Hike the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail to the Haiku Stairs Peak
Hawaii › Moanalua Middle Ridge Trailhead
Added by Michael Gabbert
Monalua Ridge offers legal access to the top of the Haiku Stairs (note: they are illegal to go down). You'll enjoy sweeping views of southern Oah’u on this 10.4-mile roundtrip hike.
The ‘back way’ to the ever popular and still somewhat illegal Haiku Stairs, the Moanalua Middle Ridge hike brings plenty of beauty and even more challenges than the path down the Haiku Stairs. To get to the trailhead, park outside the Moanalua Valley Park and the trail begins just after the green gate. The first 2.9 miles are fairly straightforward with only 100ft of elevation each mile. The path is quite wide and at many points there are forks in the road which come back to the same point after about 20 yards. The key in the first part of the hike is to be cognizant of the distance you are covering as the ridge trail is somewhat hidden and can be easily missed. A helpful tool I used was to count the 4 wheel drive road crossings (ie concrete slabs) over the river bed. They are fairly obvious when you cross over them and from the time you start there will be 17 crossings prior to the Middle Ridge Trailhead.
Shortly after the 17th crossing, you should see a sign for the Kulana'ahane trail (note: Do NOT take this). Instead walk another 15 feet further and you’ll see a small, unsigned trail on your left hand side. Although small and unmarked it’s an obvious trail. You’ll cross the streambed immediately and then begin to climb quickly. The first mile on this trail climbs 900 feet in elevation and is primarily through trees. Watch out for roots as this is the largest risk as you climb. The 2nd mile of this trail brings 1100 ft of elevation, is far more exposed and the trail teeters in the middle of sharp angled drop offs on either side. I was lucky enough to have climbed on a windless morning, but any wind will add to the complexity and risk to the hike. Plan accordingly. Additionally, along the trail there are several ropes which people have tied tied to help with the hike. These are extremely helpful and if the trail is the least bit muddy they are a full-fledged necessity.
Once finally at the peak you’ll see the Haiku Stairs Radio Tower comes into view. This is the end of the Middle Ridge Trail. In total the hike is 5.2 miles with 2585 ft in elevation gain (basically all of this is condensed into the final 2 miles). From a timing perspective it took me 3hrs and 5 minutes but that was solo. I’d allow a good 4hrs to hike if with a group and more time if the conditions are windy or muddy.
At the peak of the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail, the view of the abandoned Radio Tower comes into view. While holding back any visions of being on the verge of setting foot on an old Dharma station (LOST fans, you'll understand once you're there), the 20-30 minute hike to the radio tower is full of its own challenges. The seemingly level elevation from point A to point B can be misleading and the giddy nature of being so close can come with a lack of focus. Be careful. Also, more so than the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail, the peak to the radio station is far muddier and much more slippery. Significantly more roots are exposed as well. Additionally, there are several inclines and declines with poor footing. You’ll encounter a couple more ropes (as you did during the Moanalua hike) which will be instrumental in getting down some of the slopes. Hold tight and watch your footing.
About 200 yards from the radio tower, the trail eases up and you begin to see the sweeping panoramic views over Honolulu and southern Oahu. The view from the tower is the most spectacular although there will be lookouts before which are gorgeous as well. Relish in the moment and enjoy the views. Although extremely tempting, the hike down the Haiku Stairs is highly illegal and subject to fine, etc. Do NOT take this route. Instead, retrace the Moanalua Ridge route to get back to your original destination.
Trailhead Coordinates - Latitude: 21.37409 | Longitude: -157.880509
- Hiking Boots
- Water (at least 32 oz)
- Rain Jacket (conditions can change quickly on the hike)
- Towel (you'll be amazed how muddy you get even on dry days)
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Up the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail Down the Haiku Stairs
We took the trail up the backside of the mountain and then the stairs back down. The first couple of miles of the trail were easy. Except make sure you are prepared to get your feet wet. Not all of the rivers you cross have a dry bridge to cross. But that will be nothing compared the copious amounts of mud you will have to endure toward the top of the mountain. Well if you go during the rainy season like we did. They are also widening the road the trail starts on so there is a lot of cut down trees on the second and third mile. We had to actually wave down a tree cutter so we wouldn't get chopped up. DONT FORGET TO WALK THAT EXTRA 15 FT TO THE UNMARKED TRAIL. We almost went down the first trail head we saw till I read on. The trail was more and more thrilling the closer to the top you get. Especially when there are less and less trees to cover you from the wind. It was particularly windy the day we hiked, so I was hugging the ground a lot when I went over some of the more sketchy ridges. At the top next to the radio tower we didn't get the best view due to the lingering clouds. You know, because we were that high. When we started to descend down the stairs my boyfriend looked down the first set of stairs and immediately told me to go ahead and turn around and just look straight town at the stairs as I climbed down, because the stairs were at a 90 degree angle, at the top of the mountain, with nothing on either side, except the steepest cliff I have ever seen. So I had a slight panic attack. It didn't help that the stairs have not been maintained since like the 70's and it is illegal to be on them. We made it down them though. There are some flat areas on your way down the stairs that have the most incredible view of the mountain range and of Honolulu. As we approach the bottom there was a section of the stairs that had been mangled by a landslide. And after we went through the gate at the bottom we couldn't figure out how to get off the maintenance road so we had to cut through someones yard to find a road to be picked up on. It was an incredible hike but I would not recommend the Haiku stairs for the faint hearted.
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