Mauna Kea-Humu'ula Trail

HARD 33 reviews

Mauna Kea-Humu'ula Trail is a 11.2 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Kamuela, Hawaii that features a lake and is only recommended for very experienced adventurers. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from March until December.

11.2 miles
4668 feet
Out & Back



nature trips

off road driving





no shade

historic site

no dogs

Hike the highest mountain in Hawaii (in the world, measured from the sea floor), and enjoy views to Moana Loa and to the ocean as well as other islands. This is not a casual hike - come prepared with all the water, calories, and essential items a high-altitude experience demands. Park at the visitor center, self-register anytime, then join the trail a few hundred feet up the road on the left. Six miles of uphill trail with few switchbacks, consisting of loose cinder and rough lava, lay ahead. You will likely be alone - plan for self-reliance. Just below 13,000 feet the trail joins a paved portion of the service road, which, mostly unlaced below, provides a longer but suitable route back.

1 month ago

Summited Mauna Kea on Dec 16. I'm in decent shape for a 25 year old and it was about what I expected in terms of difficulty. Didn't notice the elevation but YMMV. Summited in about 3.25 hrs, jogged down in about 1.5 hrs. That being said, I was alone and was trying to challenge myself on time a bit. 6 hours roundtrip is reasonable for anyone in decent shape.

Winds picked up like crazy for the final ascent along the road. They actually closed the road for cars because winds got to 100 km/h. The summit was probably slightly below 0C. I had a fleece with a wind-resistant soft shell, shorts and a beanie with light gloves. I got a little chilly after spending 20 minutes trying to set up a photo but it wasn't so bad. Pants would have helped but my upper body was fine.

3L of water is a safe amount. I crushed probably 6 protein bars, a bunch of jerky and some energy chews. This hike will definitely deplete your stores so replenish as you go.

The view was pretty good but the sky was stunningly blue. The slope of the mountain means that you're not gonna get the same incredible views that you'd get on a steeper rock formation. Pretty cool to be able to climb something that high in Hawaii though, well worth it. Definitely try and time for a day with a clear forecast, will make all the difference in terms of the rewarding review.

P.S. I'd recommend the detour to check out the lake. Pretty neat to see a body of water on an otherwise dry and desolate mountain.

1 month ago

Even for three fit guys (54, 23, 21), this was an incredibly challenging hike and took around nine hours round trip (12 miles). The trail is unremittingly uphill -- maybe 20 yards out of the six-mile/4500 vertical foot ascent is flat – on difficult terrain (volcanic sand, then loose lava rock, then across an icefield and up some switchbacks to the observatory) and, of course, increasingly at altitude. There are some good views of Mauna Loa and nearby cinder cones along the way, and the telescopes at the summit are cool, but the trail itself is completely devoid of vegetation and all other forms of life. If you’re in very good shape and have ‘walking on the surface of Mars’ on your bucket list, this is the hike for you; otherwise, 4x4 driving to the summit will probably be a better experience.

2 months ago

Great day for climbing. Last week was rain which shut down the mountain and 70 MPH heavy wind gust this week dropped temp to below zero. However, today was a window that I was waiting for. Temp on the mountain was 45 degrees, sunny and with wind guest of 15 MPH. Started at 0744 after signing in at the visitor center. The road leading to the summit was closed due to black ice but open shortly after I started. The first 2000 feet took me 2 hours but finished the final 3000 in an additional 4 hours. Took my time since I have not been at this elevation for a couple of years. Some headaches, slight dizziness, and shortness-of-breath but made it to the top. Took some pics at the summit, be sure to bring a gift that you can give to the gods of the mountain at the summit since it is a historical/religious site and is noted prior to summiting. Wish I knew this since I did speak to a ranger what my plans where. I had my friends meet me at the summit and we drove down so that we could make it to Kona prior to sunset. Made it just in time. The trail is marked by steel stakes to keep you on track. The trail is steep and exposed to wind and sun so wear proper clothing/sunscreen. If you have ATT you have signal up to 11298 but after that you only have signal once you hit the hardball road leading to the summit. Be sure to sign out once you return to the visitor center as well.

4 months ago

Brutal, 5.5 mile trek (one way) up nearly 5,000 feet in elevation. The terrain is that of what you would expect to find on the moon. What makes this trek more challenging than other 14,000 foot hikes I’ve done in Colorado is that you drive from sea level to 9,000 feet in less then an 1.5 hours giving yourself very little acclimatization time. That said, the altitude didn’t bother me however it did have an affect on one of the members in our party. I highly suggest this hike. I’d suggest a good pair of boots, gators and sun gear. I had on a lightweight Patagonia base layer which was perfect.

