Friday, December 2, 2011

Stairway to Heaven (Haiku Stairs) and Haiku falls

This past weekend was Thanksgiving weekend and a friend of mine asked me if I would accompany him to the well known stairway to heaven since he had never been before.  Keeping with the spirit of the thanksgiving holiday I willingly accepted his invitation and notified my wife that we would be leaving our house early the next morning for haiku valley.  While I usually jump at any opportunity to hike that I get when I am free, the stairway to heaven, or the haiku stairs, is one that I do not usually agree to do.  I have a very strong disdain for this trail at this point.  The first couple of times that I climbed the haiku stairs I thought it was the most incredible thing ever, but years later and a plethora of trips up the 3,922 stairs have rendered me almost completely void of any desire to ever do this again.  I guess you could say that the "thrill" of this hike has kind of worn off for me.  I still enjoy it when I do go but I guess I believe it's a little over-hyped.  For me, the amount of gratitude that I recieve from doing stairway is small compared to what I feel when I hike many of the other trails here.  I am not sure of the number of times that I have been up the stairs but I would say it is easily in the double digits and as for the future, I will surely not be trying to make that number grow.

My wife and I were very grateful to have our friend pick us up early on sunday morning and to give us a ride to the trailhead.  We drove towards kaneohe and as we entered haiku village two other friends pulled up behind us and followed us to where we would park.  Upon parking we swiftly exited our cars and gathered our things and hurridly headed to the gate being as quiet as possible not to bother anyone who lives in the neighborhood.  Once at the gate we walked around the right side of it and proceeded down an old road.  The junction to get to the trailhead is a matter of minutes, at the most, at this point and is on the left side and fairly obvious (pass a junction with a cement parking block in front of it, the correct junction is on the left just after this, and about a minute or so after seeing a water tank on the right side).  We took the left and headed into the bamboo forest and were immediately met by a tree blocking the trail and easily made our way around it.  Shortly after this we came came to a clearing and continued ahead, veering slightly to the right and then promptly proceeded back into a wooded area and once again were greeted by a path surrounded on both sides by bamboo (during this stretch you will come to a few openings - if you can't find the trail to find the continuing path just keep looking in front of you for a clearing in the forested areas....If while in the wooded area, you see a trail going right and another going left, take the left fork).  Finally, at the end of the bamboo forest, we ran into a fence with a hole cut into it and easily crawled through it and emerged out on the access road, which by taking a right would lead us directly to the stairs.  We took the right and casually made our way as we could now see the H3 pillars directly in front of us and knew that in a matter of moments the exhausting climb up the 3,922 stairs would commence.  In no time we had reached the tent where the guards hang out during the day, and at this point we took a left and headed for the stairs and started our trip up the "Stairway to Heaven".

One by one we passed around the fence that is meant to keep hikers like us out and began our journey up the stairway to heaven.  From the beginning the climb does not let up.  It climbs and climbs and after about ten minutes becomes nearly vertical.  There are two vertical sections followed by a brief section where it levels off for about one minute and then one last vertical section before reaching a concrete lookout and a resting spot.  A few people in the group took this opportunity to relax and catch a breather while the rest of us continued up the stairs.  In my opinion, the portion of the stairs that I just desribed, is by far the hardest and most tiring and after reaching the first resting point the rest of the climb is not all the bad.  As we made further progress up the stairs the next bunker and stopping point came into sight.  We accelerated our pace and made it to the bunker in a hurry and then briefly grabbed some water before making our final push to the summit.  As we poped our heads out of an old concrete structure, in which we had just been resting in, the haiku stairs summit finally came in to view.  Two more strenuous, vertical climbs and we would reach our destination.  As we arrived at the top of the last of the stairs I could see one of our friends already perched on top of the old ccl building that sits at the terminus of the Haiku stairs.  As we approached he came down and greeted us and then the guys in the group decided to follow me across the KST to see where the moanalua middle ridge trail begins and to take a glance at it.  It was insanely muddy and windy on this day but we had a good time on our short trek across the KST.  We took a few pics and then headed back to the Stairway terminus and began our descent down the stairs.

