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Need to know




The Stairway to Heaven (aka The Haiku Stairs) is one of the most iconic and breathtaking hikes in Oahu. It also happens to be super illegal and comes with a $1000 fine if you’re caught. 


But what most people don’t know is that there’s another (legal) way to get to the top of the stairs. And that’s by hiking the Moanalua Valley Trail instead. It’s an adventurous trail — about 10 or 11 miles round trip (about 8-10 hours). Expect some steep and narrow parts along the way (especially in the last 2 miles) that can be risky. 


But you’ll be rewarded with insane valley and ridge views and can end at the top of the Stairway to Heaven, to see it for yourself before the city finally removes it (possibly in early 2022).


As tempting as it is to climb up and down the stairs, just know that it’s still illegal, even if you’re at the top and just going down a few for a photo op. If you’re caught on the stairs, you will be fined $1000. Do people still do it…..? Yes. 


This is an unforgettable hike, but it is strenuous, so don’t attempt it unless you’re in good shape and not new to hiking. Be sure to read everything you can about it before you go


Moanalua Valley Neighborhood Park

1857 Ala Aolani St

Honolulu, 96819


​Moanalua Valley Neighborhood Park

  • Daily  ▭  7am - 7pm

**Gates to the parking lot are locked during off hours




Intermediate / Strenuous


Some people say it’s easy, but just long. We say that any hike that’s 10+ miles and takes you across narrow ridgelines with steep drop offs on either side… is not easy. 


Wind and weather conditions can make the hike riskier and more challenging. 

Time Estimate

Plan at least 10 hours for the entire roundtrip hike.

Some experienced hikers can do it in 3-4 but that’s crazy impressive.


  • Bevy — 18 min drive

  • Waikiki — 25 min drive

The legal way to see the Haiku Stairs (aka the Stairway to Heaven). Ridge hike with insane valley views. About 10+ miles round trip.

Moanalua Valley Ridge Trail


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Good to know





  • If you have the paid version of the AllTrails App, you can download the “Moanalua Valley Trail to the Haiku Stairs (Stairway to Heaven) map to your phone. It can use your phone’s GPS to show you where you are on the trail, which is handy if this is your first time. It also records your pace, distance, elevation, etc. 

  • Lots of Water. Like 3-5 litres (100 - 170 ounces) per person. A camelbak is handy if you have one. They make basic ones that just hold water or you can upgrade to one that doubles as a hiking backpack. 

  • Lunch and Snacks. Sandwiches, Cliff bars, bananas, nuts. Anything to get an energy boost. 

  • A good camera if you have one. The views from this hike are breathtaking. 

  • A Fitbit or Apple Watch are also easy ways to keep track of the time and how much distance you’ve covered. 

  • Gloves. A cheap pair will do. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t have these, but if you do, your hands will thank you on all the rope climbs. 

  • A Headlamp is great if 1) you plan to get an early start and 2) just in case. It’s a long hike and the last thing you want to do is get stuck out there in the dark. 

  • MICROspikes can help give you some more traction going up the really steep sections. Not a necessity, but can be helpful. 

  • A Light Sweatshirt or Windbreaker can be helpful if it’s windy, but not 100% necessary.



  • There’s parking and restrooms at the Moanalua Valley Neighborhood park where you’ll find the trailhead.

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  • If you have the paid version of the AllTrails app, you can download the “Moanalua Valley Trail to the Haiku Stairs (Stairway to Heaven) map to your phone. With your phone’s GPS it can track where you are on the trail, which is handy if this is your first time. It also records your pace, distance, elevation, etc. 

  • You need to be fit for this hike. It’s over 10 miles roundtrip and it’s beautiful but there are some risky and steep parts. 

  • Don’t attempt this hike if it’s expected to rain or if there’s been heavy rain in the few days leading up to your hike. Some parts of the hike are steep and narrow. When it’s muddy, it can get slippery and dangerous.

  • Oahu’s dry season runs from about June to October. September is one of the best months for this hike because it tends to be dry but not as hot and humid as during the middle of the summer. 

