My wife and I are tentatively planning a trip to Hawaii in January. Naturally we want to see Mauna Kea. We are faced with a conundrum: we don't really have the time to make the hike from the 9,000-ft visitor's center to the summit and back, yet we don't want to drive all the way up. Somehow we'd like to make a hike of it, just for the experience.
Has anyone ever arranged to be taken up part-way on the road past the 9,000-ft mark, and be dropped off? Ideally we'd be dropped off a couple miles short of the top and hoof it from there. I know they have shuttles that run from the visitor's center to the top...
Anyway, any info and insight would be helpful. Thanks in advance
Drive or hitch a ride part-way up from visitor center and then hike up. Park below the final summit rise. The hike over and back to the highpoint is 300' which is a good walk at altitude for most folks. If you have the time, consider driving Mauna Kea and hiking the adjacent Mauna Loa. One is cinder in nature and the other lava surface. You can hike Loa from a road off the Kea-Loa saddle.
I plan to start calling around anyway, but anecdotal information is always helpful. My wife used to live in Hawaii and is pretty familiar with the general weather patterns. She's pretty sure Mauna Kea would probably be as doable as most other times of the year (she's been to the observatory, not the HP. I haven't forgiven her yet for this impasse, even though she was just about 11 when she was there).
Does anyone have any winter (January) stories about Mauna Kea? Success or failure? I would like to hear about your experiences. As a back up we'll just take the shuttle to the top if there are no other options but I'd really like to make at least a half-day hike of it, if possible.
My wife and I are planning to go to the Big Island in early February to celebrate our anniversary. Based on some of the reports I've read, they close the road down at the slightest hint of snow, which is pretty frequent during the winter months. I'm not sure what the plow situation is, but I wouldn't imagine that the university would own more than one. Let me know how your planning and trip go, as I'll be following in your footsteps!
If you want to cut the trip in half, you can hike up and then catch a ride down in the observatory parking area. The guy manning the observation station at 9000 feet in March 2000 told me that more hikers hitch a ride down than walk down.