Hawaii September 07, 2016
You’ve Never Experienced Anything Like This Epic Abandoned Railroad Hike In Hawaii
Perhaps one of the most famous hikes on Oahu – behind Diamond Head and Manoa Falls, of course – is Koko Head, a monolith rising out of Hawaii Kai more than 1,200 feet towards the sky. What most people don’t associate with this iconic Hawaiian hike is that the famous stairs are all that remains from a railway that was installed more than 70 years ago – and has since been left abandoned.
More affectionately known as the Koko Head Stairs, do not be fooled by the relatively short 2-mile round trip tag attached to the hike. The trail is essentially nature’s stairmaster, as it includes more than 1,000 steps to the top. And these are not simple steps, either. They are old railway ties - steep and far apart.
During WWII, a railway was built into the mountain face in order to transport military personnel and their supplies up the mountain to the lookout points, a bunker, and radio installation at the summit. But today, all that remains are remnants of the old lookouts, and railway ties lining the mountain.
The first 500 railway ties are set at a moderate incline, and many people make the mistake of taking the stairs too quickly at first, and burning themselves out before the get to the steeper climb that sets in at the halfway point, just after a pretty daunting bridge over a canyon below.
Once you make it to the summit, you will be surrounded by stunning panoramic views of southeast Oahu in all directions - as well as an overwhelming sense of accomplishment.
The stairs attract everyone from island tourists who have to stop every 20 or 30 steps to catch their breath and take a few photographs, to ultra-athletic trail runners who complete the trek several times a week, and can make it up the stairs in less than 20 minutes.
The hike isn’t shaded, and can get quite hot once the afternoon sun hits. We advise you talk on the stairs as early as possible in order to enjoy cooler temperatures, as well as fewer crowds; the sunrise from the summit of Koko Head is said to be absolutely surreal, if you can make it to the summit before 6 a.m.
To get to the trailhead, head to Koko Head District Park, and park in the last lot. Follow your fellow adventurers and be on your way to the top of this incredible slice of WWII history, and more natural beauty than you know what to do with.
If your knees aren’t built for stair climbing, you can’t make it out to climb Koko Head, or you are still working on building up your endurance, check out this awesome drone footage of the stairs instead of hiking for yourself.
Have you hiked Koko Head yet? If you’re not quite ready to tackle 1,000+ stairs, consider checking out some of these other Hawaii hikes under 5 miles first.