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Hike-in Required
No
Open Year-round
?
ADA accessible
No
Guided tours
No
Please respect the outdoors and leave no trace. One tip how to dispose of waste properly: Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products. For more information, visit https://lnt.org/learn/7-principles

Driving along the road, along the rim, and up to the impressive observatory, it truly does feel like you’re dangling over the sparkling, smoggy, bustling city.

The observatory nestled into the rugged edges of the San Gabriel Mountains has served the interests of astronomers for over 100 years. In 1903, George Ellery Hale, already renowned for having established the Yerkes Observatory for the University of Chicago, persuaded the budding Carnegie Institution of Washington to develop the Mount Washington Solar Observatory as its first real investment. It was merely four years later that the first of its nighttime telescopes became operational, and they remained to serve the university until its new observatory in the Chilean Andes opened 80 years later.

Once having contained arguably the most famous telescope in the world, the Hubble telescope, the observatory now houses two telescopes that remain historically important. The Hooker telescope, from its time of completion in 1917, remained the largest aperture telescope in the world for 32 years. Likewise, the Hale telescope was the largest telescope in the world upon its completion in 1908. It is now the second largest in the world devoted to the general public.

It’s hard to imagine that a perch with such an impressive view over smoggy Los Angeles would afford scholars any view of the night sky, but the inversion layer that traps smog over the city gives Mount Wilson more naturally steady air than any other location in North America. Although the increasing light pollution has hindered its visual accessibility to deep space, it remains a productive center.

Pack a picnic, take a $10 tour of the facilities on the weekend, or simply drive up the twisty, winding Highway 2 to get a regal and panoramic view of the rippling San Gabriel Mountains that tumble down toward the city and Santa Monica Bay. 

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Winter
Spring
Summer
Fall

Congestion

High

Parking Pass

Not Required

Pros

Panoramic views of Los Angeles metro area. Picnic area.

Cons

Slow and winding access road.

Pets allowed

Yes

Address

Mt Wilson Trail
Pasadena, CA 91107
United States

Features

Big vistas

Location

Field Guide

Nearby Lodging + Camping

Los Angeles Metro Area, California
San Gabriel + San Bernardino Mountains, California
Angeles National Forest, San Gabriel Mountains

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