We landed on a new tropical island and within an hour we were standing at the top of a really really big mountain: Mauna Kea—13,796′ above sea level!
Going to the summit was one of my goals for our trip to Hawaii so we’d done a fair amount of research about the road to the summit. Most of the guides said that it was a very rough 4-wheel drive road however we found both Saddle Road and the Mauna Kea Access Road to be in very good condition. The Access Road is about 15 miles long and all but about 5 miles are paved. This road is easily driven by any vehicle, not just 4-wheel drives. There were little rental cars all over it.
At the top of the mountain, there is a short path to the summit high point. There isn’t much of a view because the mountain is so broad and vog often blocks views to the south towards Mauna Loa and Hilo.
It’s a pretty crazy feeling to leave the lush vegetation around Hilo and drive up into the empty cinder landscape. Getting in to the car the air was sticky and warm but up on the summit was windy and 50 degrees!