  • Start early. The earlier you start, the less you’ll be hiking in direct sunlight. And if it’s your first time on this hike, it’ll give you plenty of time to stop and take in the views along the way, without worrying about getting back before the sun goes down or the parking lot gate closes. 

  • If you want to start hiking before 7am when the Moanalua Valley Neighborhood Park parking lot opens, park in the neighborhood right before the entrance. 

  • Keep track of time. Make sure you’re on track to make it back to your car 1) before the sun goes down and 2) before the parking lot closes at 7pm if that’s where you parked. 


  • Where to park. Park in the Moanalua Valley Neighborhood Park parking lot (at 1857 Ala Aolani St.), next to the basketball courts. There’s a playground and bathrooms here. If you get there before they open the gate at 7am, park in the neighborhood right outside the entrance. 

  • The parking lot is only open 7am - 7pm and they lock the gate outside of those hours.

  • Parking is limited but you can usually find a spot on the road outside of the parking lot along Ala Aolani Street.

  • Remember that you’re in a residential neighborhood, so be respectful, don’t get too loud, and clean up after yourself.

Finding the trailhead

  • Head to the back of the Moanalua Valley Neighborhood Park. There’s a paved trail at the back of the grassy area. This is the trailhead. 

Part 1: It starts off mostly flat.

  • The first 2.5 miles are mostly flat and easy to follow through the valley. The path is wide and goes through lush forest. 

  • Heads up that all the forks in the road here will come back to the same main trail, so don’t worry about getting lost in this section. 

  • You’ll cross a few paved sections and some river beds which may or may not be dry, depending on the time of year. Keep your feet dry or you’ll regret having wet shoes with so much of the hike still ahead. 

  • For the first mile or so, you’ll be hiking mostly through trees which do a nice job of sheltering you from the wind.

Part 2: Find the start of the Moanalua Valley Middle Ridge Trail (not the Kulanahane Trail).

  • When the valley road ends, take a left at the trees. This is the part where it gets a little less straightforward. 

  • After a while, the path becomes a little overgrown with tall grass, but you should still be able to make out the trail. Follow this for a bit until it returns to the main trail. 

  • As you continue, keep your eyes peeled for signs and arrows carved into trees. They’re not obvious, but they are helpful. 

  • When you reach the orange sign that says “Kulanahane Trail,” don’t continue straight. You don’t want take this trail. 

  • Keep walking another 15 feet and you’ll find a small, unmarked trail on your left. There may be a pink ribbon on a tree to let you know you’re in the right place, but even without that it’s an obvious trail. This is the trailhead for Moanalua Valley Middle Ridge Trail. 

  • You’ll cross a stream bed right away and then see a branch with “Middle Ridge” carved into it that curves over the trail. It’s not obvious, but it’s there. This is where the elevation gains start.

Part 3: Hiking the Ridgeline.

  • This section of the hike is more straightforward and easy to follow. Just keep heading straight up the ridgeline until you get to the summit. 

  • The  first mile climbs through trees. Be careful not to trip over the roots. 

  • The 2nd mile has steep drop offs on each side, which will be riskier on a windy day. The ridge gets steeper and more narrow. It’s not a bad idea to crouch down and bear crawl if the wind is getting to be too much. 

  • You’ll be climbing over tree roots and boulders in parts of this section. 

  • There are some ropes to help you with the really steep parts. They’re definitely a lifesaver, but it’s hard to say how secure they are so be cautious and consider using them one person at a time. This is also the point where you’ll be really happy that you brought gloves. If you brought MICROspikes, they’ll be really helpful 

  • The steepest climb is the last part just before the summit. It’s a steep rope climb with crumbly gravel underfoot.  You’ll definitely need the ropes to get yourself up. You may want to go one at a time on this rope, just to play it safe. Get to the top and you’ve made it to the peak. 

Part 4: Make your way to the Haiku Stairs Radio Tower.

  • From the peak of Moanalua Valley Middle Ridge Trail, you will see the Haiku Stairs radio tower just off to your left. 

