Hike the Moanalua Middle Ridge Trail to the Haiku Stairs Peak

Moanalua Middle Ridge Trailhead

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

Pack List

  • Hiking Boots
  • Water (at least 32 oz)
  • Rain Jacket (conditions can change quickly on the hike)
  • Snacks
  • Towel (you'll be amazed how muddy you get even on dry days)
Show More
RT Distance 10.4 Miles
Elevation Gain 2585 Feet
Activities Photography, Hiking
Skill Level Expert
Season Spring, Summer
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Features
Scenic

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

Question about hike

I was wondering 10.4 miles is it a round trip? What can be earliest time to start this hike?

A Favorite And Great Alternative

Love this hike! If you don't want to do the illegal way, this way is worth it. We did run into a few people who had gotten lost at the start though. It's not easy to find. Make sure you have done your research (YouTube) and you should be ready to are some awesome views. Also, it's a ridge..which could mean wind. Be prepared.

Awesome hike, but can be crowded

I did this hike solo about a month ago. I was extremely surprised at the amount of people who I crossed when I hiked it. (10-15) When I got to the top there was probably 10 or so people hanging out which is cool and all, but took away from the experience for me. I'd recommend doing this hike early as possible to avoid the potential crowds.


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