Mauna Kea Access Road

Mauna Kea Access Road

7,000 - 9,000 Feet Elevation, 32 Miles

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Route: An unpaved dirt road that crosses the West, North and East flanks of Mauna. Kea offering beautiful views of Kohala and beyond.

Caution: The area is open year-around for hunting. Wear bright clothing.

Location: Two accesses are available, West and East. West side is accessed from the Kilohana Hunter Check Station at the 43.5 mile point of Saddle Rd. (Hwy 200). Take the Pu’u La’au Rd. 4.2 miles to an old ranger cabin. East side is accessed at Hale Pohaku Visitor Center 6 miles up John A. Burns Way (Mauna Kea Observatory Road).

This infrequently maintained, unpaved, four wheel drive hunters’ road circles the east, north, and west sides of Mauna Kea between the 7,000′ and 9,000′ elevations within the Mauna Kea Forest Reserve. It passes through native sub-alpine woodland and over barren lava flows.

On clear days dramatic views of the whole northern coast, the Waimea Plain, Kohala Mountains, and the island of Maui may be enjoyed. The route traverses critical habitat of the endangered palila (Loxioides bailleui), a Hawaiian finch found only on the upper slopes of Mauna Kea. Caution, the entire route is open year-round for hunting.

Hiking Safety Tips

  • STAY ON MARKED TRAILS! Vegetation or cinders may hide deep cracks in the ground. Use caution near cliffs, cracks, and steam vents. The edges of these features are unstable and can be slippery. Keep your children safe. Hiking over cracks and holes, loose rock, and thin lava crust greatly increases your risk of getting hurt. Falling on lava may result in severe wounds.
  • WEAR STURDY SHOES AND LONG LIGHTWEIGHT HIKING PANTS (falling on lava is like falling on broken glass).
  • CARRY AND DRINK PLENTY OF WATER. No matter how short your hike or brief your stay, bring more sunscreen and water than you think you’ll need. Recommended: 2 liters of water per person, per day. Hawaii’s strong tropical sun can cause serious dehydration.
  • AVOID HIKING AFTER DARK (cracks, crevasses, and cliffs look like shadows – depth is not evident in the dark).
  • Always hike or camp with another person.
  • Bring a cell phone.
  • Do not drink untreated stream or lake water.
  • Always be prepared for rain. Rainstorms can roll in with surprising speed.
  • Have warm clothes on hand. At elevations above 1,000 feet (and even on windy beaches), nighttime temperatures can drop by at least 20 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit. The higher the elevation, the colder it will be.
  • Carry bug spray. Mosquitoes can be thick even on breezy beaches.
  • Abide by posted signs and stay on the trail.
  • Always obtain the proper permits to hike or camp.
  • If you are a novice hiker, consider arranging a hiking tour with an activity/attractions tour provider





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