Mauna Kea Summit Trail

Hilo, Hawaii 96720

Mauna Kea Summit Trail

Mauna Kea Summit Trail Professional Guide

Detailed Trail Description from our Guidebook

"There are fine views of Mauna Loa and of the saddle area from the first part of this hike. Weather permitting, you’ll see colorful cinder cones on Mauna Kea’s upper slopes. You’ll also enjoy the science-fiction setting of the telescopes near the summit. Views of Mauna Loa from the summit are outstanding. On your way down the foot trail, you have a chance to visit one of the rarest features in all of Hawaii: a natural, year-round lake, Lake Waiau—tiny but, at 13,020 feet, one of the nation’s highest! Farther down the path, you pass an ancient quarry whose hard, dense, blue-black rock was prized for adzes (tools for shaping wood).

If the weather deteriorates or if you are running late and will be hiking in the dark, I suggest you return on the road, as the foot trail may be impossible to follow in the rain or the fog or the dark. Remember to be wary of vehicular traffic when you are hiking on a road. Support personnel commute up to the observatories in the morning, astronomers in the evening. The observatories don’t want drop-in visitors. This means you will not find food, water, restrooms, or shelter around the summit in spite of the many buildings there. See below for other ways to visit the summit and the observatories."

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Trail Information

Nearby City
4,616 feet
Elevation Gain
Trail Type
Skill Level
8-10 hours
Mauna Kea State Park
Local Contacts
USGS Mauna Kea
Local Maps

Trail Log