Hiking the Stairway to Heaven for sunrise was one of the most rewarding, yet scariest experiences of my life. Continue reading to see how we survived this epic hike…
I hiked the stairs again on January 05, 2018 and I’d like to first start off by saying police have been cracking down on the security. It’s been much harder to hike the stairway to heaven. There’s a cop car there 80% of the time on the road nearing the starting points – which I haven’t seen the first 2 times I had hiked it. People have been reporting a $1000 ticket and court date these past few weeks. Along with cops giving out more tickets, the recent time we hiked the Stairway to Heaven, the stairs itself seem to be noticeably shifting to one side, and more stairs are broken off and damaged (which we will discuss at the end of the article) We will go over the legal way to get to the Haiku Stairs as well later in the article.
Header photo by @selcouth_vagary
A Look Into the Stairway to Heaven Oahu, Hawaii
Hiking the Stairway to Heaven (a.k.a Haiku Stairs) for sunrise was one of the most rewarding, yet scariest experiences of my life. Starting off the hike by sneaking past a guard before dawn and hiking in the pitch black to be greeted by a long staircase of nearly 3,922 steps. With both unsteady and slippery railings and steps, you get a feeling of unease. At some points, the stairs go completely vertical and you’re left gripping on for dear life as the strong wind blows from all directions. Reaching the very top takes lots of perseverance as there are checkpoints along the way that makes you question continuing. As the sun rose, the sky cleared and left us with the most beautiful glow and sunrise we’ve ever seen. It’s no question why so few have the courage to take on this hike.
Preparing for the Journey
Total Time: 4-6 hours
What we packed
We didn’t want to pack too heavy – so we kept it simple.
Where to park
To get to the Starting Points of the Stairway to Heaven, you have to drive through Haiku Road and continue onto Kuneki St. The issue recently, is cops often park there and follow people around until they leave the area, which is actually what happened to us roughly a month back. If that happens – we recommend parking somewhere decently close to Kuneki St. and just walking to the Starting Points.
Address: Kuneki St Kaneohe, HI 96744
Choosing your starting point
There are two starting points I recommend and have used in the past. Here’s how they look:
A. Simple and straightforward – When I took this way, the fence was open – but you might have to hop it. Very easy to follow path. You will be seen by the guard, but he will normally just inform you that the hike is illegal and to tell you not to continue.
B. Drainage Path – They recently added new fences to try to stop people from hiking this way. There are lots of dogs around this area and there are houses on each side. The reason I would actually recommend people to go through Point A would have to be because it must get frustrating for the people that live here to constantly have flashlights and people rustling around beside their houses every single morning.
There is no problem with seeing the security guard from my experiences. Just be quiet and if they talk to you please be polite. Their job is not to run after you and stop you. Their job is to inform the cops of your presence. The issue is not passing the guard – it’s when returning from the hike on the way down which we will get in to later…
Figuring out when to start
This section is for people that want to see the sunrise.
Here are some numbers to include when finding out when to start:
- Both starting points we went over will take roughly 20-30 minutes to reach the first step of the Stairway to Heaven.
- After reaching the first step, it will take roughly an hour to reach the first checkpoint and another 1-2 hours to reach the very top depending on how fast you move.
Make sure to factor all those numbers in when deciding when to wake up and start.
Hiking the Stairs
This is the start of your journey up 3,922 stairs. When on your way up, looking down really put’s things into perspective!
This is the first checkpoint. It took us roughly an hour to reach here…
This is the bunker you will find after passing the second checkpoint. It took us a little over two hours in total to reach here:
After hiking to the bunker, you can fully complete the hike by going to the radio tower, which we, unfortunately, did not take pictures of. It should take another 30 minutes to reach it.
Beautiful views on the way back down!
The sun is out and the fog cleared up the lower we got.
In this photo we are roughly 30 minutes away from being back on the ground:
The issue with coming back down is the security guard can easily see you and is expecting you to come down. Instead of running away, we just approached the guard respectfully and he let us off. Always be respectful and he might be kind in return – he has to deal with this every day. We recommend heading back from Starting Point A.
Is it worth the risk?
Over time, more stairs have been damaged and they are noticeably shifting towards one side of the mountain. The issue with this is you never know when they will break and you can never be 100% sure of the safety of the stairs. That’s the risk you’re taking and if you’re comfortable with that and the possibility of 30 days in jail and up to a $1,000 fine, then it’s a hike you cannot miss out on.
In conclusion, if you really want to hike it, you will. Weigh out the pros and cons and really think about the consequences. We’re not trying to promote hiking the stairs, but simply trying to put out an updated guide inform people of the current state of the Stairway to Heaven! If you want to find the legal way to hike to the Stairway to Heaven – read below.
The Alternative Route (Legal)
The other alternative to the route we outlined throughout this article is the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail to the Haiku Stairs. It is a 9.3 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail that is only recommended for those of you who are very experienced hikers.
We would definitely recommend this route over the one we went over due to the fact you will be avoiding any interactions with police and not having to possibly be charged up to $1000 fine and even 30 days in jail.