Visiting Maunakea Safely and Responsibly
- You are responsible for your own safety. Travel at your own risk.
- Acclimate at the Visitor Information Station (VIS) and get current safety information.
- Minors must be accompanied by an adult at all times.
First Stop: Visitor Information Station (VIS) at 9,200ft / 2,804m
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:
- Shortness of breath
- 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
- Blue lips and/or fingernails
- Extreme drowsiness
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?
Extreme Exposure, Snow-Play and Facilities
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- Maunakea has no public accommodations, and most observatory buildings are not open to the public. The VIS has limited food and restroom services.
For current road conditions, call (808) 935-6268
Dependable, fully-operable 4WD vehicles with low-range are required 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. Please note that 2WD vehicles are not permitted above the Visitor Information Station.
- 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? Ask a Ranger
The Maunakea Rangers actively patrol 365 days per year between the mid-level (9,200') facilities and the summit, informing visitors about the cultural, natural and scientific significance of the mauna, as well as the hazards of visiting the mountain. Rangers perform a variety of other duties as well, including providing emergency assistance, assisting stranded motorists, coordinating litter removal, conducting trail maintenance, and inspecting the observatories for compliance with their Conservation District Use Permits.
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 Hawaiʻi 2.2 meter Telescope.
Important Telephone Numbers
- Emergencies: 911
- Visitor Information Station and Rangers:
- (808) 934-4550
- Center for Maunakea Stewardship:
- (808) 933-0734