Stairway to Heaven | (Dangerous illegal hike)
Stairway to heaven is a sought after bucket list hike that people attempt from all over the world. The hike itself is on the island of Oahu and is the remnants of a decommissioned military lookout that oversees all sides of the island. The hike is notorious for being both dangerous and illegal. The hike is dangerous due to several different variables that will be discussed below which also makes the hike illegal. Every year people die on this hike so the state of Hawaii will fine you $1,000 if caught and you must appear in court.
Since the trail is made up of a solid steel staircase that consists of 3,992 steps. The staircase has sections that are washed out, rusted, and broken. This makes the trail difficult to climb and not ideal for hiking. Along with the staircase not being maintained. Weather conditions like rain, fog, sleet, and other weather conditions make the trail extra difficult.
Because the trail is not maintained and is very dangerous to climb the state of Hawaii made the hike illegal. It has been said that the cost of removal would be an estimated $5 million dollars. So instead of removing the staircase the state pays a security to guard the trailhead which also adds to the experience of the hike. Along with the guard being posted at the trailhead, police and security patrol the neighborhood that is just below the trailhead.
When we made the decision to hike Stairway to Heaven we decided that we would leave our house on the North Shore at 4am to make it for sunrise. Upon leaving we loaded into the van with waters, backpacks, camera equipment, extra snacks, and sweaters. Once we arrived at Haiku Village we drove up the hill toward a fork in the road where a police officer was posted up waiting. When we drove past him he quickly started to trail us up to the cul-de-sacs at the top of the neighborhood. We realized that we could not park or hop out of the van so we decided to drive back out and reevaluate our situation. As we left the neighborhood the cop looped back to his original position waiting for other cars to enter.
As we looked at the map we saw a community college that would make the hike a little longer but would get us to the trailhead. As we entered the community college campus we passed a parking guard and drove around the campus. When we looped around the campus looking for a good spot to park and begin our hike we passed a group being escorted out of the trees. A group of four girls dressed in all black with headlamps was being walked out by a security guard. This made the situation all to real. We quickly realized this wouldn’t be an ideal position to enter the trail. So once again we looped around to reevaluate an entrance point.
As we sat at the bottom we figured a great way to get past the police and the guard would be to go in through the neighborhood the cop was watching. However, instead of driving up the road we would park on a road about a quarter mile away from the fork where the police officer had a vantage point of. We began to make the journey on foot and started to run down a blocked road next to a preschool. The road ended up being a dirt road that outlined the neighborhood and ended at the entrance to the closed off government road entrance of the trailhead. This is one way many thrill seekers choose to start the hike. We wanted to start the hike by going down a drainage ditch instead though.
So we looped around the neighborhood on foot about 300 yards away from the other entrance. We ran up the drainage ditch and quickly approached a forest. Once inside the forest we put the headlamps on low light in the darkness and found a dirt trail. The trail was muddy and hard to follow because of all the vegetation but we made it up the hill. At the end of the trail we arrived at a barbed wire fence with a whole in the base just big enough for us to squeeze through. We got through and found ourselves on the maintained government road that takes you to the security guard at the base of the trailhead.
At this point we had two choices. Either go right past the guard and see what happened or go through the bamboo forest and avoid the guard all together. We decided to just go right to the guard in hopes that he would be asleep or going to the bathroom. The other thing we knew is that the guard cannot fine you or do anything. The guard is there to give you warning and tip the police of hikers direction upon leaving the trail.
When we arrived at the guard outpost we discovered that we were faced with no guard at all. It was lucky and so we began our journey which can be seen in the video above. The conditions weren’t ideal but I would definitely do the hike again.
The last part that isn’t pictured is our experience with the guard upon completion of the hike. When we were leaving we could see the guard was posted up in his car looking up the trail. Thinking we were screwed leaving the hike we decided to face the guard head on. Especially because the hike is a staircase there is only one way up and one way down so it wasn’t like we were going anywhere. Luckily, when we got to the base the guard happened to be sleeping in his car which made it an easy exit.
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