Koko Crater Trail – Honolulu, Hawaii - Atlas Obscura

Honolulu, Hawaii

Koko Crater Trail

Climbing this abandoned railway leads to breathtaking vistas of O‘ahu. 

Hawaiʻi isn’t short on spectacular views. But for a prime perspective of this patch of paradise, you’ll have to put in a bit of effort.

This trail—dubbed “Nature’s StairMaster” and the “Stairs of Doom”—is actually an old railroad. During World War II, the United States military built lookout pillbox bunkers on Koko Crater. They constructed a railway tram to shuttle supplies and people up and down the steep terrain. After the war, the site was converted into an Air Force station, which was deactivated in 1966.

The abandoned railroad was later converted into a walking trail. But this is no place for a leisurely stroll. The rickety 1,048 stairs gain a walloping 1,100 feet in elevation in under a mile. The stairs start out at a moderately steep slope, though the incline increases the farther you hike, eventually soaring upward, the way a roller coaster track rolls toward the sky. Locals and tourists alike huff and puff their way to the top, where they’re rewarded with breathtaking (literally) vistas of Hanauma Bay. From the summit, you’ll have unparalleled views of the verdant land fringed by frothy waves and azure water.

Time hasn’t been particularly kind to the trail. Natural decay, coupled with decades worth of tramping trail-goers, has left parts of the track in rough shape. A group called the Kokonut Koalition formed to both preserve and advocate for the steps.

Know Before You Go

Access to the trail is free and there are no legal restrictions to hiking it. You can go any time—be sure to bring a flashlight or headlamp if you're planning a sunrise or sunset hike. Parts of the trail are in states of disrepair, so take caution while walking. 

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