Located on the summit of Mount Wilson above Pasadena at an altitude of 5715 feet, Mount Wilson Observatory is visible from much of the Los Angeles area. Free of charge, visitors can view the historic Hooker 100-inch telescope from the Visitors’ Gallery inside the dome. Those purchasing tickets for the 11:30 a.m & 1:00 p.m. Weekend Guided Tours, are admitted to the telescope floor directly beneath the 100-inch Telescope, the 60-inch Telescope dome, and the 150-solar Telescope Tower (unless our solar astronomer is unavailable). These tours are about two hours. (On rare occasions, one of the telescopes may be closed due to special events or maintenance.) Free of charge, there is also a small Astronomical Museum on the observatory grounds (currently on view through September 2022: NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope Exhibit), the CHARA Interferometry Exhibit, and great hiking.
BE AWARE: 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 stairs. Tours of the Observatory, either guided or unguided, are inappropriate for guests with limited mobility. Visitors should take these factors into consideration before touring the Observatory.
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.
Directions: Weather conditions may occasionally result in unscheduled closures. Access to Mount Wilson is via the Angeles Crest Highway (CA Hwy 2) from the 210 Freeway at La Canada Flintridge. You can download a printable PDF map with directions here.
Parking: A U.S. Forest Service Adventure Pass is required to park at the Observatory, as it is located on U.S. Forest Service land. A day pass may be purchased at the Cosmic Cafe (when it is open from April 4 to November 29 in 2020) on weekends between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Other times, the $5 day pass or the $30 dollar annual pass may be purchased at many locations around Los Angeles before you head up. Click here to go to the U.S. Forest Service website for more information about the Adventure Pass and where to buy them. Their website has a place to enter your location to search for nearby vendors. The Shell station in La Canada at the bottom of the Angeles Crest Highway should be selling them as well.
Weekend Public Guided Tours
Docent-led walking tours of the observatory take place on Saturdays and Sundays. There will be two tours per day, one leaving at 11:30 am and another leaving at 1:00 pm. Tours leave from the Cosmic Café located above the large parking lot at the entrance to the Observatory. Tours can take up to two hours to complete.
A special feature of these tours is entrance into both the 60-inch and 100-inch telescope domes, as well as the observing room of the 150-foot Solar Tower Telescope. On rare occasions, a telescope may be closed to the tour due to a special event or maintenance.
Tickets are $15 (adults) and $13 (ages 12 and under & 62 and older). Tour tickets are available for same-day purchase at the Cosmic Café, and rarely sell out. For each tour, 15 spots are available.
If you have a large group, we urge you to opt for a private tour instead. These can be arranged by sending an email request to email@example.com.
Children under age 6 are not permitted. The tours involve about a mile of walking and climbing some stairs. Please read the Health & Weather Notice above.
Private Group Tours
Private guided tours may be arranged by individuals or groups in advance. A modest per-person fee is charged. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more details and a private tour request form. Private tours are held in the daytime only and do not include looking through a telescope.
STEM Educational Programs
Regular private tours are available for school groups, but we also organize STEM Educational Programs with astronomers from Carnegie Observatories and JPL going into more detail on some of basic science underpinning Mount Wilson astronomy.
Print your own free brochure for a self-guided tour and map of Mount Wilson. A 13-page Visitors Guide is also available for purchase at the Cosmic Café.
If you are planning ahead and would like a nice guide of your visit, you can order this booklet by clicking here. Written by Hal McAlister, the second director of the Mount Wilson Institute and founder of CHARA, it is a well-illustrated guide to all the points of interest on the mountaintop.