30.4 miles
6,479 feet
Out & Back





nature trips



wild flowers


no dogs

11 months ago

I summited Mauna Loa in November and no surprise, it was cold!

Thank god I happen to watch a short video clip of some people on the trail saying, "It's so cold up here!!" otherwise I may not have brought a down jacket with me, and that would have been a huge mistake. You will need some good insulation during your down time. The cabins are very basic, no insulation, no heat, no faucet (water access is outside the cabin).

There is a lot of very important gear BUT, the 5 items that I'm super glad I had?
1. Altitude medication. I got altitude sickness at night and it was rough, I probably would have had to turn back if I didn't have it.
2. Buff. The wind, sun, and cold are HARSH up there. Face/head/neck protections is essential.
3. Down 20F rated sleeping bag. High quality, temperature rated gear is good to have.
4. Sunglasses with side wind/sun protection.
5. Wish I HAD brought lip balm. My lips were MESSED UP toward the end and after the trip. Wish I had remembers chap stick.

My Route:
Day 1: Due to construction, I hiked 5 miles out from the trailhead on Mauna Loa Road, to Pu’u ‘Ula’ula cabin 12.8mi
Day 2: Pu'u 'Ula'ula to Mauna Loa summit cabin 11.5mi
Day 3: Mauna Loa summit cabin to true summit, then back down Pu’u ‘Ula’ula cabin 17mi
Day 4: Rest and explore trails around Pu'u 'Ula'ula
Day 5: Hike back down to my drop off point 12.8mi

About 54 miles in all.

Some random useful tips...

-My typical hiking layer system: a wool/synthetic base layer + wind shirt + fleece, as well as gloves, face shield, sunglasses, and hat for sun and wind protection. Temps ranged from mid 30's Fahrenheit, to 50’s during the day in the broad sunlight; low 30's or high 20's at night.

-No fires allowed, there's no wood to be found anyway. No heat in the cabins, it's simply shelter. In Nov 2017, the bunk mattresses were still very clean and comfortable.

-Get your permit with the Back Country office in Volcano National Park. There you can find out current water catchment tank levels, cabin occupancy, and mountain conditions. Although you can look up weather online, the rangers have the best current knowledge of it.

-Altitude Sickness can affect anybody no matter how strong or awesome you are, makes no difference. If you have never hiked in high altitude, be ready for it, get a prescription, start taking it a few day before you start your ascent. If you've gotten altitude sickness in the past it means you are likely to get it again.

-The cabins are awesome and we are fortunate to have them! If you do use them, be clean and respectful. Leave them cleaner than when you found them. Normal camping philosophy applies. Pack out what you pack in.

-Bring a tent or tarp. Even if you plan to stay in the cabins, there is always the chance of sudden weather changes, extreme wind, rain, snow, whiteout, where you'll be forced to take shelter along the trail.

I was lucky I went when I did. The following week it was expected to snow 20-30 inches. Plan your trip carefully, but be ready to roll with the punches. Weather up there is unpredictable, you might have to delay your start date if there are windstorms or white-out.