World's Tallest Peak!?
Hawaii's highest peak also holds the odd distinction of being the tallest peak in the world, if you honor the distinction of it's base being well below the surface of the ocean, still being added to with a constant volcanic discharge. It's neighbor peak, Mauna Loa, holds the record for the greatest mass... larger than the combined mass of the Sierra Nevada! So, you will be hiking impressive circumstances.
The trail begins just above the Ellison Onizuka Visitor Center, named after a local hero: an astronaut who died on the Shuttle Challenger. Sign in for the hike at the Visitor Center. Your day begins around 9,200'... elevation can be a factor from the get go... come prepared!
The trail rises steeply over an old jeep track, nearly intersecting the road to the peak near the one mile point. If the going seems too steep, traverse over to the easier to walk road bed at that point. Many hikers opt to hike up the road, for the softer grade, then return down the trail. Some of the views are nicer from the road perspective (assuming the clouds are allowing any views!)and a loop including both routes does make sense. As the trail narrows and winds up the gulches and ridges you will be enjoying a most unique hiking environment... assuming you can see anything. Storms and blizzards are common... expect the worse.
At the 13,000' point you will crest a hill and come upon one of the higher lakes in the USA. This sacred body of water is fed by a thick layer of permafrost. Here is also the second chance for connecting with the roadway, with a short track leading over to one of the upper parking lots.
Soon, the trail terminates at the road... you will be hiking the final mile on the road, around and up to the numerous Observatories positioned on top of the mountain. Near the top you descend off the road and up and over to the peak monument. Again, this is a sacred area... pay appropriate respect for the area.
The length of the trail passes along and through the Mauna Kea Ice Age Natural Area Preserve... yielding a varied and interesting volcanic display. Remain on the trail and enjoy the barren landscape.
Upon returning to the Visitor Center, check in with a ranger to let them know you are off the mountain.
You could drive to the peak, many do. Check your car rental agreement to make sure you are not violating the terms of the contract. The road to the park, Saddle Road, used to be prohibited by many of the car rental companies, though that route from Hilo is now much improved.
Mountain biking up the road to the peak would be a major challenge, enjoying the upper paved section after the rough, washboarded lower miles.
This is a big, demanding hike. Come prepared.
Mauna= Mountain Kea=White pronounced KAa, long A, soft a
This hike is listed as One-Way.
When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.