If you want to go to the top of the mountain (almost 14,000 ft), get there before 6pm, in the summer! I had no idea sunset was around 7:30pm or so in July. The park ranger at the visitor's center (around 9,000 ft) will not let you go up to the top if you get there after 6pm he told us. Reason being the car lights interfere with the observeratories at the top. He highly recommended we come back though. Next time! The visitor's center is still cool though! There is a great site mountain that you can hike up a few hundred yards to get a great sunset over the clouds. I read on this site that you need to stay at the visitor's center to acclimate to the altitude, and that is definately correct. Right before the visitor's center I started to have a slight headache and felt a little light headed. Walking even makes you a little short of breath and I'm a fit male in my 30's. They say drink water and eat sweets to help. It did, after about 40 min. I also read on this site do not go to the top of the mountain without a 4 wheel drive vehicle; that's rediculous. Just go! it's not that bad. But make sure coming down the mountain you know how to put your car in low gears to save your brakes. Even though we didn't get to go to the top the trip to the visitor's center was still awesome. Driving our Jeep rental, top down, very neat views, listening to an awesome radio station 102.7, and driving through the clouds was one of the coolest experiences of our entire hawaiian trip! But it got so cold we had to put the top back on our jeep. Since we couldn't go to the top of the mountain we chilled out at the visitor's center. The inside is mostly for kids, but outside we got to look through the large telescopes the amatures always have set up. Got to see Saturn and all of it's rings, plus a neat galaxy with billions of little stars. When it got completely dark, one of the volunteers gives a very interesting hour long talk (with a laser pointer) about all of the stars, the milky way, planets, constellations, navigation, etc. One thing I learned during the talk is that viewing the stars at the visitor's center is actually better than if you were at the top because there is more atmosphere (80% vs 60% at the top). Turns out you need oxygen to see stars with your naked eye. When we first got to the visitor's center about 30 min before sunset it was 58 degrees, when we left it was about 45 degrees. It was July 7th.
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