Note: This trail is currently closed to all hikers without special permission.
Haiku Stairs – Stairway to Heaven
The Stairs that now constitute what is more popularly called the “Stairway to Heaven” is a very beautiful, scenic, physically demanding and illegal hike to complete. Because of issues regarding access to the trailhead involving permits that the State of Hawaii is unable to obtain, the stairs remain closed. Unfortunately so, as the views all along the rungs and at the landings are breathtaking. Interestingly enough, the stairs were recently renovated, with the State of Hawaii investing almost a million dollars to maintain, replace and update some especially crumbly and tricky sections.
The hike itself is a physical fitness nightmare. The stairs begin easily enough in an overgrown patch of forest but quickly ascend onto the open ridge. In many sections, the stairs are near or at vertical, requiring balance and coordination. Taking into account the overall elevation and terrain that the stairs traverse and it is quickly apparent that this route is not for the faint of heart.
Originally built in the 1940′s during wartime to mast antennas that spanned the entire length of Haiku Valley to transmit signals as far away as Tokyo bay. What is fascinating about this station is that many of the original buildings, equipment, masts, antennae, stairs and facilities are still intact. The stairs were built by a pair of free climbers who braved extremely dangerous conditions to peg and mortar the rungs that snake up the valley to the summit, nearly three thousand feet- or three thousand, nine hundred and twenty two steps- above the ground. There are several landings throughout the hike that allow for ease in resting and photo opportunities. The summit of the hike is often times socked in and a view from the top of the stairs to the ground below is rare but the journey itself priceless.
Access to the trail is restricted to a few maintenance runs a year and by special permit only. A grass roots movement has existed that is pulling for legislation to re-open the stairs to make public access and right of way legal. In fact, land rights issues and concerns have been settled as of mid 2010, yet the State of Hawaii is positioning liability as the sole reason the stairs shall remain closed. In any event, a trip to the summit from the base of the stairs is not recommended as there are many reports of round the clock security guards that patrol the area. Be prepared to be cited for trespassing if you choose to complete this hike.
This trek is a photographer’s dream. Take a look. =-)