Do you love the lush, tropical landscape of Hawaii but also crave majestic mountain views? If so, you’ve likely wondered which towering peak is Hawaii’s tallest mountain. Hawaii is known for its volcanoes, but which mighty mountain takes top honors?

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Mauna Kea is Hawaii’s tallest mountain at 13,802 feet above sea level.

Introducing Mauna Kea – Hawaii’s Tallest Mountain

Basic Facts about Mauna Kea

Mauna Kea, located on the Big Island of Hawaii, is not only the tallest mountain in Hawaii but also one of the most remarkable geological features in the world. Standing at an impressive height of 13,796 feet (4,205 meters) above sea level, Mauna Kea is often referred to as a dormant volcano due to its last eruption occurring around 4,600 years ago. It is worth mentioning that when measuring from its base beneath the ocean surface, Mauna Kea surpasses even Mount Everest, making it the tallest mountain on Earth.

The summit of Mauna Kea offers breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape, and it has become a popular destination for stargazers and astronomers due to its ideal conditions for observing the night sky. The mountain is home to some of the world’s most advanced telescopes, which take advantage of the high elevation, clear air, and lack of light pollution in the area.

Geological History of Mauna Kea

Mauna Kea’s geological history is fascinating and dates back millions of years. It is considered a shield volcano, which means it was formed through repeated eruptions of fluid lava that gradually built up the mountain over time. The volcano’s construction began around one million years ago and continued intermittently until its most recent eruption.

Over time, Mauna Kea’s eruptions formed a broad, gently sloping mountain with a distinctive shape. The mountain’s summit region is characterized by numerous cinder cones and lava flows, which contribute to its unique appearance. The volcanic activity also created extensive lava tubes, which are large underground tunnels formed by flowing lava.

It is important to note that Mauna Kea is considered dormant, meaning it is not currently erupting but could potentially become active again in the future. Scientists closely monitor the volcano’s activity to ensure the safety of nearby communities.

For more detailed information on Mauna Kea’s geology and history, you can visit the official website of the United States Geological Survey at

Hiking and Visiting Mauna Kea

If you’re an adventure seeker and nature lover, a visit to Mauna Kea is a must when in Hawaii. Known as the tallest mountain in the state, Mauna Kea offers breathtaking views and a unique hiking experience that will leave you in awe. Whether you’re an avid hiker or just looking to explore the beauty of the Hawaiian islands, Mauna Kea has something to offer for everyone.

Observatories at the Summit

One of the highlights of visiting Mauna Kea is the chance to see the world-renowned observatories that are located at its summit. With over a dozen telescopes operated by different countries and organizations, Mauna Kea is a hub for astronomical research. These state-of-the-art facilities allow scientists to study the stars and planets in ways that are not possible in many other parts of the world. It’s truly a remarkable sight to see and a testament to human innovation and curiosity.

Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station

Before embarking on your hiking adventure, it’s recommended to stop by the Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station. Here, you can gather important information about the mountain, including weather conditions, safety guidelines, and any closures or restrictions. The knowledgeable staff can also provide you with maps and tips for the best hiking routes based on your skill level. The Visitor Information Station is a great starting point for your Mauna Kea experience, ensuring you have a safe and enjoyable visit.

Mauna Kea Hiking Trails

There are several hiking trails available on Mauna Kea, catering to different levels of difficulty and fitness. One popular trail is the Humu’ula Trail, which takes you through a variety of terrain, including lava fields and alpine meadows. This trail offers stunning panoramic views of the surrounding landscape and is suitable for experienced hikers. For those looking for a more leisurely hike, the Pu’u Huluhulu Trail is a great option. This trail is shorter and less strenuous, but still provides beautiful vistas of Mauna Kea and the surrounding areas.

It’s important to note that hiking on Mauna Kea can be challenging due to the high altitude and unpredictable weather conditions. It’s recommended to be well-prepared with proper clothing, food, and water. Additionally, it’s advisable to check with the Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station for any trail closures or restrictions before heading out.

So, whether you’re a stargazer, a nature enthusiast, or simply seeking an unforgettable hiking experience, a visit to Mauna Kea is a must. Take in the stunning views, explore the observatories, and immerse yourself in the beauty of Hawaii’s tallest mountain. It’s an adventure you won’t want to miss!

Other Notable Mountains in Hawaii

Mauna Loa

While Mauna Kea is the tallest mountain in Hawaii, Mauna Loa is not far behind. Standing at an impressive 13,678 feet (4,169 meters) above sea level, Mauna Loa is the second highest peak in the state. It is also one of the largest volcanoes in the world, with a massive volume that exceeds any other volcano on Earth. Mauna Loa’s last eruption was in 1984, and it is closely monitored by scientists to ensure the safety of nearby communities.


Located on the island of Maui, Haleakalā is another notable mountain in Hawaii. It reaches a height of 10,023 feet (3,055 meters) and is known for its breathtaking sunrise and sunset views. The name Haleakalā translates to “House of the Sun” in Hawaiian, and it is a popular destination for visitors looking to witness the stunning natural beauty of the island. The Haleakalā National Park, which encompasses the mountain, offers hiking trails and camping opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts.

Kohala Mountains

Situated on the northern part of the Big Island, the Kohala Mountains are an impressive range that adds to Hawaii’s diverse landscape. With peaks reaching over 5,000 feet (1,500 meters), the Kohala Mountains offer scenic views of the surrounding coastline and lush valleys. The mountains are home to several small towns and are known for their agricultural activities, including coffee and macadamia nut farming. Visitors can explore the area by hiking trails or driving along the scenic Kohala Mountain Road.

For more information about the mountains of Hawaii, you can visit the official website of the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources. It provides detailed information about hiking trails, safety guidelines, and permits required for certain areas.


With its impressive height of 13,802 feet above sea level, Mauna Kea stands supreme as Hawaii’s tallest mountain. This dormant volcano has a fascinating geological history and features unique alpine habitats. Hikers can access trails like the Mauna Kea Trail, while visitors can also tour astronomical observatories at the summit. Though Mauna Kea is the giant of Hawaii mountains, the state has other imposing peaks like Mauna Loa, Haleakalā, and those in the Kohala Mountains. Whether you want to gaze at stars through a telescope or watch the sunrise over a vista, Hawaii’s highest points offer amazing adventures.

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