Why Hawaii's Notorious Stairway to Heaven Could Be Lost Forever

G Wong


Stairway to Heaven, Kāne’ohe, Oʻahu| © Nainoa Makana Kapono @threeifbysea
On the windward side on the island of Oʻahu in Kāne’ohe lies the infamous Ha’ikū stairs hiking trail, better know as “Stairway to Heaven.”

Stairway to Heaven is a towering 3,922 steps along the steep Ko’olau mountain range, which is part of the extinct volcano that created the island millions of years ago. It was created by the United States military during World War II in order to transmit radio signals across the Pacific. Today Stairway is an adventurer’s paradise where the avid hiker can scale narrow passageways and climbe sketchy rusted bars to find the most breathtaking sunrises one will ever encounter.

At the top of Stairway to Heaven © Nainoa Makana Kapono @threeifbysea
This trail has been known to locals of the island for years, but popularity recently blew up around the world thanks to social media. The trail is illegal, but that isn’t stopping the thousands of people who come to O’ahu every year to cross this hike off their bucket list. As traffic on this trail continues to grow, lawmakers and residents of the Ha’ikū Valley are trying their hardest to stop the Stairway to Heaven craze by threatening to tear the stairs down once and for all.

The Ko’olau Mountain Range © Nainoa Makana Kapono @threeifbysea
The land that Stairway to Heaven sits on belongs to different state departments: Hawaiian Homestead Lands, Land and Natural Resources and the Board of Water Supplies, which is why it could prove difficult to get the stairs removed in the timely fashion. Residents of the Ha’ikū Valley are having the streets they live on flooded with cars as there is no designated parking lot for this hike. If the stairs were to remain standing, the Board of Water Supply has suggested local agencies come up with an acceptable hiking trail that is safe for hikers and address the parking issue. Residents have even proposed that the state charge a fee to people who want to hike this trail.

Descending stairway to heaven into the clouds © Nainoa Makana Kapono @threeifbysea
If youʻre thinking about coming to O’ahu and are on the fence about hiking this trail, it is definitely worth your time. Not only does it literally feel like you’re walking into the clouds, it also offers some of the most beautiful views of the east side of the island. It is popular to hike this trail in the morning hours and to catch sunrise at the top of the stairs, because it sits on the eastern side of the island (sunrise is the most beautiful in this part of the island). Donʻt miss your chance at this “bucket list” item while its still intact. Mother nature destroyed part of the stairs in 2015 and now the state is threatening to go forward with removing the stairs permanently. Climb the notorious stairs at least once in your life; it may be too late very soon.

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