Mauna Loa is one of the five active volcanoes in the island of Hawaii, the largest one on earth in volume and in kilometers covered. Its peak stands at 13679 ft/4169 m above the sea level.
The summit of the mountain lies above the forest line and the terrain consists of mostly lava rocks and shrubs due to its alpine weather conditions. Because of the volcano eruptions, there are lava flows all around the mountain and some of them flow all the way down to the sea. The view from Mauna Loa is breathtaking. You can see right next to it the Mauna Kea volcano and since you are in Hawaii, the nature’s diversities from low ground tropical wet temperatures to mountain high, alpine, dry and cold temperatures.
Ainapo trail is 20.4 mi/32.8 km long (one way) all the way up until the summit. That trail has been first pioneered by prehistoric Hawaiians. The trail head starts from the Kapala Forest Reserve where you have to drive with a 4wd car only, until the Kapala Ranch. A permit is not required to hike the path, but there is a locked gate and in order to get through it, you get the combination for the lock from Kapala Ranch.
It is considered to be a difficult and challenging route and only experienced and well equipped hikers should attempt the summit. Because of it’s long distance, it is impossible to make it in one day. There are cabins that you can spend the nigh, but with no drinkable water or heating. During winter, there is snow around the peak.
Hikers should wear light and layered clothes with bright colors since hunting is permitted in the area of Kapala Ranch, hiking boots and warm socks. Don’t miss to take enough food and water that will last at least three days. Don’t forget to take with you sunglasses and sunscreen.