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Palomar Observatory

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Address: 35899 Canfield Road, Palomar Mountain, CA 92060
Phone Number:
+1 760-742-2119
09:00 - 15:00
Open now
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Sun - Sat 09:00 - 15:00
Recommended length of visit: 1-2 hours

Palomar Observatory, located atop Palomar Mountain in north San Diego...

Palomar Observatory, located atop Palomar Mountain in north San Diego County, California, is a center of astronomical research owned and operated by the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). The Observatory is home to three active research telescopes: the 200-inch (5.1-meter) Hale Telescope, the 48-inch (1.2-meter) Samuel Oschin Telescope, and the 60-inch (1.5-meter) telescope. The research is conducted by Caltech faculty, post-doctoral fellows, and students, as well as by researchers at collaborating institutions. Conceived of almost a hundred years ago, Palomar Observatory has been at the forefront of astronomical research since mid-century. Today, the observatory operates every clear night and is an iconic facility for scientific advancement, instrument development, and student training. 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 Telescope-for decades 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 and procedures. Public, guided tours of the 200-inch (5.1-meter) Hale Telescope are available to visitors on the weekends (Saturday and Sunday, start times are 11:00 am and 1:30 pm) spring through fall-typically from the first weekend in April to the last weekend October. The tours are roughly one hour long, and limited-availalbility tickets (sold exclusively on a day-of and first-come, first served basis) are required. Please plan accordingly.

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TripAdvisor Reviewer Highlights

Read all 112 reviews
Visitor rating
  • 52
  • 44
    Very good
  • 8
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  • 0
Afternoon side trip

it is a nice adventure, for most people, but if you can't climb many stairs it's not for you. There is a little shop to visit, good place for a walk around.

Reviewed 1 week ago
San Diego, California
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112 Reviews from our TripAdvisor Community

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Showing 107: English reviews
San Diego, California
Level Contributor
7 reviews
Reviewed 1 week ago NEW

it is a nice adventure, for most people, but if you can't climb many stairs it's not for you. There is a little shop to visit, good place for a walk around.

Thank 296pat
Level Contributor
14 reviews
7 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 5 helpful votes
Reviewed 3 weeks ago via mobile

This is a unique place. Our guide Marianne was very friendly and knowledgeable. The observatory is located at the end of a steep winding road, what makes the place even more special. The low temperatures inside may cause some inconvenience to young visitors.

Thank Eitan R
Laguna Woods, California
Level Contributor
83 reviews
24 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 16 helpful votes
Reviewed 4 weeks ago

This is a neat place to visit. It does take considerable driving on mountain roads, but it is worth the effort. It has a very interesting and informative visitor center as well as the observatory itself. There was a docent at the observatory who was excellent at answering questions.

1 Thank jmbakulich
Bellevue, Washington
Level Contributor
125 reviews
27 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 26 helpful votes
Reviewed 14 March 2017

With WWII, the atomic program, the space program, mapping the human genome and other large, often international scientific programs it is easy to forget how special, how challenging and how valuable the building of the Palomar Observatory was ... and how it contributes today. A lovely road leads to the top of the summit and the site of the Observatory... More 

Thank NedMorgan
Level Contributor
32 reviews
11 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 6 helpful votes
Reviewed 25 February 2017 via mobile

If you're a stargazer you will enjoy this. Definitely fill up the gas tank in Pala before going up. I started up with a half tank and sweated it the whole way down. Also it's cold at 5000+ft so take a coat.

2 Thank Tim A
Toronto, Canada
Level Contributor
136 reviews
64 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 42 helpful votes
Reviewed 16 January 2017

it is a beautiful drive up. When you arrive it is just breathtaking. The observatory is historic and very informative exhibition in the visitors' center. The only disappointment was that there was a very loud family and they ate and yelled up in the telescope room. why were they there??and there was no staff to ask them to leave.

2 Thank chubchub2013
Southern NJ
Level Contributor
586 reviews
191 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 341 helpful votes
Reviewed 8 December 2016

My husband the engineer was particularly interested in visiting the Palomar Observatory. There is no entry fee. We enjoyed looking at the telescope, etc. through the window. When we were there a group went inside the room, apparently for some kind of special tour. When we were there, we were on our own. The museum at the entrance has lots... More 

Thank GreenUnicorn
New York City, New York
Level Contributor
204 reviews
115 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 23 helpful votes
Reviewed 1 December 2016 via mobile

This is a must see for history and science lovers. The bonus will be some scenic views during the drive. There are small, but informative displays about the people involved and discoveries made with it. But seeing the giant telescope and walking around gives you a better sense of the size and scale of the effort and the engineering that... More 

Thank J L
Orange County, California
Level Contributor
75 reviews
21 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 19 helpful votes
Reviewed 24 October 2016 via mobile

Nestled in a canyon. This is a small campground with 360 degree of mountains, trees and the great outdoors. Beautifully maintained but you are definitely on your own. We did not see one ranger pass by or the campground host. You better pray your neighbors are cordial and respectful of others because there is no authority out there.

1 Thank Victor U
San Diego, California
Level Contributor
433 reviews
229 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 80 helpful votes
Reviewed 18 October 2016 via mobile

This is a great piece of history set atop a beautiful mountain range. Great for the entire family and friends with a great visitors center. You can go in and see this massive telescope first hand and see how it rotated and see pictures from the telescope in the visitors center. This is very educational for all.

1 Thank Perry H

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