The old saying is that “The Bowman Trail doesn’t build character, Bowman reveals it.” And that was just the 1st HALF of the hike that we did last Saturday (8/6/2011). From the Bowman summit we then we did the Bowman Terminus Trail – basically RIDGE hiking and climbing on a semi-unmarked trail to the top of Haiku stairs. It was insane, dangerous, scary and extremely stupid. After that, trekking down the near vertical Stairway to Heaven was a peace of joyous cake. NOTE: Only a handful of people have completed and documented this hike. So as Marvin likes to say, we earned some bragging rights by completing the Bowman to Bowman Terminus to Haiku Stairs Trail.
The day started pretty early and was very eventful from the get-go. Since this hike is about 10 miles long, it is useful to use two cars (one to be left at the end of the trail in Haiku Village and one to be used to drive to the start of the trail in Kalihi). With this in mind, the Oahu Adventure Dudes (group name pending, hah!) met up at Yogurtland in Manoa at 7am sharp. On the way to Yogurtland, one of the cars ran over a screw which resulted in a flat tire. Luckily, one of the explorers sprung right into action and changed the tire – thanks Jeremy!
With the tire fixed, we made our way to Haiku Village in Kaneohe. This would be the end point of the trail and so we decided to leave one of the cars here. If you do decide to do this, please be mindful of the community. There have been a lot of complaints about Stairway to Heaven hikers in the Haiku Village area. The residents have been known to call the Honolulu Police Department and even smear animal poop on fences and even cars. Yikes! Tip: Park far from the trail and be quite!
We then drove off to the start of the trail, which is located at Kalihi Elementary. After you park on Na’ai Street, walk toward the back of the basketball courts. There you will find the trailhead. Look for a ribbon – the day we were there, a pink ribbon was present and marked the start of the trail. The initial ascent is tough and quite vertical – no ropes here. Once to the top of the initial accent you will reach Radar Hill Road – follow this road until you reach an old concrete building – the official start of the Bowman trail begins to the left of this old concrete building.
The trail is pretty straightforward from here. Keep on following in the ribbon markers until you reach the Bowman Summit. Before you reach the Bowman summit, you will be greeted with two tricky rope climbing sections of the trail. This is were gloves come in mighty handy. You’ll also encounter a ton of Ohia trees after you ascent the second tricky rope climb section. It took us approximately 5 hours to reach the summit of the Bowman Trail. At this point, you will get a lovely view of Kaneohe Bay. It really does feel like you’re on top of the world. This is a great place to relax and enjoy your lunch – which for us was cliff bars!
At this point, we’ve completed just a third of the hike. The next portion involved getting to the top of Haiku Stairs, better known as Stairway to Heaven. This third of the hike is known as the Bowman Terminus Trail and will lead you straight to Stairway To Heaven (the last third of the hike). I was led to believe this part of the hike would be a piece of cake. However, for me at least, this was the scariest part of the entire hike! I’m not kidding when I say that there are portions of the ridge that are just a foots width. Add in ferocious winds and you’ve got yourself an adventure.
There are four main landmarks that yo will reach when doing the Terminus hike – two powerlines and two radar dishes. A large chunk of the Terminus Trail I spend on my hands and knees and wondering what the heck I was doing at 2000+ feet elevation. It was thrilling to say the least. Once you reach the last radar dish you’ve reached the top of Haiku Stairs. You are officially in Heaven. At this point, me and the rest of the Oahu Adventure Dudes took time to enjoy the view and snap a ton of photos. Take everything in as you walk from Heaven back to Earth – it is all amazing. In total, it took about 11.5 hours to reach the end (or trailhead) of Stairway To Heaven. Having completed this hike was an amazing accomplishment.
For some other encounters, please check out the 808 Goonies and the Not So Great Hiking Blog’s explorations of the Bowman to Haiku Stairs Trail. Also below, you’ll find DGCPinoy’s Go Pro perspective of the Bowman to Haiku Trail.