Stairway to Heaven (Haiku Stairs) Hiking Guide


DISCLOSURE: This is trail is officially “CLOSED.” This hike is not sanctioned by the state and it is illegal to access the stairs. If you decide to attempt this hike you are doing so at YOUR OWN risk. Trail conditions and accessibility can change daily and even by the hour. It is up to YOU to know YOUR hiking ability and level of expertise before attempting any hike.

We get a TON of questions when it comes to the infamous Haiku Stairs, aka “The Stairway to Heaven.” The Haiku Stairs are 3,922 steps across the Ko'olau range that leads to easily the best views on Oahu; and climbing steel stairs up into the clouds is something not everyone can claim they have accomplished. Not to mention watching the sunrise/sunset from the top of the ridge is always phenomenal. We decided the best way to field these questions is by writing an article, such as this one, to help answer your questions and simultaneously promote safe and respectful hiking. Hope this helps! Aloha!


First and foremost, this hike is illegal and can be dangerous. If you decide to attempt this hike, you are doing so at your own risk. While the guard at the bottom is there only to warn you, and convey that the hike is in fact illegal, he will not give you a ticket. Be respectful, he is doing his job. The police on the other hand, will gladly issue you a hefty $1,000 trespassing fine or even a possible 30 days in jail.  Over the last several years, some of the stairs have begun to deteriorate, and are noticeably shifting towards one side of the mountain. The problem here is that you never know when these old stairs on crumbly basalt rock will break. Additionally, this hike is on steep ridges and can be muddy and slippery. If you do decide to attempt the Haiku Stairs, please be smart when doing so, and do not hike alone. As always, make sure to preform due diligence and do plenty of research before attempting any new hikes or outdoor activities. 

The hike can take anywhere from 4-7 hours depending on your skill level, endurance and the weather/conditions. Make sure to be prepared. This means checking the weather before you go, wearing the correct footwear (no slippahs) and bringing lots of water and snacks .

Below is a map of the how to get to the bottom of the stairs. Please, if you decide to go this way, be respectful of the neighborhood and the residents who live there, don't be loud, don't leave rubbish and don't cut through someones yard. These residents have to deal with hundreds of people looking for this hike every week. Also, this is the area you are most likely to get ticketed, or be told to turn around by the police. Keep on reading to learn about how to experience the stairs the legal way. 


Now, technically it is only Illegal if you are on the stairs, structures etc. There is a legal way to reach the top. The alternative route is the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail to the Haiku Stairs. It's an approximately 9-mile, out and back trail that is only recommended for avid and experienced hikers. You don’t actually use the stairs to access the viewpoint at the top, however you can still cruise down the stairs for some photos before returning back on the legal trail.

The hike starts at the Moanalua Valley Road trail and proceeds to shoot off to the left at about 2.5 miles. This valley is accessed off of the H1 at the Moanalua Valley Exit 19B.  Once off the highway follow the signs up Moanalua Valley on Ala Aolani St. to where the road ends at the Community Park To get to the trailhead, park outside the Moanalua Valley Park and the trail begins just after the green gate. Eventually you will see a sign for the Kulana'ahane trail (note: Do NOT take this). Instead walk another 15 feet further and you’ll see a small, unsigned trail on your left hand side. Although small and unmarked it is easy to tell it is a trail, and this is the one that will take you to the radio tower and top of the ridge.


If you do plan on going up Moanalua ridge and down the stairs, you can park a car on both sides to make things more efficient. 

History: 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 through the Pacific Ocean. The stairs were then opened to the public until 1987 when they were deemed unsafe because of damage and several injuries. In 2015, another storm caused heavy damage to several sections of the haiku stairs.  The storm caused stairs to come loose, and trees to fall and block the stairs. The trees has since been removed/cleared but some stairs are still dangerous, and very loose. 

Haiku Stairs FAQ:

Is it Illegal to Climb the Stairs?
Yes. The hike is technically closed. If caught you can be given a large ticket and even a court date. 

Is there a security guard?
Yes. There is a security guard at the bottom of the stairs. However, it is not his job to issue tickets, only to warn people that the hike is off limits. Please be respectful, he is doing his job. 

Do you need to be in shape to hike the stairway to heaven?
You should always know your limits/what you are capable of when attempting outdoor activities. This hike is fairly long, and can be considered very tough depending on your skill level.