The Stairway To Heaven hike or also known as the Haiku Stairs is a pain in the ass, literally.
There are 3,922 magical steps to the top of the mountain with 4 landings on the way up. It takes on average about 3.15 hrs round trip which includes some resting and traffic (hike is very popular and sometimes can get jammed up with foot traffic). It was originally was built for the US Coast Guard to access radio towers, it was first made in wood and then replaced and repaired in 2003. On a side note this hike has been illegal since 1987 and the rumor is that it’s illegal due to some sort of political limbo, this fact alone does not stop hundreds of hikers each day to enjoy the stunning views.
The Stairway is one of the more ‘safe’ hikes in my opinion- not to take away from the steep edges, the challenge of the exercise nor the test of your comfort with hikes. I define safe in terms of it being easily identified (once you arrive at the start of the staircase), has railings to make you feel a bit safer, has steps to assist you in the climb and has some stellar views that you would not normally get on a more natural hike. That is more than I can say for most hikes that are poorly marked & maintained in Hawaii.
There is a guard that watches the entrance during the week and weekends and if was particularly nice or off the clock, he would let you pass without any issues but recently in August 2014 the neighborhood asked authorities to crack down on the haiku hikers making the hike nearly impossible to get to without getting a citation and denied access and even fined.
I’ve done the hike 3 times; at 3 am, 6am and at 3pm. Watching the sunrise over the mountains is a really indescribable experience. You get so high into the mountains that you are surrounded by clouds, silence, cool fresh air and stand above the rainbows. Can’t beat it.
It doesn’t help that I forgot a flashlight and ended up walking alone in the dark for about an hour in the rain, but when that sun came up….it was like being born again!
The views are completely worth it.
As someone who has had a fear of heights in varying degrees my whole life, I wouldn’t really consider this hike to be very SUPER scary (at least we can hang on) but you’ll have to breath through some parts to get down. The first landing is about 45 min up (at a slow/moderate pace) and that to me was the hardest part.
Some parts are so steep that you have to walk backwards on your way down, or dance 🙂