MWO founder George Ellery Hale atop Mt. Wilson, 1904 Huntington Library


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Mount Wilson Observatory is operated by the Mount Wilson Institute under an agreement with the Carnegie Institution of Washington. The Observatory occupies lands belonging to the USDA Forest Service set aside under a long-term leasehold agreement between CIW and the USDA Forest Service. The Observatory subscribes to the USDA non-discrimination policy as expressed here.

Banner photographs by David Jurasevich

Tours and Visiting Information

Historic Mount Wilson Observatory is an astronomical research facility located in the San Gabriel Mountains of Southern California. Located on the summit of Mount Wilson above Pasadena at an altitude of 5715 feet (1742 meters), the Observatory is visible from much of the Los Angeles area. Visitors can view the historic Hooker 100-inch telescope from the Visitors' Gallery inside the dome. Those purchasing tickets for the Weekend Guided Tours, are admitted to the telescope floor directly beneath the 100-inch. There is also a small Astronomical Museum on the observatory grounds. The Cosmic Cafe sandwich shop, located in the Pavilion above the main parking lot, serves fresh-made sandwiches and other treats on Saturdays and Sundays, April through November, from 10 am to 5 pm. Observatory souvenirs are also available at the Cafe.
Health Notice
The high elevation of the Observatory (5715 ft) and the change in elevation during the approximately one-mile and two-hour long tour are unsuitable for individuals with respiratory and heart problems or with limited mobility. The century-old facilities are not ADA-compliant and, except for the Astronomical Museum and the Cosmic Cafe, offer no access to those who cannot climb multiple flights of stars. Thus, tours of the Observatory, either guided or unguided, are inappropriate for some elderly people and for those who are not in good health. Visitors should take these factors into consideration before touring the Observatory.
Date and hours for visiting
During 2014, the observatory is open to visitors every day from 10 AM to 5 PM from April 1 through November 30, weather permitting. The gate into Skyline Park and the observatory's buildings are closed to the public during the winter season (December 1, 2014 through March 31, 2015), although special group tours can still be requested (see below). The observatory may be closed at other times after heavy snowfalls, when dangerous icy conditions exist or during times of high fire danger. Please check here again just before your visit for the observatory's current visiting status.
Getting to Mount Wilson
Access to Mount Wilson is via the Angeles Crest Highway (California State Highway 2) from the 210 Freeway at La Canada Flintridge. You can download a map and turn-by-turn directions for this most direct route for most Southern Californias. Consult the Los Angeles County road information for current road status.
Viewing Through the 60-inch Telescope
The historic Mount Wilson 60-inch reflecting telescope is available for reservation by individuals and groups for an unparalled astronomical experience. Details about reservations, rates, and what to expect at the telescope is available here.
Regular Weekend Guided Tours
Walking tours of the observatory, led by Mount Wilson Observatory docents, depart on Saturdays and Sundays at 1:00 pm sharp from the Cosmic Cafe located in the open-air Pavilion above the large parking lot at the entrance to the Observatory. These guided tours take place, weather permitting, from the first weekend of April through the last weekend of November. A special feature of these tours is admission to the "bull ring" area directly beneath the 100-inch Telescope rather than a restricted view from the visitors gallery in the dome.

Tour tickets are available for same-day purchase at the Cosmic Cafe. Ticket prices are $10 (adults) and $8 (ages 16 and under & 62 and older). Due to the nature and duration of the tour, children under age 6 are not permitted. The approximately 2-hour tour involves about a mile of walking and climbing some stairs. Please read the Health Notice above.
Self-guided tour brochure and map
Print your own brochure for a self-guided tour and map of Mount Wilson. You will need the free Adobe Acrobat Reader. A 13-page "Visitors Guide" is available for purchase at the Cosmic Cafe and provides for a particularly fine self-guided tour experience.
Specially Arranged Tours
Special tours, reserved by individuals or groups, are led by Mount Wilson Observatory Docents. These special tours must be arranged in advance, and there is a modest per-person fee charged. More information is available here. Please contact Mr. Gale Gant for more details and a special tour request form. Special tours are held in the daytime only and do not include looking through a telescope. Groups can also place an order in advance for box lunches from our Cosmic Cafe for any day of the week.
Weather
Weather conditions in the mountains can vary greatly and change suddenly. Be prepared for any weather conditions including snow and local dense fog. The weather is often much different on the mountain than in the city below. A live image from the observatory can be seen on the Towercam mounted at the top of the 150-foot solar tower telescope. The image is updated every four minutes and weather conditions are often posted on the Towercam page by the solar astronomers on duty. Remember that conditions on the mountain may change from what you see on the Towercam.
Current conditions at the observatory
Mount Wilson weather
Other activities on the mountain
Hiking and cycling are popular activities on and around Mount Wilson. CORBA offers information about off-road cycling trails. The U.S. Forest Service can provide maps and information on hiking trails in the area. The mountain and surrounding areas are rugged and wild. Extreme care should be taken when venturing off the highway.