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Palomar Observatory

Certificate of Excellence
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Address: 35899 Canfield Road, Palomar Mountain, CA 92060
Phone Number:
+1 760-742-2119
09:00 - 15:00
Closed now
See all hours
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 107 reviews
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For stargazers

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... read more

5 of 5 bubblesReviewed 3 days ago
Tim A
via mobile
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107 Reviews from our TripAdvisor Community

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Showing 103: English reviews
Level Contributor
29 reviews
11 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 3 days ago NEW 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.

Thank Tim A
Toronto, Canada
Level Contributor
124 reviews
62 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 39 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles 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.

1 Thank chubchub2013
Southern NJ
Level Contributor
551 reviews
170 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 315 helpful votes
4 of 5 bubbles 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 18 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles 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
Level Contributor
68 reviews
21 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 13 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
433 reviews
229 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 73 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
39 reviews
14 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 9 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
16 reviews
3 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 3 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 11 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 47 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

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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?