Look Through the Eyes of Mauna KeaBig Island

The LARGEST ASTRONOMICAL OBSERVATORY IN THE WORLD is located at the 13,796-foot summit of MAUNA KEA. Here, international scientists work with a sophisticated array of telescopes to gather data about the vast celestial universe.

The mountain currently houses 13 WORKING TELESCOPES, and plans are underway to build another, slated to be the largest on Earth. The new $1.2 billion telescope will be built by a consortium of California and Canadian universities, and will be capable of tracking stars and galaxies some 13 billion light years away.

Mauna Kea means, “white mountain,” in Hawaiian—so named for the snow that covers its slopes. It is the HIGHEST ISLAND MOUNTAIN ON EARTH, rising 32,000 feet from its base on the ocean floor. The view from the summit is like stepping out of an airplane just above a bank of clouds.

The last stop before the summit is ONIZUKA CENTER FOR INTERNATIONAL ASTRONOMY.

Located at the 9,300-foot level, this is a good place to stop for a while to acclimatize for the rest of the trip. From there, it’s a 30-minute ride to the summit navigating a mostly unpaved road.

A GUIDED TOUR of the summit is the safest and most educational way to go. Several companies conduct tours, which can last seven or eight hours. Hawaii Forest & Trail recently launched their Mauna Kea Sunrise Experience, taking visitors on a 4-wheel-drive up Mauna Kea with a personal tour guide just in time to watch the sunrise. Because of the very thin air at the summit, children under 16 years of age and people with respiratory, heart and severely overweight conditions are not advised to go beyond the Visitor Center.

HAWAII FOREST & TRAIL (808) 331-8505