USA, Hawaii, Big Island, Mauna Kea, view to observatories at morning twilight
Observatories at the summit of Mauna Kea mountain
Photo by MNStudio/Shutterstock
Winter snow can frost the tallest peak in Hawaii, technically measuring 13,800 feet. In fact, Mauna Kea holds the world record at 33,500 feet tall when measured from its submerged base to its summit (compared with Everest’s 29,000 feet)! The dormant volcano is home to the native gods and ideal for stargazing, either with the naked eye or the summit’s Subaru Telescope (book ahead). Go earlier and you’ll get an orange blaze—and maybe an elusive green flash—during sunset, too. Note that the high altitude poses serious health risks: Stop for a half hour at the visitor center to acclimate. Plan for steep, winding roads passable only via 4WD. Do not visit the mountaintop within 24 hours of scuba diving.
Mauna Kea Summit
At 4,205 meters (13,800 feet), Hawaii’s tallest peak gets frosted by snow in winter. In fact, Mauna Kea holds the world record at 10,211 meters (33,500 feet) when measured from its submerged base to its summit, compared with Everest’s 8,848 meters (29,000 feet)! The dormant volcano is home to the native gods and ideal for stargazing, either with the naked eye or the huge telescopes dotting the summit. Go earlier and you’ll get an orange blaze—and maybe an elusive green flash—during sunset too.
If you are on your way to the summit of Mauna Kea, be sure to stop off at the visitor center at 9000 feet to peruse the massive telescopes they keep on hand. Not only do they look like something out of a steampunker’s imagination, after the sun goes down, they drag all of them out and you get to use them to stare into the night sky!
Majestic Maunakea and Maunaloa
The twin volcanic peaks of Maunakea and Maunaloa, which dominate the inland landscape on Hawaii, the Big Island, are both visually and statistically imposing. Still-active Maunaloa, which rises almost 2.5 miles from its base, is both the largest volcano and the second-tallest mountain on earth. Maunakea, though dormant, rises some 33,000 feet when measured from its oceanic base —more than twice the base-to-summit height of Everest. In wintertime both peaks are often dusted with snow; they’re also a mecca for astronomers and stargazers. On Maunakea, visitors can take guided summit and sky-watching tours, held nightly at the Onizuka Center for International Astronomy Visitor Information Station.