  • It’s about a ½ mile to the radio tower. 

  • What to expect? The ridge narrows a lot, with drop offs on both sides. The wind picks up here too which adds to the intensity. Don’t feel bad crawling for portions if the wind is strong. There are more exposed roots and several inclines (more ropes) with loose gravel. This section can also be muddier and more slippery than the previous one, so even though you’re close… stay cautious and focused. The silver lining is that the views are incredible.


Part 5: The Haiku Stairs.

  • The trail eases up some as you get close to the radio tower.

  • Hello panoramic views of Honolulu and southern Oahu. You’ll be hard pressed to find a more beautiful view than the one of the winding stairs through the lush greenery. 

  • Keep in mind that it’s still illegal to step onto the stairs, even coming from this direction. If caught, you’ll end up with a $1000 fine. 


Part 6: Head back the way you came.

  • It’s illegal to hike down the Haiku Stairs, so it’s time to turn around and go back the way you came. 

  • The ropes are extra helpful heading down those steep inclines. 

  • Keep in mind that the return trip may feel a little more exhausting just because your legs are already tired from the trip up. 



  • It’s illegal to even step foot on the stairs. (Do people still do it? Yes.) If caught you’ll have to pay a $1000 fine. So make sure you go back the way you came. There’s a guard posted at the bottom of the stairs and occasionally a police helicopter will fly over.

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  • Some people take their kids on the first portion of the hike where it stays flat, but turn around before the steep, ridgeline hike starts.



  • If you bring a dog, keep them leashed.



  • Moanalua Valley Ridge Trail is also called “Middle Ridge” or “Backside to Stairway.”

  • The last section of this hike, from the top of the Moanalua Valley Middle Ridge Trail to the Haiku Stairs radio tower traverses the Ko’olau Summit Trail (KST). That’s the crest of the Ko’olau Mountain Range that stretches from the North Shore all the way to Oahu’s southern point. Hiking the entrie thing is doable, but very few people have done it. 

  • The Haiku Stairs are also called the Stairway to Heaven or Haʻikū Ladder.

  • There are 3922 steps on the Haiku Stairs. 

  • The Haiku Stairs were built in 1942 during WW2 to build a top secret U.S. naval radio tower in the Haiku Valley. Its high altitude allowed them to transmit out to much longer ranges. It was far from enemy attacks and hidden by the surrounding cliffs. The transmitter used a low frequency to send signals to submarines and ships in the Pacific Ocean. 

  • It took 21 days for climbers Bill Adams and Louis Otto to figure out the route to the summit for the Haiku Stairs. As they climbed, they left spikes in the rocks and eventually ladders were hung from the spikes to make it easier, safer, and faster to climb. Later, the ladders were replaced with wood stairs and then those were replaced with galvanized steel. 

  • The Naval base was decommissioned in the 1950s, but the Coast Guard still let people hike the stairs in the 1970s. 

  • The Haiku Stairs were officially closed in 1987, when they were deemed unsafe because of disrepair”. But thousands of people still climbed them each year. 

  • In 2003, the city of Honolulu spent almost a million dollars repairing the stairs but ultimately decided to keep them closed. The plan was to reopen them, but residents complained and there were safety concerns, so they remained closed. It also doesn’t help that residents weren’t happy about hikers who sometimes ended up in their backyards or left trash in the neighborhoods. 

  • At one point, the city considered charging for permits to hike the stairs, to generate revenue and also limit the number of hikers, but ultimately felt the liability outweighed the reward. 

  • In September 2021 a unanimous resolution was passed to remove the stairs. Honolulu has budgeted $1M to remove the stairs, maybe as early as in 2022. 

  • A nonprofit organization, called Friends of Haiku Stairs, was formed in 1987 in an attempt to block the removal. They’d like a private vendor to take control. They could pay for security and upkeep through fees charged to hikers. They argue that it’s actually one of the safest hikes in Hawaii, because, well… there are stairs.

Last Updated 9 / 20 / 21

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