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Hiking Mauna Loa: Everything you need to know

Hiking Mauna Loa: Everything you need to know


Hiking the planet's largest active volcano will put you on top of the world (or at least Hawaii). Climbing Mount Loa is no walk in the park, though. You should make sure you're well-prepared before you attempt to make it to the summit, as it's a challenge for even the most experienced hikers.

Mount Loa need to know info 

    • The Terrain

Mount Loa is a shield volcano, meaning it lies relatively flat. The slopes might look gradual and easy to climb, but Mount Loa's hiking trails will take you over loose lava fields. Walking over the rough and unstable ground can be exhausting.

The summit of Mount Loa is nearly 4,000 metres above sea level. Remember that as you climb, you will have to contend with altitude. Aim to climb slowly but steadily, with short breaks. Hydration is important - you will need 3 to 4 litres per person per day.

Watch out for symptoms of altitude sickness, including headaches, nausea and dizziness! If you start experiencing this, descending is the only cure.

    • The Climate

One thing is certain: Mount Loa offers a lot of diversity. Severe weather conditions, including snow storms, high winds, driving rain and freezing night-time temperatures are possible at any time of the year. Sunlight can be intense at the higher altitudes so take sunscreen and sunglasses.

    • About Safety

Make sure you follow Mount Loa safety advice. A temperamental beast, the mountain can turn on you in seconds. You will need to go prepared with high altitude and cold weather gear, as well as emergency food supplies, a cell phone and a torch. It's easy to fall over and cut yourself on the sharp volcanic rocks, so pack a first-aid kit to treat injuries as well.

Clouds can sometimes roll in later in the day and obscure the trail markers. When this happens, you should stop and find a sheltered spot to wait until conditions clear again, as the terrain makes it easy to get lost. It's best to start hiking early to dodge afternoon fog.

Mount Loa hiking trails

    • Mount Loa Trail

A multi-day odyssey, this trail is the longest on the mountain at 70 kilometres round-trip. It can be completed in three or four days and is suitable for more experienced hikers with adequate equipment. You will need to pay for a permit at the Backcountry Office, where you can also get up-to-date information on trail conditions.

Keep in mind that the trail can be gruelling - walking for three days across rock can be hard on your joints. The relentless climb is rewarding though; it takes you through dreamy lavascapes and past incredible views.

    • Observatory Trail

The most direct route to the summit of Mount Loa is this 10-kilometre hike that starts from the Mount Loa Observatory. You can do this trail in one day, but be prepared for a challenging seven- to 10-hour round-trip hike. Permits are not required for this day hike.

When approaching the summit, you'll have the choice of taking the Summit Trail to the very top of the mountain, or following the Mauna Loa Cabin Trail around the caldera. Both offer intense views, making the hike up worth every step.

Planning your trip can be just as tough as climbing volcanoes! Make things easier and let the experts at Hoot Holidays help you out with your Hawaii adventure.