Visiting Maunakea Safely and Responsibly

On this page:

Advisories

For a safe visit, heed all safety advisories.

Caution: Travel is at your own risk.

  • You are responsible for your own safety.
  • Acclimate at the Visitor Information Station (VIS) and get current safety information.
  • Minors must be accompanied by an adult at all times.

Access Maps

View Summit Facilities Locator Map

Summit Route - upper portion

Summit Route - bottom portion

Significance of Maunakea

A panoramic view of the Maunakea summit

A feild of aʻa lava, with foothills in the background Maunakea holds major spiritual significance to Native Hawaiians. Rock pilings which appear natural may be man-made markers or cultural altars and are protected by law. During your visit, please demonstrate respect and leave the mountain as you found it. Do not leave items behind, or move or remove anything.

In addition to the cultural resources, Maunakea is home to unique species and habitats, and contains the world’s most sophisticated collection of astronomical facilities. Use only marked trails and roads and be mindful of your impacts on the sensitive natural and scientific resources.

Invasive Species Prevention on Maunakea

Cleaning your vehicle and personal gear helps prevent the spread of invasive species to the mauna, protecting the native plants and animals that live there. Administrative Rules 20-26-21: Preservation of resources.

If your vehicle is muddy, it will not be allowed up to the summit until it is cleaned at a lower elevation.

Please ensure that your vehicle and personal gear are clean and free of invasive species (i.e. ants, insects, plant seeds, or mud and dirt that can carry these). Here are detailed procedures and instructions for cleaning your vehicle and personal gear.

First Stop: Visitor Information Station (VIS) at 9,200ft / 2,804m

Visitor's Information Station Be aware of the hazards associated with accessing a remote, high-altitude location. Individuals planning to ascend should feel healthy and well to do so. Hikers must register at the VIS and use the buddy system.

Do not travel above the VIS if you:

  • Are under 13 years of age; prolonged high altitude exposure may cause permanent bodily damage
  • Are pregnant
  • Are intoxicated. Public consumption of alcohol or possession of illicit substances is prohibited on Maunakea
  • Have been SCUBA-diving in the prior 24 hours
  • Have high blood pressure, heart or respiratory condition

The drop in atmospheric pressure and oxygen with increasing altitude can result in Altitude sickness. This can lead to life-threatening conditions such as High Altitude Pulmonary Edema and High Altitude Cerebral Edema. To lessen your risk for these conditions, acclimate at least 30 minutes at the VIS. Descend immediately and seek medical attention if you experience any of the following.

Signs and Symptoms of altitude sickness include:

  • Thirst
  • Shortness of breath
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Impaired judgment
  • Fatigue or drowsiness
  • Loss of balance and muscle coordination

Signs and Symptoms of pulmonary edema and cerebral edema include:

  • Breathing difficulties or coughing
  • Severe headaches
  • Vomiting
  • Blue lips and/or fingernails
  • Confusion
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Coma

Rules to Abide by on Maunakea

The Hawaiʻi Administrative Rules, Chapter 20-26, entitled “Public and Commercial Activities on Mauna Kea Lands,” were developed following years of community outreach and extensive public testimony. The Rules took effect in January 2020 and provide for safe and appropriate access, use, and management of Maunakea lands.

  • Obey all road and area closures
  • Obey the Rules, policies, and Ranger advisories
  • Visibly dirty or muddy vehicles will be turned away
  • Visitors under 13 years old are discouraged from going past the Visitor Information Station (VIS) at 9,200 ft
  • No drones or other unmanned aerial vehicles or toys are permitted
  • No pets except service animals and hunting dogs are allowed
    • Service animals must be on a leash and under your control at all times.
    • Obey Forest Reserve hunting regulations for hunting dogs.
  • Do not use radio, cellphone, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or similar above the Visitor Information Station, except for emergencies
  • No camping or overnight sleeping
  • Fires are prohibited, including those contained in grills or portable stoves
  • Use of cigarettes/tobacco, e-cigarettes and similar devices, alcohol or illicit drugs is prohibited on all UH managed lands
  • Commercial activities, including guided tours and filming, must have a UH permit
  • Stay on designated roads and trails
  • Use designated toilet and trash facilities
  • Leave the mauna as you found it
    • Do not introduce, remove or move any elements of the natural environment
    • Be trash responsible - place all waste, including organic and biodegradable waste, in designated receptacles

What Else Do I Need To Know About Visiting?

A view of snow-covered Maunaloa, from the Maunakea summit

Extreme Exposure, Snow-Play and Facilities

Dehydration
The summit air is extremely dry. Drink lots of water — suggested 16.9 fluid ounces or 500 ml (approximately two cups) per person per hour.
Hypothermia
Be prepared for winter weather and use adequate cold-weather clothing. Limit your exposure to the cold.
Intense solar radiation
Protect yourself with appropriate clothing, sunscreen and sunglasses.

Severely overcast skies surround the summit telescopes

Weather can change swiftly and severely
Winter conditions may occur at any time, causing freezing temperatures, 100+ MPH winds and zero-visibility white-outs
  • Heed road and area closures
  • Obey evacuation orders. However, if you become stuck in a severe winter storm, stay in your vehicle. Turn the engine off to prevent the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning
Ice
Stay clear of observatories and other structures to avoid falling ice. Be attentive of ice on the ground while driving and walking.
Snow Recreation
All Snow-Play is at Your Own Risk. Snowmobiles and devices lacking directional or braking mechanisms, such as inner tubes and boogie boards, are prohibited.
Facilities
Maunakea has no public accommodations, and most observatory buildings are not open to the public. The VIS has limited food and restroom services.

Drive Safely

A snowplow at the summit For current road conditions, call (808) 935-6268

Dependable, fully-operable 4WD vehicles with low-range are highly recommended for summit travel. The eight-mile summit road rises nearly 5,000 feet and unpaved sections are only wide enough for single-lane traffic. Road hazards include atmospheric and solar glare, blind curves, rock debris and poor traction. Be aware of all road users including other drivers, cyclists, pedestrians, and animals. Have enough fuel to complete your trip, as there are no public gas stations in the area.

A vehicle drives through a lot of snow, piled up on the side of the roadway

  • Off-road vehicles are prohibited
  • Obey the posted speed limit and all traffic advisories
  • Avoid brake overheating and failure by engaging 4WD-low, downshifting and tapping brakes during descent
  • Yield to road maintenance such as grading. Crossing the grader ridge may cause serious damage to your vehicle
  • Park only in clearly marked areas, or as designated by a Ranger
  • If you are experiencing an emergency and need to stop while driving, pull-over safely and completely, and activate the vehicle hazard lights
  • Use headlights during low-visibility conditions

How Do I Get Help?

Maunakea Rangers The Maunakea Rangers actively patrol 365 days per year to maintain public safety and provide visitor information. Because emergency assistance may be hours away, it is important to heed ALL Ranger advisories regarding parking and traffic directives and trail and area closures.

Due to interference with the radio telescopes, cellular phone use is restricted to emergency calls only. A public, emergency telephone is located at the University of Hawai‘i 2.2 meter Telescope.

Important Telephone Numbers

  • Emergencies: 911
  • Visitor Information Station and Rangers: (808) 934-4550
  • Center for Maunakea Stewardship: (808) 933-0734