Sunset at the Summit
You'll arrive at the summit 15 minutes or so before sunset. If you haven't put on your parka and gloves, which are provided by Hawaii Forest and Trail, before this, now is the time. It's cold outside! Temperatures will be near freezing. After spending the morning in the Big Island's 75-80 degree warmth, you'll definitely feel it.
The views of sunset, however, soon make you forget the cold. Out come all the cameras and you're certain to get great pictures. Be sure to take some photos of the world's largest collection of telescopes, as well as of your traveling companions. You can view my photos as part of my Mauna Kea Summit & Stars Adventure Photo Gallery.
Eileen and I hadn't been to the summit of Mauna Kea in almost 15 years. It brought back all of the fond memories of our first visit. We did notice a lot more people than when we were there before. Back then I think there were less than a dozen other folks who had made their way up the mountain. The majority of folks are, surprisingly, Japanese visitors. Our guide, Jon, explained that for the Japanese it is a form of religious experience.
Stargazing on Mauna Kea
Following sunset it was time to head back down the mountain to the Visitor Information Station where Hawaii Forest and Trail sets up their 8" Celestron Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope in a nearby parking lot. You'll also have time to use the bathroom facilities and explore the Visitor Information Station which contains several interesting displays and a gift shop.
Stargazing was somewhat of a disappointment but it wasn't Hawaii Forest and Trail's fault. There was a nearly full moon which made it impossible to see the Milky Way and many of the normally bright celestial objects. If stargazing is important to you, plan your adventure around the time of a new moon. The hot chocolate and cookies were great, though.
Much too soon it was time for the long drive back to Kailua Kona. As temperatures rose, we gradually removed our parkas and sweatshirts and most of us fell asleep.
Our Mauna Kea Summit & Stars Adventure with Hawaii Forest and Trail lived up to all of our expectations. It was well worth the commitment of time.
If You Go
Schedule: Afternoon trips depart daily from Hawaii Forest and Trail Headquarters, Waikoloa Kings' Shops, and the Junction of Highways 190 and 200. 7 - 8+ hours round trip.
Rated: Easy to Moderate; ages 16 and over.
Included in the Tour: Picnic style dinner (your choice of chicken, fish or vegetarian; served with wild rice medley and grilled vegetables), assorted teas, hot chocolate.
Gear Provided: Hooded parkas and warm gloves.
Prices: Adult: $185.00, plus tax. (prices are subject to change)
Group Size: Tour limited to a maximum of 12 guests.
Restrictions: Guests should be able to hike on uneven or rocky terrain. We sometimes encounter cool, wet or muddy conditions. Because of high altitude this tour is not advised for those with respiratory, circulatory or heart conditions, pregnancy or poor health. Scuba divers should be aware of altitude dangers. No children under 16. Other tour restrictions may apply.
What to Bring & Wear: Closed toe shoes, long pants, a sweatshirt/sweater.
For more information visit Hawaii Forest and Trail's website at www.hawaii-forest.com