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Palomar Observatory

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Address: 35899 Canfield Road, Palomar Mountain, CA 92060
Phone Number: +1 760 742 2119
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

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Home of the Hale telescope

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... read more

5 of 5 starsReviewed 4 days ago
Laconia, New Hampshire
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97 Reviews from our TripAdvisor Community

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Showing 93: English reviews
Laconia, New Hampshire
Level Contributor
101 reviews
14 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 56 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed 4 days ago NEW

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
395 reviews
212 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 64 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed 5 days ago NEW

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 

Thank SoCalOregonian
Level Contributor
6 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed 1 week ago

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 30 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed 1 week ago

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
Nettlebed, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
64 reviews
28 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 43 helpful votes
2 of 5 stars Reviewed 2 weeks ago

Apple and google maps gave us the wrong directions. Don't believe it when they say you can approach from the north-east (from the Anza direction). After 3 tries we found the unmarked dirt track which the maps say is the road up the mountain, but after a short distance it was marked as closed to through traffic. You need to... More 

1 Thank EJGulland
Petaluma, California
Level Contributor
83 reviews
34 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 10 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed 2 weeks ago via mobile

This place it's so awesome. I was here the other night for the meteor shower. I hung out by the front gate with a bunch of like minded people sharing stories and watching meteors fly by.

Thank Bryan G
Titusville, Florida
Level Contributor
23 reviews
7 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 8 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed 2 weeks ago via mobile

The history of Palomar Observatory and installation of the Hale telescope is delineated in writing (English & Spanish) along with pictures. Definitions of astronomical terms with pictures is also presented. The actual Hale telescope can be viewed from a side room. Do not go in a Thursday! The gift shop is closed every Thursday!

Thank Linda B
Level Contributor
44 reviews
12 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 11 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed July 12, 2016

The observatory is history you can visit for what it has done, for what it is doing, and for what it will do. There have been functioning telescopes here since the 1930s and the famous 200" Hall telescope has been searching the skies since 1949. From `49 till the mid `90s it was the largest optical telescope in the world.... More 

1 Thank Brendan K
Seattle, Washington
Level Contributor
7 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 15 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed June 25, 2016

The Palomar Mountain observatory is home to one of the largest terrestrial telescopes in the world. It's situated fairly high up on Palomar Mountain, quite far off the beaten path. It's a bit of a trek to get there. The scenery here is beautiful, and the observatory is quite pleasant. There is a visitors' center that has exhibits showing some... More 

Thank WhiteCranePhoto
Clayton, North Carolina
Level Contributor
42 reviews
19 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 12 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed June 24, 2016

We are from North Carolina and were not familiar with the location of Palomar Observatory and State Park, We discovered it quite by accident while staying in the area, The drive up is awesome and the views along the one lane roads in the park are almost thrill seeking! The wild flowers were in bloom and so pretty and the... More 

Thank DebMurphy57

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