Visiting Maunakea Safely & Responsibly
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 adults at all times.
Significance of Maunakea
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.
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 16 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 Symptome of PULMONARY EDEMA and CEREBRAL EDEMA include:
- Breathing difficulties or coughing
- Severe headaches
- Blue lips and/or fingernails
- Extreme drowsiness
Additional information on high altitude sickness can be found at: http://www.ifa.hawaii.edu/mko/visiting.htm
What Else Do I Need To Know About Visiting?
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.
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.
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.
- 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?
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 And Websites
Visitor Information Station and Rangers: 808-961-2180
Weather and Road Conditions: 808-935-6268 (recording)
Maunakea Weather Center:
Office of Maunakea Management: 808-933-0734