Due to my incessant taking of pictures, I was in constant catch up mode as we all made our way down the stairs.  The trip down went by very quickly and once at the bottom the group agreed to join me on one last stop before heading back to our cars.  We continued back to the old access road where we had began our journey earlier in the day and followed a faint trail down to a stream where there was a very pretty little waterfall with a small swimming hole to wash off in and play at for a little while.  We all stayed for probably a half hour or so and had a great time before retracing our steps and walking back to our cars.

This was one of my favorite hikes up the stairs yet due to the great company and crew that we had with us on this day.  For a very long time now, I have been saying that I will not be coming back to the stairs every time that I finish a hike there.  I will make this statement again.  If anyone is to see me on the stairs you can bet I will be coming down from the moanalua saddle or tripler ridge or that I will be making my way to the Moanalua middle ridge.  Once these three hikes are completed during the day, I will not be setting foot on the stairs for a very long time.  Of course, I've made these statements before only to be caught on the stairs the next week so we shall see if I hold true to my word.  In the meantime, it's back to doing what I love most, which is, any trail but the stairway to heaven.

Directions: Okay, so I have seen a lot of other posts on the Haiku Stairs facebook page and a few other facebook hiking pages and people give all sorts of different times and information.  At the risk of making some people mad, lets just settle this once and for all.  The guards get there at 4am so arrive at the bottom of the stairs way before this if you wanna hike.  The guards leave at noon on the weekdays and at 4pm on the weekends.  If you get there after 4am in the morning and the guards are there, they will politely tell you to leave.  Promptly do so and be respectful.  Come back another day.  Don't be stupid and attempt to sneak by them.  This would be the dumbest thing you could do.  As for getting to the trailhead (From Waikiki) take H1 West to Likelike Highway towards Kaneohe. Once on the Windward side, take Kahekili Highway towards North Shore. At the third trafic light, take a left on to Kahuhipa St. and follow it to Kuneki street where you will take a slight left (if you go straight the road will dead end).  When Kuneki street ends there will be a gate on the left side which is the access road you need to walk down to start the hike.  Park anywhere in this area or before, making sure you don't park illegally or park in a manner that will irritate the residents.  Be quiet and respectful as walking down the street and towards the trailhead.


  1. how does one get to haiku falls?

  2. I'll try to go back into this write-up soon and put the directions soon. It's pretty simple though . Once you pass the main gate in the neighborhood with the no trespassing sign on it and are on the access road look for a water tank on your right and there should be a obvious trail just to the side of it where the fence line is, and the trail will follow the fence line for about two minutes downhill and ends at the stream and the tiny falls. I think there are two water tanks and i'm not sure which one the trail is at, but it should be pretty obvious. The water tank is just before the left that everyone takes to go into the bamboo forest to head to the stairs. I wish I could be more detailed and informative, but this is the best I can do.

  3. I'm headed there in January. I'm thinking im going to try to get on the trail around 1 am to be safe there's no guard

  4. With the prevalence of blog posts like this and social media it should come as no surprise that this hike is getting more and more popular EVERYDAY. I’m a parent at the nearby charter school and a hiker so I understand both the desire to do the Stairs and I also understand the irritation literally hundreds of trespassers (sometimes on our school campus) causes the neighborhood. I’m posting here to encourage everyone to at least please use the Bamboo Trail mentioned in this post vs. going further up the PRIVATE road, getting lost, and/or accessing the Stairs by way of the trail near the school or that runs over a heiau. Better yet if we could all put pressure on the State/City to create an access point at Windward Community College that uses the access road behind the houses and open up this hike officially.
    When you at least use the Bamboo Trail, now clearly marked by a red KAPU sign on the left side of the PRIVATE road not far up from the gate, you lessen your presence and it increases your safety. I drive that road twice a day 5 days a week and I’ve seen several near misses as people run off the trail and into on coming traffic, when they trip and fall in front of cars, or when drivers are distracted. Also the sheer numbers of hikers have meant that the irritation factor is WAY up and it is becoming more and more common to see HPD get called to issue citations. It’s a great hike but not worth a $90.00 citation.