Ha’iku Stairs is most commonly known by the locals as the “Stairway to Heaven” is a popular hiking trail located on the windward side of O’ahu close to 2,800 feet (850 meters) high with 3,922 steps. The trail is set on the highest point on the island along the ridge of the Ko’olau mountain range where it is constantly shrouded in clouds. This nostalgic image gave rise to its nickname as the stairway to heaven. It remains one of O’ahu’s most scenic trails which boast panoramic views of the island, though it is also a “forbidden” one.
Originally built for the United State’s Navy during World War II to allow access to the LORAN radio antenna on the top of the mountain. After the war, the Coast Guard gained control and then opened the trail to hikers. Eventually it was passed down to the city and county of Honolulu at around the time when it appeared on a Magnum PI episode, which gave rise to its popularity. But this rise in popularity is also what started the controversy.
Currently, as of the date of this post, legal access to the stairs from the trail head (and now the surrounding nearby areas) – all located in residential neighborhoods – is forbidden. The reason for this stems from a controversy between the city and county and the homeowners near the trail head. As the stairs became more and more popular, hikers have been parking their cars on the residential streets, which already have limited street parking. Noise from slamming doors, loud voices, and car stereos also upsets the residents. In addition, vandalism in the area, which includes leaving trash, occurred constantly. Because of this controversy, access is forbidden, so much so that a security guard has been posted at the trail head to ward and cite people attempting access from that point.
Over time the stairs deteriorated, and because of its popularity the city and county feared liability suits. By 2003, the stairs have been completely renovated and it is said the city and county used approximately $875,000 USD to do so. Despite the lack of access, the stairs are in great shape.
Why? First, the majority of the steps goes above a 45-degree gradient. There are, however, six flat viewing points along the way to its peak at Puʻu Keahiakahoe (at the radio antenna). Also along the trail, the trade winds blowing from the ocean are very strong, which makes it a windy walk up and down. Due to the windward side’s moist weather conditions, the trail often remains wet and slippery. But I still love going up here, for this reason:
Because of the controversy with the residents, I am not going to post the location of the trail head, but I will say that its no secret and you can find it easily, if you wanted to. There are, however, other ways to get to the stairs, aside from the trail head. Some of the easier ones are points located within a mile of the forbidden and guarded trail head location. There are also points starting off on the other side of the mountain range, for those die hard hikers.Hiking Oahu’s Stairway to HeavenI didn’t post any of my own photos, but the views are spectacular. Always think safety first. And most importantly, if you do go, please remember what started the controversy to the trail head, and respect the area as well as the people who live nearby. "If you like this post, you might like these, too:"