Mauna Kea Summit

Total Miles


4,200.50 ft


0.75 Hours

Technical Rating



Best Time

Fall, Summer, Spring

Trail Overview

The Mauna Kea Summit Trail is the only access to the highest point in all of the Hawaiian Islands. The trail is straightforward and wide enough for 2 vehicles, but very steep for the majority of the drive. This trail is mostly switchbacks and has an elevation gain of 4,632 feet in just 8.5 miles! Driving up this trail in 4L is recommended by the inspectors, and is a great way to keep your vehicle from overheating on the way up, and a great way to save your breaks on the way down! At the top of the drive, you can take a short hike to the highest point in Hawaii. You can also see some telescopes (buildings) from about 15 different countries across the world. The top portion of the trail is paved to help protect the telescopes from dust and dirt damage.

Photos of Mauna Kea Summit

Mauna Kea Summit
Mauna Kea Summit
Mauna Kea Summit


There are inspectors at the visitor's center at about 9,000 feet above sea level. The are there to inspect that your vehicle has 4wd, as it is a must have for driving to the summit. The drive is steep with sharp turns and extreme drop offs, but it pretty strait forward. The most technical part o this drive is understanding how to keep your keep your vehicle and breaks from overheating.

Technical Rating


Status Reports

Ken Tam
Aug 28, 2023

Access Description

The trail starts at the visitors center where it is mandatory that you wait for 30 minutes before heading up the trail. The 30 minutes is to help your body acclimate to the incredible elevation change from sea level to almost 14,000 feet.

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