Holualoa

15 reviews

I have to admit that I was scared of this trail (if you want to call it that). It seems like everywhere you look, you hear people talking about how horribly difficult it is. I wondered whether I could actually make it up. But I have dreamed of this hike for YEARS. And like so many other people, my time on the island was limited. Who knew when (or if) I would ever come back. So I figured I would give it my best shot. I’m GLAD I did!

Hands down, this is one of the best mountains I have been on (and I’ve been on LOTS). It’s somewhat hard to put a finger on why. Maybe it is the combination of the clear and crisp air, the multicolored lava, and interesting rock formations. Maybe it is watching the steam vents from the summit and knowing you are on an active volcano. Maybe it is that grand, otherworldly feeling that just says ‘La La Land’. Or maybe it is knowing that I am not laying on the beach at a resort or snorkeling like a ‘good little boy’ on vacation in Hawaii. Rather, I am daring to do something as ‘Un-Hawaiian’ (at least in the stereotypical sense) as climbing a 13000ft mountain. Maybe it is all of these things. But in the end, climbing Mauna Loa will DEFINITELY take you to a VERY interesting and different world from just about anywhere else.

As for the hike itself, I did not find it NEARLY as hard as some say. There really isn’t anything terribly steep to climb. And although it is rocky, the terrain is no more difficult than many mountains in, say, California or Colorado. Just keep in mind that the rock tends to be on the sharp side, and can chew up shoes quite badly. As for altitude, this can certainly be an issue for some. And since there aren’t really any high altitude campgrounds or Hotels on the Big Island, coming straight up to a trailhead at 11000ft from Hilo or Kona can be difficult for altitude sensitive folks. But if you can climb mountains like Shasta, Whitney, Langley, White, or even Dana without a hitch, Mauna Loa is not bad at all.

No, there is no lush greenery on this trail. But that is to be expected on ANY trail ANYWHERE at this kind of altitude. You are in the alpine zone, FAR above the treeline here in Hawaii. Furthermore, the fact that it is going to be chilly is a given. I felt like it was significantly colder on Mauna Loa than on mountains as high (or higher) in California - at least in summer. So be prepared. But if you can get over the fact that this hike does NOT have many of the things that most people THINK a hike SHOULD have (ie deep forests, streams, waterfalls, etc), you will find that Mauna Loa certainly has LOTS to offer. The multicolored rocks, interesting formations, awesome views, fresh clean air, amazingly blue skies, and overall grandness of the mountain all make this hike very unique and give it a vibe that is second to none. Even the rough pahoehoe and aa lavas that you walk across have their charm. Oh, and let’s not forget the outdoor toilet at 13000ft. Take a selfie. Nobody will ever know. Regardless this will be a hike you will NEVER forget!