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Palomar Observatory

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Address: 35899 Canfield Road, Palomar Mountain, CA 92060
Phone Number: +1 760 742 2119
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9:00 am - 3:00 pm
Closed now
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Sun - Sat 9:00 am - 3:00 pm
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 69 reviews
Visitor rating
  • 31
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    Very good
  • 6
  • 3
  • 0
Unique Place

This is a huge dome and impressive. My husband is a scientist and finds everything about this place fascinating. It's beautiful on top of Palomar Mountain. The reviews on this... read more

4 of 5 starsReviewed yesterday
San Diego, California
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69 Reviews from our TripAdvisor Community

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English first
San Diego, California
Level Contributor
189 reviews
31 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 85 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed yesterday NEW

This is a huge dome and impressive. My husband is a scientist and finds everything about this place fascinating. It's beautiful on top of Palomar Mountain. The reviews on this site are excellent and I have nothing to add except the mountain road getting there is sometimes full of motorcyclists who come up the mountain to race so be prepared... More 

Thank SanDiegoBJ
Burbank, California
Level Contributor
56 reviews
4 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 14 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed October 15, 2015

The kids had fun, interested in planets, so this was real brain food for them. Next time we'd go Sat or Sun to benefit from a guided tour.

Thank David S
Tijuana, Mexico
Level Contributor
74 reviews
29 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 12 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed October 6, 2015

The ride up Palomar Mountain can be treacherous especially in inclement weather. The roads are dangerous and winding. Be careful. Once on top, the views of and from the Park are astounding and peaceful. Do not miss the Doan's Pond or the Observatory. From the top, the views of Pauma Valley will take your breath away.

1 Thank Doc1213
San Diego, California
Level Contributor
43 reviews
13 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 40 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed September 28, 2015

Having never been there before, and my husband hadn't been there in over 20 years, we decided to add it to our Palomar Mountain getaway weekend. Very interesting place to visit. Once you park in the parking lot - which is free - its not a bad walk to the actual observatory. Stay on the path though and beware of... More 

4 Thank thekansasgirl1
London, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
759 reviews
661 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 565 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed September 19, 2015

Palomar is 'above all' a research facility and is privately owned. It is also at about 5,600 feet altitude, so if you are affected by high altitude, be warned. And it is also in the middle of a National Forest, surrounded by wilderness and wild animals. Rattlesnakes in particular are present in this wilderness. Cellphones / mobile phones may not... More 

6 Thank etweeden
San Diego, California
Level Contributor
70 reviews
18 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 43 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed September 2, 2015

Two things make a visit to the Palomar Mountain Observatory neat: 1. The drive up the mountain is stunning, as you ascend from sunny, beachy San Diego to alpine Palomar replete with towering pine trees and spectacular vistas, 2. The observatory is amazing to behold and is mammoth in person. Inside you can see the telescope from behind a glass... More 

4 Thank N0str0m0
Ontario, California
Level Contributor
74 reviews
37 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 40 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed September 1, 2015

Camped at the observatory campground. The hike to the observatory is really nice. Slight incline but easy to do.

Thank Debbie E
Level Contributor
27 reviews
15 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 5 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed August 3, 2015

We went to the Palomar observatory during the week and surprisingly there were quite a few visitors there. I would suggest visiting on the weekend when there are docents available. You do get to go in the observatory and see the inner workings, behind glass of course, but was really neat to be able to see. Great little exhibit by... More 

1 Thank Robert A
Elkins, Arkansas
Level Contributor
27 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 21 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 3, 2015

I don't mean to minimize anyone's faith or belief system, but as someone who has been smitten with the astronomy bug since childhood, "spiritual" is the only way I can describe a visit to Palomar. If your heart doesn't skip a beat when you first see the giant Hale dome as your car makes a turn on the beautiful drive... More 

3 Thank BernieSkoch
San Diego, California
Level Contributor
62 reviews
41 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 23 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 1, 2015

This observatory is the first in the US built. A 200 inch telescope named in honor of it's builder, George Ellery Hale. A MUST SEE observatory rich in the history of space exploration. Its enormous size cannot be easily described. Very educational for both adults and children. There is a paved pathway for both walking and electric assist chairs. Special... More 

1 Thank John D

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