Visiting Palomar Observatory
Group tour at the base of the 200-inch Hale Telescope. (Palomar/Caltech)
Palomar Observatory is owned and operated by Caltech, and as such it is private property.
The Observatory is a popular destination
in Southern California and receives tens of thousands of visitors a year from all over the world.
Most come to see the famous 200-inch (5.1-meter) Hale
the largest effective telescope in operation. Whether you are an astronomy, history, or engineering
enthusiast, or simply curious about the Observatory, you will enjoy visiting our
museum and taking one of our guided tours of
the facility. All are welcome at the Palomar, but we ask that all visitors respect our rules
Map of the Observatory showing the location of areas accessible to visitors.
- Visiting hours
- Public areas
- Plan your visit
- Before you drive
- Driving directions
- On the Observatory grounds
- Information for mobility-impaired visitors
- Free audioguide
With some exceptions, Palomar Observatory is open to the public daily.
These exceptions are for Thanksgiving (the fourth Thursday of November), December 24 through January 2, certain maintenance operations,
and for possible weather emergencies. The Observatory is open from 9:00 am to 3:30 pm PT.
Please be aware that the visitor gates will be closed
promptly at the times indicated.
Particularly in the winter months, the Observatory is occasionally closed to
the public due to severe weather and/or dangerous conditions. Whenever possible,
this web page and our public information recording phone number (760) 742-2119
will be updated to reflect any closures. All visitors are encouraged to check
this site and/or the information number before departing to Palomar.
Plan Your Visit
Before You Drive
Snow-covered Hale Telescope dome. (Palomar/Caltech)
- Visitors should be aware that we may close the Observatory to the public due to
weather or other unforeseen conditions without advance notice.
- The Observatory makes every effort to inform the public of the facility's current status.
The environment of Palomar Mountain is, however, both dynamic and uncertain, sometimes resulting
in dangerous road conditions. Due to the uncertainties of our mountain environment, road conditions
and our complex operations supporting our research mission, we can not guarantee that information
presented on our website or phone information system will be accurate at the time when visitors
arrive at our facility.
- Please be aware that regional road and weather information supplied by state and other
authorities may not reflect the specific conditions prevailing at the Observatory.
- Visitors are urged to pay close attention to signs
indicating the Observatory's closure to visitors that may be
posted at the S6 "summit" location approximately 4.2 miles
south of the Observatory. Please see our
driving directions page for directions and
information on any possible road closures.
- There are no gas stations on Palomar Mountain. Check your
fuel before driving to the Observatory.
- Visitors who plan on using our free audioguide should bring their own mobile device (e.g., smartphone or tablet) and ear/headphones.
On the Observatory Grounds
Paved path that leads from the parking lot to the Hale Telescope dome.
To the right, the Visitor Center's access ramp. (Palomar/Caltech)
- Please note that the interior of the Hale Telescope
dome is kept at nighttime temperatures for an elevation of 5,598 feet/1,702 meters. Dress
- Please see our tours page for information
about guided tours. We do not offer guided tours every day that
the Observatory is open to the public. On most days,
visitors are welcome to look around the designated public areas
on their own, at their own pace.
- Cellphone reception, if any, is very limited on Palomar Mountain.
- Palomar Observatory is a research facility. Please respect the safety rules
you will see posted on signs around the grounds. Help maintain the environment and the structures
by not walking on the buildings or climbing in trees. When you visit, we request you stay on
the designated walking paths.
Steps to the Visitors Gallery inside the Hale Telescope dome.
Information For Mobility-Impaired Visitors
- The dome that houses the 200-inch
Hale Telescope is at a moderate distance from the parking lot. There is a 1,050-foot
(320-meter), slightly uphill, paved walking path that connects the parking lot with the dome.
- Access to the
Visitors Gallery in the Hale Telescope dome requires climbing 70 steps. We welcome mobility-impaired
visitors and support Hale access for such visitors at 10:45 am and 1:15 pm daily, resources and
conditions permitting. Mobility-impaired
visitors should check-in with the Gift Shop
attendant (the Gift Shop is located in the Greenway
Visitor Center) to receive specific access instructions, and may discuss
any special support needs. We regret that we cannot accommodate wheelchair access to
the Hale Telescope dome at this time.
- The Observatory's Visitor Center,
only 130 feet (40 meters) from the parking lot,
is open whenever the Observatory is open and is wheelchair accessible.
Free Palomar Observatory Audioguide
Audioguide home. (Palomar/Caltech)
We have developed a free Palomar Observatory audioguide—a collection of media and information that explores individual topics about the Observatory—to accompany visitors during their self-guided tour. The audioguide is browser-based (i.e., no app to download) and can be accessed via ag.palomar.caltech.edu or QR codes posted throughout Observatory public spaces. We encourage visitors to bring their own smartphone, ear/headphones, and sufficient battery charge on their device for 30 – 60 minutes of use.
The audioguide provides visitors with supporting media (video, audio, and bilingual text/closed-captions) enhancing an Observatory visit. Other sections of the audioguide include “virtual visits” to many areas not public accessible, information on other visitor services like guided tours or public events, an interactive map, and relevant links to this website. While on site, audioguide users may connect to our free Wi-Fi through access points located in the Greenway Center and the Hale Telescope Visitors Gallery.
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