The Koko Crater Trail, also known as the Koko Head Stairs, is a very popular trail hike in Oahu, Hawaii, and the completion time will depend on your overall fitness level. If you struggle with climbing stairs, you could find it hard going up the Koko Crater Tail stairs. Your time will depend on how fast you can climb the 1000+ stairs!
The hike up to Koko Crater can be summed up as a 100-yard gravel pathway, followed by a hike up an old railway system that consists of over 1,000 railway ties (steps). If you don’t take regular and long breaks, you can reach the top of the crater in 30 minutes to an hour.
If you have an old Stairmaster at home, dust it off and time yourself doing 1,000 mid-level intensity steps. Add a few minutes to your total, and you will get an idea of what lies ahead for you. The hike to Koko Crater Trail thankfully includes a lot of beautiful scenery that takes your mind off the steps’ continuous nature.
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How Long Will It To Hike Up To Koko Crater Trail?
Depending on the foot traffic on the day of the hike, the weather, and your general fitness level, the hike to the top of Koko Crater Trail should not take you longer than an hour. Strong hikers can complete the hike in half an hour.
Then there is the trail runner who ran it in a very impressive 11 min 51 seconds.
Why Are There So Many Stairs Up To Koko Crater Trail?
During World War II, the US Military deemed it necessary to build pillbox lookout bunkers on the inactive Koko Crater. A railway was constructed to help haul supplies and cargo to the top of the crater, dubbed the Koko Crater Tramway.
After the war ended, the lookout boxes became redundant, and the site was converted into an Air Force station. When the Air Force station was closed in 1966, it was only a matter of time before the infrastructure left behind became the popular “Koko Head Stairs.”
Is The Hike Up Koko Head Stairs A Difficult Hike?
Let me be honest with you and inform you that some people (everyone) refer to the hike as the “Stairs of Doom.” The phrase should paint a picture of how taxing this hike is to most who undertake it. The railroad stairs are beaten up through countless trail-hiking boots and natural decay.
If you are looking for a fairly-easy leisurely hike, this is not the one. The hike starts with a moderate slope for the first 100 steps. Up to here, you should still feel fairly confident in your step climbing ability.
That confidence will soon be eroded by the massive 1,100 feet elevation gain in under a mile. Imagine a rollercoaster making its way to the tipping point, and you have a mental picture to work with. This hike will test you mentally and physically, but it will all be worth it when you reach the top.
What Can You See From Koko Crater Trail?
Pushing through the pain and fatigue that the 1000+ steps will create in you, there is a prize at the end of the stairs, on top of the Koko Crater Trail. The stunning panoramic view that you deserve to see.
When you eventually make it to the top, you will see the beautiful Hanauma Bay and Port Lock Peninsula as you catch your breath. To the southeast, you will have a distant view of the Island of Lana’i. Take your time to relax, take in all the beauty, watch the ocean waves break on the shore, and be at peace. You have conquered “Nature’s Stairmaster.”
Now for the downward journey of stairs, which I find is more difficult than climbing, as it forced me to use muscles that I have never felt before. Muscles that are going to re-introduce themselves in the morning when the ache truly sets in.
Tips When Hiking Up Koko Crater Stairs
The following hiking tips may come in handy when you decide to take on the “Stairs of Doom,” and remember, if you are struggling to the extent where you feel dizzy, there’s no shame in turning around.
Your life is way more important than a hike that you can leave for another time.
- Kit yourself in comfortable hiking attire
- Do some stretching exercises – get your body loose
- Bring lots of water
- Don’t forget your camera
- Remember to put on sunscreen and a protective hat
- Bring a walking stick if you feel that it would help you
- Pack in a couple of goo sachets
- Listen to your body – if it screams “stop,” take a break for as long as you need
- Don’t force yourself to continue if you can’t physically continue; people pass out often on this hike – some even need to be airlifted when disaster strikes.
Parking Your Car Before Hiking Up To Koko Crater Trail
The Koko Head District Park parking lot is where you park your car. You will quickly spot the trail that leads up to the start of the hike.
Best Hiking Trails In Oahu, Hawaii
If you are looking for some more challenging hiking options in the Oahu area, then take a look at the following options:
- Length: 2.5 miles
- Difficulty: Easy
- Elevation Gain: 502 feet
- Scenery: Oahu’s southeastern coastline, Koko Head and Koko Crater; on clear days, you can see Molokai and Lanai
- Birdlife: Iwa, Tropicbird, and Frigate Birds
- Trail Type: Paved
- Landmark: Makapu’u Lighthouse
- Best Time To Hike: November – May as this is when the migrating humpback whales can be seen
- Length: 2.9 miles
- Difficulty: Hard
- Elevation Gain: 810 feet
- Average Time: The average time needed to complete the hike is 1 hour and 47 minutes
- Trail Type: Regular Trail
- Landmark: Waterfalls
- Length: 1.6 miles
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Elevation Gain: 560 feet
- Scenery: Shoreline of southeastern Oahu from Koko Head to Waianae
- Average Time: The average time to complete the hike 1 hour
- Trail Type: Dry slopes with a paved walkway (0.2 miles)
- Landmark: Hiking through a lighted tunnel
Click here for more hiking options in the Oahu area.
The hike up to Koko Crater Trail is tough but worth it. Some hikers view it as a bucket-list hike, and rightfully so. Make sure to prepare for the hike as best possible by following the hints listed in the article.
There are many other incredible hiking options in the Ohau area. Make sure to hike as many of them as possible when in the area.