Top Tips To Mauna Kea Summit

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What You Need To Know For Your Mauna Kea Ascent

Most Mauna Kea visitors make their way up this dormant volcano on a 4×4 vehicle, which is bumpy but a relatively easy drive. But, if you have the time, the energy and the equipment, you may want to attempt this by foot because the views are amazing and very few people go by foot (you just might be the only one around)- a perfect way to experience Hawaii without the crowd!


This is an all day summit hike so you need to bring everything you can think of when doing this hike: light, good hiking shoes, long pants, long shirt, jacket, hat, sunscreen, sunglasses and extra water (1 – 2 gallons).

Optional: Rain gear, hiking poles, compass, etc. are all good items to bring just in case.

Extra Tip: I’d highly recommend bringing enough gear to keep you alive overnight just in case.

The Hike

If you’re experienced, the full hike will take you about 8 hours – expect to be out there longer. You’ll begin the hike on a roadway that will soon head to the left. Although trail signs are visible only in the beginning, the trail will be obvious until about a mile before the summit. For the last mile, walk along the roadway to reach the top.

Extra Tip: Begin and end your hike by signing in and out at the Visitor Information Station.


Be aware of AMS, HACE, HAPE symptoms that could be serious and even fatal. If you’ve been diving within the past 24 hours, don’t go up Mauna Kea to avoid the “bends”. Children under 16, pregnant women, severely overweight and those with extreme health problems should not be doing this hike.

Breaking The Law

Don’t remove, take, damage, disturb or alter the natural landscape in anyway. Making rock piles are especially frowned upon culturally.

Extra Tip: If you find some litter, pick it up. Mahalo!

A Bunch Of Exta Tips

  • Keep a lookout for the Mauna Kea Ice Age Natural Area Reserve’s archeological sites.
  • Keep Aspirin on you in case of a mild headache.
  • Do not disturb any religious offerings around Lake Waiau as this place is culturally significant to Hawaiians.
  • Avoid shortcuts off the trail or you’ll cause rock slides and erosion.
  • Cell phone reception is spotty.
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