THE STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN IN HAWAII HIKE IS NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART
By Buddy Blouin
Part of visiting or living in the paradise known as Hawaii is getting to explore its wonder and beauty. Oahu’s stunning beaches are known throughout the world, but you’d be remiss to skip over the other beautiful features this wonderful island has to offer. A popular destination for locals and tourists alike is Oahu's Ko'olau mountain range which features an infamous hike. Known as the Stairway to Heaven Hawaii, the trail is a dangerous, challenging hike leading to a historic feature that earned the climb its nickname. The Haiku Stairs await adventurers who can endure the grueling 9.5-mile round trip that lasts around 6 hours. Before we really get started, we have to let you know that
making this climb is illegal. It’s around a $1,000 fine to climb the Stairway to Heaven in Hawaii. There are cops who guard it and issue tickets, and trespassing to get around said police takes an already dangerous trip and amps it up further. You can literally die, so we’re going to tell you
not to go do this. But the history of the area is fascinating, so we're gonna cover how this dangerous hike came to be.
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The History of Hawaii’s Stairway to HeavenThe draw to the Stairway to Heaven in Oahu comes from the Haiku Stairs placed upon the top of the Moanalua Valley Trail. It’s no secret that World War II affected Hawaii greatly, which is why the stairs were erected in the first place. These stairs once reached a top-secret Naval radio station that was used to communicate with ships fighting in the Pacific Theater. Constructed with more than 3,000 steps, this secret military installation was placed in the Haiku Valley due in part to its inaccessibility, protection from surrounding mountains, and the height that allowed radio waves to travel over large distances. Before constructing the stairs, the first documented hikers who scaled the summit took 21 days to do so. After the war, the stairs became a popular attraction for hikers, birdwatchers, adventurers, and outdoorsmen when opened in 1975. The stairs were eventually closed by the U.S. Coast Guard in 1987 due to vandalism, though thousands of hikers still underwent the trek. While the trail is still partially open, restrictions now apply. This has continued to be an ongoing debate among outdoor enthusiasts since the closure of the Haiku Stairs in 2015.
Where Is Stairway to Heaven in Hawaii?If you head to the east side of Oahu, you’ll find the Moanalua Valley Neighborhood Park. Setting your GPS to 1849 Ala Aolani St., Honolulu, HI 96819 should take you to the beginning of the Moanalua Valley Trail (Kulana'ahane Trail), which features a parking lot. Please note that some visitors have ticketed in the area, so be careful. This is where you can legally access the trail; however, you’ll have to stay off of the Haiku Stairs themselves or risk injury, death, and a fine. The proximity of the trail to multiple military bases in Hawaii makes it a popular attraction for recreational activities. No matter if you're stationed at NS Pearl Harbor, MCB Hawaii, Schofield Barracks, USCG Base Honolulu, or another nearby installation, you’ll find that the Instagram-worthy sights and challenging adventure are right up the alley of many who serve.
Why Is the Stairway to Heaven in Hawaii Illegal?Despite being shut down decades beforehand, the Stairway to Heaven was made illegal to climb in 2015 after a vicious storm caused a landslide that would damage the stairs. Being deemed a public health concern and after continuous concerns involving having to rescue hikers, local officials would end up banning the climb due to its dangerous nature. This would ultimately lead to the decision by local officials to remove the stairs in 2021, a decision that is still sparking much debate in Oahu.
Preserving the Stairway to Heaven and Haiku StairsAscending Puʻukeahiakahoe and climbing the Haiku Stairs is a dream. There are beautiful wildlife, landscapes, and views as you head into the clouds on this wonderful trek. This is why despite the call by many to remove the stairs, others are pushing back. It’s an expensive endeavor to remove the stairs, and after officials decided to do so, others have been pushing back. Campaigns to save Stairway to Heaven Hawaii are arguing that this historical landmark should be saved and preserved for generations to come rather than removed. For now, the stairs are there and illegal to climb, but hopefully one day, visitors can enjoy the attraction with all of its features safely and legally.
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