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December 10, 2013

Visit Mauna Kea  Safely and Responsibly  

Mauna Kea is a special place. 


As winter approaches, the Office of Mauna Kea Management would like to share a few safety measures when planning to travel to the mountain.  


Exposure to Altitude

Everyone is encouraged to stop at the Onizuka Visitor Information Station (VIS) at the 9,200 ft level to allow your body to acclimate to the change in elevation. Please remember most of us are coming from sea level ascending to the summit which is nearly 14,000 feet high. The VIS is open from 9 am to 10 pm every day of the year. There are staff members, Mauna Kea Rangers and volunteers on hand to answer any questions and provide up-to-the-minute information on road and weather conditions, maps and hiking information.


Before traveling to Mauna Kea, please note that individuals in the following categories are advised not to travel above the VIS:

  • No children under the age of 16 should travel beyond the Onizuka Visitor Information Station (VIS).  
  • Pregnant women
  • Persons with high blood pressure, heart or respiratory conditions
  • Scuba divers with less than 24 hours rest after their last dive
  • Anyone who has been drinking alcohol (consumption of alcohol is strongly discouraged on Mauna Kea)

At least 30 minutes are recommended at the 9,200 ft level to properly acclimate to the higher altitude.  


Be Prepared

Protective clothing, sunscreen and sunglasses are recommended. Drink lots of water to help fend off the effects of altitude sickness and dehydration.   


Hikers should also register at the Visitor Information Station and do not hike alone.  



The unimproved 8-mile road features a 5,000 foot climb to the summit.

Sections of the road can be extremely rough with steep grades of up to 15

percent and ice and snow can add to the danger. There are limited number of guard rails.


Four-wheel drive vehicles are a must when driving past the Onizuka Visitor Information Station (VIS) at the 9,200 ft level to the summit. Use 4-wheel drive low range and a low gear when descending from the summit to prevent brakes from overheating and failure.


Use caution and beware of heavy equipment operating on the road. 



Please remember that Mauna Kea is a very remote location. Everyone is

responsible for their own safety and travel is at your own risk. Cellular

telephone coverage is unreliable and the only public telephone above the

Visitor Information Center is located in the entrance of the University of

Hawaii's 88-inch Telescope.


To check on the weather conditions before traveling to Mauna Kea, call 935-6268 for recorded information.

Snow Play  


We all know that it's usually 80 degrees and sunny on Hawaii Island during

the winter season. As all of us have noticed as the winter storms pass

through, there is a likelihood that the slopes of Mauna Kea will be covered in snow.


Snow on the mountain translates to our ohana traveling up Mauna Kea to play in the snow. Here's some helpful safety reminders for our kamaaina

recreational visitors.


Do not use boogie boards, inner tubes or other devices not equipped with

brakes or do not have directional control on snow or ice.


Use only equipment made for snow play and snow recreation. 


Snow mobiles and all off road vehicles are prohibited.


Be aware of falling ice on the observatory buildings and other structures at

the summit.





The Office of Mauna Kea Management is charged with day-to-day management of the Mauna Kea Science Reserve as prescribed in the Master Plan. The adoption of the Mauna Kea Science Reserve Master Plan by the University of Hawaii Board of Regents in June 2000 marked a critical milestone in the management of Mauna Kea.


Meetings and public hearings spanning a period of nearly two years went into the formulation of the Master Plan, which established management guidelines for the next 20 years. The Master Plan reflected the community's deeply rooted concerns over the use of Mauna Kea, including respect for Hawaiian cultural beliefs, protection of environmentally sensitive habitat, recreational use of the mountain, and astronomy research.   


It places the focus of responsibility with the University of Hawaii at Hilo (UHH). The UH-Hilo Chancellor established the Office of Mauna Kea Management and the Board of Regents established the Mauna Kea Management Board in the fall of 2000. The Mauna Kea Management Board in turn formed Kahu Ku Mauna, a council comprised of Hawaiian cultural resource persons to serve as advisors.

mauna kea OMKM Mission

To achieve harmony, balance and trust in the sustainable management and stewardship of Mauna Kea Science Reserve through community involvement and programs that protect, preserve and enhance the natural, cultural and recreational resources of Mauna Kea while providing a world-class center dedicated to education, research and astronomy.