lucky and followed a local.
Honestly, if I was going to do it again, I’d walk past the guard and go right up. This would’ve saved us at least an hour and a lot of energy trying to find our way through the forest. Also, make sure you’re in shape before attempting this hike. Train and prepare yourself for a 4 hour full body workout. Make sure you strengthen your legs, arms and endurance.
After coming down, the guard smiled and told us the cops were coming and gave us directions on the best way out without being caught. Mahalo!
- Train for a full body work out lasting 4 hours.
- Wear the appropriate clothing and shoes – hiking shoes required.
- Bring appropriate supplies such as water and energy bars for a full day.
- Go on a nice clear day. Check the weather to ensure you get the best view at the top.
- Go right up to the gate, no need to avoid detection.
- Politely thank the guard and quietly escape. (Disturbing the neighborhood will get you caught. Please be respectful.)