After two nights of locally brewed beer in the happy little resort town of Kona, the temptation to drive to the top was hard to resist. I wanted to work for it – to feel that I had earned the summit, and I knew that if I drove to the top, I would have to return again some day to do it “right.” Voting against me were my own body, happily relaxed in the driver’s seat of the rented Jeep, and also my hiking partner, Kurt, who wanted to grab a quick picture and race back down for some more Lava Man Red (Kona Brewing Company) before our flight that evening. We settled on a compromise.
Instead of the 6-mile hike (4,600 feet gain) from the visitor’s center, we hiked from the parking area at Mile Marker 5.0 on the Summit Road, elevation 12,000 feet. This compromise option saved at least two hours, and still provided a 3-mile hike (1,976 feet gain) all at the higher elevations of Mauna Kea. We talked to a Park Ranger who agreed this was a good option, and showed us where to cut across from the Summit Road to the Mauna Kea trail. The hike was entirely uphill, and as happy sea-level dwellers, the thin air made this one of the most difficult hikes in recent memory. This is a deceptively miserable climb, especially when the azure waters of the coast are such a short drive away, mocking you for your exertion. “Why not take off the hiking shoes and put the sandals back on? The beer is pretty cold down here…”
Mauna Kea’s views and volcanic geology are intense – well worth the effort (even if you drive up). But don’t take this mountain lightly. If you can run to the top from the visitor’s center, you are one of an elite group of world-class athletes, and you should probably be professionally sponsored. If you hike to the top, you should be steely-eyed, have plenty of food and water with you, and you should be ready for a high-elevation stair-climb that sucks the wind out of you and dares you to earn the summit.
Hitched a ride down. A word of caution: don’t be so eager for a ride that you jump into the first rickety old SUV with squealing brakes that comes along. The drive down can be worse than the hike up if the kind people who pick you up have the Angel of Death in their car as an additional passenger. (Dodged another bullet in the name adventure!)
run from the visitor's center; hitched down. took a swim in the lake on the way. a cold summit.
after we got out of out tour van, we had to climb up 200 ft. MAN, 200 ft. is a long way when there is NO AIR up there... :)
my FIRST HP, #1 for me, # 10 for hubby
Nice drive! Fun to "summit" this mountain only a week after one of the Cali 14ner's. Low on fuel, and cap locked on tank caused a vacuum which turned on the low fuel indicator. A bit worried until back on the road to Waimea and gauge began to show fuel again!
and a bit of snow too. A grueling climb :) all fifteen minutes of it
Started shortly after the visitors center at parking lot #1. Wasn't too excited about the switchbacks, so I got off the road and went up the ridge. Bad idea. Was scolded by a ranger for endangering the waima bug habitat. Apparently you learn about those at the visitors center, which I bypassed. Oops. He gave me a map and showed me the ice age trail. Summitted. Some snow. Amazing views. Absolutely ecstatic. Got some great pics. Amazing trip.
Beautiful day for a drive and short hike.
Ran up the trail from the Visitors Center---great trail! Definitely taxing and the Altitude certainly gets to you on top. I always feel it a bit around 10,000, but up above 13,000 is a new level (experienced this a bit on Whitney as well). Took some awesome pics and really cruised the way down---fantastic experience.
The actual hiking trail is called "Humu'ula Trail" and starts a couple hundred yards up the street from the Eliison Onizuka Visitor's Center on the left side of the street. I am in decent condition (ran a marathon a couple month's before this hike) and have hiked Mt Whitney and Halfdome and this is not an easy day hike. I'd consider it moderately difficult. The hiking trail is 6 miles (while the road is 8 miles) to the top. The first 2.5 - 3 miles on the trail are the most difficult with several steep sections. The first half of the hike is also through soft sand which made it more difficult to get your footing on the steep sections. I started at 9:15 am and the temperature at the visitor center was 65 degrees. It took me just under 5 hours to reach the summit where the temperature was about 40 degrees (according to their website). According to my Garmin, there's about 4600 ft of elevation gain over 6 miles, with the steepest sections occuring in the first half of the hike. The best way to describe the terrain is a moonscape of lava rocks and sand. There are no trees, so you are exposed to the sun the entire hike. Bring sunscreen and lots of water. I had a 100 oz. camelback and used up all the water by the time I reached the summit. That's when I decided to catch a ride on the way back down to the visitor's center (rather than hike it). Why not? You're in Hawaii for rest and relaxation. Enjoy the ride down!
Drove to the Observatory area and walked to the summit...first time over 10,000 feet, so definitely felt it.
In 1986, I could not rent a car with fuel injection, so my Asian rental car gave out at 9,500'. I hitched a ride to the top and walked up the snow field. It was warm on top and I glissaded down (have to bring skis next time). HP #19. Got all 50 in 2002.
Drove all the way up, only intended to spend a couple hours but the staff was so informative and friendly we stayed until after sunset touring the telescopes, learning about the work there, and enjoying the views.
Had the 4WD but decided to hike the 4600'. Unbelievable views and weather. Plan was a twofer but I managed to make myself car sick driving the one lane road to the Mauna Loa trailhead. Next time.
First full day on Hawaii activity. Coming from Idaho it seemed appropriate to do the hike first thing before we fully acclimatized to sea level. Hiked from the visitor center. Just a very long hike. Only 1/2 of the nine that started out that day summitted. We started at 10:30 a.m., which is a lot later than we normally do. We adjusted our start time to come down later and closer to the program start for the star gazing at the visitor center. Unfortunately the gazing was a no go because the cloud bank didn't recede lower than the center, which apparently it usually does. Trail up and road down. What a treat to summit the tallest peak in the world, counting all the underwater size of course.
... took the tour bus to the top of the road. But I did have to climb the side hill to get to the actual USGS marker! (so... I'll have to go back some day to 'earn it')
with my mom... great place to view stars...
Drove up and the instant altitude still makes those last couple steps hard. Great views over the Big Island, Mauna Loa and over to Maui. Nice stars - as you'd expect at an observatory - but awfully cold!
Hiked the trail to the summit from the Visitor Center. Walked the road on the way back. Awesome summit views!
Drove the road both times. Awesome sunset views. Watching the mountain's shadow creep off the clouds below and up into the sky as the sun set was the best part of the show.