Visiting the Summit
If you are planning to visit the summit, we highly recommend that you stop at the Visitor Information Station (VIS) at 9,200 ft to receive a current weather update, safety information, and to adjust to the change in altitude. Mauna Kea is one of the only places in the world where you can drive from sea level to 14,000 feet in about 2 hours, so altitude sickness is a high possibility. At 14,000 feet, there is 40% less oxygen than at sea level, so visitors should acclimatize to the altitude before proceeding further up the mountain. Anyone in poor health should consult their physician before planning a visit to Mauna Kea. We do not recommend anyone who is pregnant to go further than the VIS. People under the age of 16 should not go any further because their bodies are still developing and they are affected more rapidly when going to a high altitude. If you plan to scuba dive, do not plan to go up to the summit within 24 hours after your dive. Furthermore, we do not recommend anyone with a heart or respiratory problem to travel above the VIS. View Mauna Kea Hazards and the Visiting Mauna Kea Video
For groups of 10 or more, a Special Use permit is required. For more information, see our Research, Group Visits and Military page.
If you are visiting the summit area, please leave the landscape as you find it. Do not disturb the terrain or build rock piles. Please stay on designated roadways and trails. Off-road driving is prohibited. Mauna Kea is a sensitive environment, so please treat it as such. Do not litter.
Note: The observatories are private facilities and generally not open to the public. Stargazing is best done at the VIS, where we are equipped for visitors and have telescopes you can look through.