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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
Closed 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 104 reviews
Visitor rating
  • 48
  • 41
    Very good
  • 8
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Must see

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... read more

5 of 5 bubblesReviewed 2 days ago
New York City, New York
via mobile
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104 Reviews from our TripAdvisor Community

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Showing 100: English reviews
New York City, New York
Level Contributor
192 reviews
108 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 11 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 2 days ago NEW 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
Level Contributor
48 reviews
17 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 9 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles 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
361 reviews
192 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 60 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles 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
San Diego, California
Level Contributor
28 reviews
8 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 7 helpful votes
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 17 October 2016 via mobile

Went here for a day date with the hubby. Lots of walking and we found out you aren't able to look through the telescope. Bummer but understandable. There was a docent answering questions and telling people about the telescope. There's also a museum down the hill from the telescope which has some information and a small gift shop. There was... More 

1 Thank blueeyedgirl2
Lake Forest, California
Level Contributor
8 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 16 October 2016

My wife and I visited Palomar Observatory and really enjoyed ourselves. We took the tour and am glad we did. The guide not only went over Palomar's science and current usage, but also spent a lot of time talking about the construction and history of the observatory; which was quite interesting. Also worth mentioning, there are many large technical drawings... More 

2 Thank Tony D
Kaneohe, Hawaii
Level Contributor
36 reviews
24 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 9 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 11 October 2016

The history of the Palomar Observatory is really interesting, and had done a huge amount for astronomy over the past 50+ years. It is too bad that the light pollution from San Diego and LA is affecting the ability of the telescope to observe at night, but is still being used by astronomers to this day. It is in a... More 

1 Thank Chris H
Nettlebed, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
66 reviews
29 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 44 helpful votes
3 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 6 September 2016

The actual site is quite small and a relatively quick trip. The museum is interesting, and the observatory is impressive. The tour was not available when we visited, so there wasn't a huge amount to see - it was a good trip though as we included a hike and lunch at Mother's Kitchen. A long way to go without these... More 

1 Thank EJGulland
Southeast Pennsylvania
Level Contributor
11 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 17 helpful votes
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 5 September 2016

As a kid I always wanted to see this telescope as it was then the largest in the world. The closest I came was the failed first mirror on display in Corning. The observatory is about 90 minutes from the San Diego area. Other reviews suggest that GPS devices can direct the wrong way, and ours would have taken us... More 

2 Thank prakthomas
Laconia, New Hampshire
Level Contributor
112 reviews
16 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 57 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 28 August 2016

About an hour and a half from San Diego, it's a half-day trip that is a must see for astronomy buffs. The walk to the telescope is a slow incline and there are steps once there. The visitor center/gift shop has wonderful information. I would strongly suggest that you visit the website before you go for updates as to whether... More 

1 Thank HelenDL
Murrieta, California
Level Contributor
838 reviews
549 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 135 helpful votes
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 26 August 2016

Coming from the west, access to this observatory is from HWY76 up the winding South Grade road. BE ADVISED IF YOU GO ON THE WEEKEND THERE ARE NUMEROUS MOTORCYCLES ON THIS ROAD. When you get to the junction of South Grade road and East Grade road, turn left. There is a small market and restaurant located here. Continue on this... More 

2 Thank SoCalOregonian

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Questions & Answers

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Typical questions asked:
  • Do I have to buy a ticket for my infant?
  • How do I get there using public transportation?
  • Is there a restaurant or café onsite?