5 months ago

Made it to the top!!! YEAH!!!
Mother nature was on my side but be prepared, the weather changes quickly and can be dangerous.
Also, do not underestimate the effect altitude can have on your body. My girlfriend and I have the same fitness level (marathon runners) and she had to stop because of altitude sickness.
Arrive early, take time to acclimate to altitude, bring lots of water and food and stay at the visitors center for stargazing.

6 months ago

Amazing run

7 months ago

In early June, my wife, sister, her boyfriend and myself tried to tackle Mauna Kea, and came up a little short. We thoroughly enjoyed the hike, the amazing views and remarkable landscape! I wrote a lengthy blog review about our experience. It can be read below:

I would certainly try it again, if I ever make it back to Kona...

8 months ago

Tuesday June 13th I'm hitting it around 6:00 am if anyone wants to join. You can DM me on insta @ernienoh if one wants to coordinate.

9 months ago

Wear solid boots to deal with loose dirt/sand/rock trails. Altitude gain is noticeable. Actual summit is closed off but a comparable elevation can be achieved on the observatory road. Took me and my friend 5 hours from visitor center parking lot to summit and then 3 hours to get back down.

We were told the temperature at the top could be cold (even snow) but the weather was great and got away with long pants and long sleeves

9 months ago

Looking for fellow dayhikers who want to start at dawn sometime between June 10 and 13th.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

This is by far the hardest climb I have ever done! Definitely noticed the altitude, but still very worthwhile.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Hiked in April as part of preparing for Peru in May. Temps were in the upper 40s so we just wore long sleeve shirts which was just right. The initial trail has a lot of loose cinder that feels like hiking uphill in sand. Had some minor altitude symptoms the first time so we used Advil prior to the second time which helped. Wogging down in cinder leads to stops to empty shoes. Looking forward to Peru.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Make this a priority for your big island visit. Fantastic, rugged, remote. Acclimate first - going from hotel to 9.2K parking, then up over 13K before lunch impacted us. Come prepared - there's nothing out there but up, up, up. Worth every step, and the view to the ocean and other volcano are remarkable. My son and I did the roundtrip from the visitor center, 6:30 AM to 4 PM. As is typical, a clear morning turned to rain below us, and we stayed just ahead of the clouds which topped out at about 11K feet. We went to the observatories at about 13.5K or so, but didn't hike around to the summit access trail. This trail takes longer up than the six miles indicate - steep, unrelenting, and very loose in some areas - just hard, but not technical or risky. We took the access road back, which added a couple of miles, but we were gassed and felt this was a safer option as we hiked back down into a storm.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Having done an high altitude hike before, I thought I wouldn't have any problem doing this one. Error! Take time to acclimate to the altitude at the visitor center, it is worth it! So I made this 5-hours awesome hike while I had altitude sickness. But at least I could still take time to appreciate that desert view where you seem at the top of the world! Make sure to bring lots of water, and good warm clothes for when you get near the top.

We started at 12:15 PM, but I do not recomment it. For us it took 5 hours, but I know for many people it can take more, and you don't want to be caught by darkness. We saw the nice sunset at the top, and then proceeded to ask another tourist if he could take us down in his 4x4.

The hardest part is the first 3 hours. Then it's less steep. But keep in mind that as you go up, there's always less oxygen, so your heart has to work harder!

There seems to be almost nobody who climbs this mountain, which gives also, at some times, the sensation to be alone in the world. I greatly recommand it!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Five stars for the amazing scenery and the sense of accomplishment. Something less than that for the trail itself, which while impeccably maintained, is an absolute a$$-kicker. The first couple miles is on a 40 percent grade of loose cinder (almost like walking up a hill made of sand). For every 3 steps you walk up, you probably lose one of those from slippage. There are no switchbacks on this hike - just straight up. With a heavy pack, we usually average 2-3 miles an hour, here we were at just a shade under 1.5 an hour. You'll need a lot of water, because there isn't any cover, and you'll be sucking wind the whole time, but you won't mind because of the amazing views. We came from the Hilo side, and were in the clouds all the way until we turned off onto the Mauna Kea access road. While we couldn't see anything to the east because of the clouds, all of Mauna Loa and Hualalai were clear as day, and the panorama was spectacular. We started at 6:40 in the morning, and since we hand to be in Waimea by noon, we turned around at 9:10 after about 3.5 miles, so only halfway to the top. We could tell on our way down that a lot of people started around 7:00 (or perhaps they were just walking much faster than us). The walk down is MUCH faster, although you're likely to get cinder in your shoes, so consider bringing gaiters.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

must see if you are in the area but very steep terrain all around but once you make it to the beach and stream area its well worth the hike and steep grade.There are wild horses and boar in the area and has been used in several movies.

12 days ago

2 months ago

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