Monday, December 5, 2011

Hidden Haiku Stairs via Halawa Ridge

A few days ago I posted on here about my recent trip up the ever so popular Stairway to Heaven.  In doing so I decided that my next post would be about a hike that I did a few months back.  While everyone knows of the Haiku Stairs and it seems as though the whole world has hiked them, not many people talk about and even less have hiked what lies on the ridge adjacent from the Haiku Stairs.  On the north ridge is another set of stairs, in complete disrepair, but still manageable to hike if you are careful.  We call these the hidden Haiku Stairs.

The day started off with me and my wife waking up at 5am and taking the short drive to the halawa ridge trailhead.  We somehow got incredibly lost and could not for the life of us find the street where the trailhead was.  Due to the early start we both forgot to bring our phones so we could not contact anyone to notify them that we would be late.  Since the Halawa ridge trail is 14 miles round trip and the side trip to the hidden stairs makes the trail a total of about 16 miles the group had set a starting time for 6am.  We knew they would not be waiting for us to start and seriously thought about just going back home.  We did eventually arrive at the trailhead and decided to make an effort to catch up to the rest of the group but figuring that we were probably 45 minutes behind them at this point, I did not think that the our chances were very good.

My wife and I ran to a fenceline and followed it through an overgrown and eventually climbed under the H3.  There were a few stream crossings and then we reached a steep part with some ropes to aid in us climbing.  We eventually reached a dirt road and to my surprise we started hearing voices and then finally saw some faces of the people in our group.  Everyone seemed pretty surprised to see us.  We quickly appologized for getting lost and for being late but everything was swiftly forgiven and off we went up Halawa ridge.

Halawa ridge is very similiar to Poamoho ridge, both in looks and in grade.  While fourteen miles is a very long hike, the gradual elevation gain makes it seem much shorter and makes for a very easy hike to the summit.  Since we were all having fun and joking around lots the hike to the Halawa summit was going by very quick.  As we looked off to our left side we could see the H3 below us and the tunnel just ahead of us.  We pushed on to the last part of the trail and the vegetation and jungle feel to it was amazing.  The vegetation does tend to hide some drop-offs so one must be careful to stay on the trail.  At one point, while we were all walking and having a good time, one of our fellow hikers stepped off the trail onto one of the false ledges and did a front flip off the cliff.  Luckily he landed on a little knob just below and was just a little banged up and was able to contour around and back up to us.  A scary moment but we were all just happy that everything turned out ok.  After this little scare we continued for about another hour until we finally reached the Halawa summit.  The views behind us of Honolulu and of Kaneohe directly in front of us were amazing.  The skies were mostly clear, so we all took this opportunity to grab a little lunch and to take some pictures and soak in the views before heading up the contour trail to the hidden stairs.

After grabbing a little food and water a few of us took a left from the Halawa summit and headed up the muddy contour trail towards the hidden Haiku stairs.  The trail was incredibly overgrown and almost non-existent in some spots and the mud made the trek a very slow one.  The trail narrows, and has some big dropoffs in a few spots.  There was a cable running along the ridge at one of the more narrow sections giving us something to hold on to and easing our minds just a little bit.  After negotiating past some of the tougher sections we all arrived at the beginning of the hidden haiku stairs.

I had expected for them to be almost unclimbable, but getting up and down them actually did not seem to cause any of us a problem.  They were actually easier to manage than the actual stairway to heaven, located on the ridge across from us at this point.  Having gloves was a huge help on this day and is a must if you are going to climb these stairs.  They are incredibly rusted and can really tear your hands up and cut you if you are not careful.  At points along the stairs the railings were literally falling off as we touched them, so we learned quickly not to rely to heavily on the railings.  The stairs were in pretty decent shape though.  The group of five of us went down the stairs a very good way and then decided it was best to turn around since we had a long trek ahead of us to get back to where we had started.  Me and another hiker promised to come back someday soon and hike the stairs to the spot where the stairs abruptly end due to a huge cliff. 

We all turned around and once again negotiated the somewhat dangerous contour trail on our way back to the Halawa ridge summit.  The views all along our trek on this day were magnificent.  Once to the Halawa summit we picked the pace up a little bit and started our seven mile journey back to where we had started from at 630am.  This hike was extremely fun and took us most of the day.  In fact we made it just as the sun was setting and were very happy when we finally arrived at our cars.  Worn and tired my wife and I set off for seven-eleven with great anticipation for the slurpee that would soon be in our grasps.  This hike is very long, overgrown and can present one with very tough climbs and narrow sections and a lot of exposure along the way, so I would really only suggest doing this if you are experienced in hiking here on Oahu and if you have done some of the tougher trails already.  With that said, this hike is one you will never forget if you do decide to try it.

Directions:  I will do my best to post a trail description in the next few days as well as driving directions to the trailhead.  Mahalo


  1. How long did it take you to complete this hike?

  2. Nice post! I want to do this trail as I just finished stairway to heaven the back way. I was wondering if you have the direction to Halawa Ridge? Thank you!