Hiking Moanalua Middle Ridge to Haiku Stairs (Stairway to Heaven)

Trekking Thursday

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This is, by far, one of the most epic hikes I've done!

It's taken me a while to be ready to sit down and blog about it because there was just so much to see and honestly, I don't even know where to begin!

Here is my attempt at putting this mightyhike into words!

Moanalua Middle Ridge to Haiku Stairs

Distance: 10.5 miles round trip

Elevation: 2585 ft

Time: 8 hours (typically 5-6 hours-we were slow)

If you have spent any time on the island of Oahu, you have probably heard of the incredible Haiku Stairs or as most people call them, the "Stairway to Heaven." It doesn't take long to actively start looking for them along every mountain you see and then practically drive off the road from staring once you find this stairway that literally climbs up the side of a mountain up into the clouds!

The military built these 4,000 stairs up along the ridge of the mountain range to reach a communications tower used in World War II. I speak about them in my post about another fun journey: Our Adventure to Hawaii’s Abandoned Omega Station and also in this post: Pearl Harbor: The Attack Still Impacting Hawaii.

After the military was no longer using the stairs, it became a very popular hiking spot. In spite of it being a dangerous, illegal hike, it is still done by many adventures each day. It has become a very highly debatable hike here. Some people feel the stairs should be removed because so many people ignore the "no trespassing" signs and $1,000 fine. However, many hikers are trying to work with the Board of Water Supply (current land owners of the stairs) to repair damaged portions of the stairs and open it up to the public for a fee and/or by permit.

At the time, I have decided to not risk going on that part of the hike. 


I took an 8 hour hike up the back of the mountain range called "Moanalua Middle Ridge" to meet up with the old communications tower and see the stairs. This venture takes much longer but it is LEGAL so I chose that adventure.

I joined a local hiking group called Explore Hawaii. The leader, Matt was gracious enough to lead this big group up to the summit:


With a group this size, we ended up splitting up into smaller groups so we could pace easier and hike a bit safer.

We met up at 9am and began our trek through the valley.


You will cross 17 river crossings within the valley until you meet up with the trailhead for Middle Ridge.

From here on, you will experience a variety of challenges:

Drop offs:

(there are several drop offs throughout this journey. One section in particular can be really nerve-wracking on a winding/muddy day.)

17017144_10100132699013778_8433604412242909620_o 16999227_10100132700226348_2296041871293841436_n middle ridge 3

Rope climbing:

(about 7 or 8 rope sections)

middle ridge 4 middle ridge 10 middle ridge 14


middle ridge 11

There were so many times we would be climbing up a ridge thinking, "this has to be about the last one!" Nope! We were fooled so many times. We trekked up and down more times than I could count! Each one looked like it was the last…only to find another climb hiding behind it! ha

We started there:

middle ridge 16

Eventually we saw the communications tower and, once again, thought we were at the end. Nope. It was another 20-30 minutes past that spot which posed plenty of challenges even in that short distance.

Once we finally made it to the top, we quickly saw for ourselves why it was called "heaven."

The view was beautiful!

middle ridge 18

middle ridge 15

We were pushing our luck with weather and daylight.

We didn't get to spend nearly as much time on top as I would have liked. The group was long finished by now and we were just beginning our trek back! Luckily we came prepared with plenty of food and water. I would also suggest shoe spikes, gloves, a jacket and hand wipes/towel.

We did that last section of the ridge while watching the sun set. It was beautiful but very dangerous and I would NEVER recommend it!




We made it to the trail head which connects to the valley in the pitch dark.

middle ridge 9



Luckily, I had packed my headlamp! My friends didn't and just had their cell-phone light to guide them. I'm so glad we were able to keep in contact with Matt (the group leader) and he waited several hours for us to finish up and met us at the parking lot.

It was by far the scariest 3 miles I have ever hiked. 

I had done a few hikes through the valley before so I was familiar with the 17 stream crossings. Unfortunately, it looks much different in the dark!

We also heard some creepy animals sounds and at one point we were all running for our lives carrying huge bamboo sticks ready to attack whatever it was that was following us in the dark!

It never felt so good to see Matt and our vehicle waiting for us…

This is one of those hikes, I assumed would be a "one and done" experience."

But, I'd be lieing if I didn't say, I've been itching to go back and see how much faster we can go! If any of my local friends want to go, I'd love to lead you!

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With Aloha,


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19 thoughts on “Hiking Moanalua Middle Ridge to Haiku Stairs (Stairway to Heaven)

  1. This was fantastic Lacy. Yes, a bit sketchy at the end, but wow, the photos, the experience, the way you wrote about it. I wish I was with you for this one, but my butt would have flown to the bottom to prevent hiking in the dark. You get the bravery award today. Absolutely beautiful though. That will be on our list if we come back to Hawaii. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! It was truly an adventure way til the end! We joked that we must’ve looked like Scooby Doo and his crew when they thought they saw a monster. We were literally huddled together carrying bamboo sticks taller than us! To this day…we still don’t know what was in those woods but it was sure creepy!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Yet another great adventure! Glad I got to experience this hike with you, we kept pushing even tho there were countless times that we wanted to turn away even at the top debating ourselves if we should go down the stairs itself or not… we sure preserved that day/night! Thanks for sharing your boiled egg with me to help me get thru the last 2 hours to the top! =) The last couple miles tho, that was freaky!! I had a stick in one hand phone & mustard packet in the other hand.. we were hauling our ass out of there quickly!

    I too am itching to go back here again, hoping for clearer weather next time around. For our first time, this day was perfect, not too hot for and not too windy. πŸ˜‰

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Lucy,

    I would like to do some hiking of moderate to advanced skill level within the next 2 weeks and would prefer to have some company if possible. Would you/anyone else you know be interested to introduce some hikes?..:)


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Unfortunately, I won’t be around. But, there are several great hiking groups on Facebook. I have been part of a few hikes that way. It’s a great place to ask for hiking tips as well! My friend runs the group Explore Hawaii.


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