We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.
We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.
Book a Stay + Win a Getaway Book your hotel on TripAdvisor and you could win a great trip!

Palomar Observatory

Certificate of Excellence
Map updates are paused. Zoom in to see updated info.
Reset zoom
Updating Map...
Sponsored by:
Get directions
Address: 35899 Canfield Road, Palomar Mountain, CA 92060
Phone Number: +1 760 742 2119
9:00 am - 3:00 pm
Closed now
See all hours
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.

read more

TripAdvisor Reviewer Highlights

Read all 102 reviews
Visitor rating
  • 46
  • 41
    Very good
  • 8
  • 3
  • 0
Day out

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... read more

5 of 5 bubblesReviewed 5 days ago
Perry H
San Diego, California
via mobile
Add Photo Write a Review

102 Reviews from our TripAdvisor Community

Traveler rating
Traveler type
Time of year
  • More
Showing 98: English reviews
San Diego, California
Level Contributor
311 reviews
169 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 57 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 5 days ago NEW 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.

Thank Perry H
San Diego, California
Level Contributor
26 reviews
8 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 5 helpful votes
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 5 days ago NEW 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 

Thank blueeyedgirl2
Lake Forest, California
Level Contributor
6 reviews
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 6 days ago NEW

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 

Thank Tony D
Kaneohe, Hawaii
Level Contributor
36 reviews
24 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 5 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 1 week ago

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 

Thank Chris H
Nettlebed, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
66 reviews
29 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 43 helpful votes
3 of 5 bubbles Reviewed September 6, 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
9 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 15 helpful votes
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed September 4, 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 

1 Thank prakthomas
Laconia, New Hampshire
Level Contributor
107 reviews
16 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 57 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed August 27, 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 

Thank HelenDL
Murrieta, California
Level Contributor
600 reviews
362 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 94 helpful votes
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed August 26, 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 

1 Thank SoCalOregonian
Level Contributor
6 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed August 23, 2016

Next time we'll plan better and stay for the guided tour. This trip we did a self-guided tour and it was fascinating, but I hear the guided tour is even better! The walk isn't bad from the parking lot to the observatory. Stunning views on the drive up to the area. Rich with history. I'm know I missed some things... More 

Thank Julie W
San Francisco, California
Level Contributor
37 reviews
10 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 31 helpful votes
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed August 20, 2016

Hard to believe this is still a high performing functional tool of science after so many years. So much astrophysics history has been made here. I was in awe just standing in the room looking at it. Sadly, I did not have the time for the tour but a docent was in the room to answer my questions. Good to... More 

Thank dialright

Travelers who viewed Palomar Observatory also viewed


Been to Palomar Observatory? Share your experiences!

Write a Review Add Photos & Videos

Is This Your TripAdvisor Listing?

Own or manage this property? Claim your listing for free to respond to reviews, update your profile and much more.

Claim Your Listing

Questions & Answers

Here's what previous visitors have asked, with answers from representatives of Palomar Observatory and other visitors
4 questions
Ask a question
Temecula, California
2 months ago
Boquete, Panama
over a year ago
Boquete, Panama
over a year ago

See all questions (4)

Questions? Get answers from Palomar Observatory staff and past visitors.
Posting guidelines
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?