Docent and telescope operator, Nik Arkimovich gives a private tour to the staff of Palomar Observatory. Photo: Palomar Observatory/Caltech

Private Tours


  The beautiful mountaintop setting and unequaled history of Mount Wilson Observatory provide the opportunity for exceptional tours.


What Do These Tours Include?

A typical private tour of MWO includes a walk around the grounds (two hours or more), a talk on the history of the institution, and visits to the major telescopes including close-up looks at the instruments with descriptions of their operation and of the amazing discoveries made with each. Private tours are held in the daytime only and do not include looking through a telescope. It is possible however to combine a tour with a nighttime observing session on either the 100-inch telescope or the 60-inch telescope. Please click on the “Observing” tab at the top of our website pages for information on booking a telescope observing session. Once a session is booked, pre-session tours can then be added.

When Can Private Tours Take Place?

Our private tours can usually be scheduled for nearly any day of the year other than major holidays. Advance notice is needed to allow time to arrange docents for these tours (see below).

How Large a Group Can Be Handled?

Most of our tour groups are no more than 25 or so, but tours can be scheduled for groups of any size from one to 60. Even larger groups can often be accommodated with enough advance notice, but this depends on several factors, including the availability of enough docents.

GROUP SIZE           NOTICE NEEDED              

1 to 20                            3 weeks

21 to 40                          4 weeks

41 to 60                          6 weeks

>60                                  8 weeks

How Can a Private Tour Be Arranged?

Contact Mr. Gale Gant by email at and provide him with your preferred date and the expected number in your group. If your date is available he will then send you the tour request form with information about your visit, about making your fee payment, and about the conditions you should expect.

What Do These Tours Cost?

The minimum fee is $150 for private tours; this minimum covers up to ten people. For more, the fee is $15 each for adults and $13 each for seniors and children under 12. Payment must be received at least two weeks in advance.


The group must include at least one adult for each ten children under 12. Bringing children younger than 6 is not recommended.

Cancellation Policy

Weather and other conditions beyond anyone’s control may force us to cancel your visit on short notice. If this happens, the tour fee will be refunded in full within five business days of the cancellation. Alternatively, the tour may be rescheduled, subject to the availability of docents, by consultation with Mr. Gant.

Should the tour group choose to cancel for any reason, the fee or a portion thereof will be refunded according to the following schedule:

2 weeks in advance     –     100%

1 week in advance       –       50%

2 days in advance        –       25%

Less than 2 days          –         0%

For more information on private tours, contact Mr. Gale Gant at

For a printable version of this information click here.


Construction plans for Mt. Wilson’s 100-inch Hooker Telescope. Credit: Pauline Acalin

In front of the venerable 60-inch Telescope, docent coordinator, Michael Rudy recounts the history behind the first modern reflecting telescope, the ancestor of all large observatory telescopes to come.  His audience is the group managing the development of the Giant Magellan Telescope in Chile. It’s good for them to see their roots!