• Sunset over Lick Observatory with open domes. Photo by Laurie Hatch.

Public Evening Tours at Lick Observatory


Our new "behind the scenes" style 4 - 6 hour walking tour of Lick Observatory will start at the main building's Visitor Center. An astronomer based on Mount Hamilton will be the main guide for the evening. Participants can learn about the unique history of the world’s first permanently occupied mountaintop observatory, the eccentric California pioneer James Lick, technology used for observing on different telescopes along the tour route, and current science being conducted at Lick Observatory.

A highlight of the tour will be visiting the dome of the 3-meter Shane Telescope to see the mountain’s largest telescope up close. After the walking tour, there will be an opportunity to enjoy the sunset, and the Gift Shop will be open. During twilight, a history lecture about James Lick and the construction of the observatory will be presented. Once the sky is dark (and weather permitting), viewing celestial objects through the historic 36-inch Great Refractor telescope will commence. Insights will be provided throughout the evening on how we find planets beyond our solar system, how exploding stars teach us about the evolution of the universe, how we discern the nature of galaxies and black holes, how new technologies are used to undo the blurring effects of Earth’s atmosphere, and about Lick Observatory’s rich astronomical history and bright scientific future.

Complimentary coffee, tea, and hot chocolate are included with the tour. The event will last approximately 4 to 6 hours. For safety reasons and due to late hours, children under the age of 8 cannot participate; this event is recommended for ages 12 years and up. Visitors should be prepared to walk about one mile during the evening, including taking stairs. Events are held rain or shine. Weather may restrict telescope viewings, but other activities will still take place. Due to historic construction of telescope domes and safety concerns, the telescopes are not wheelchair accessible at this time. Those having difficulty navigating stairs may also find the telescopes inaccessible.

Tickets are priced at $75 per person, available one month prior to the each tour at The new tour is expected to sell out quickly. The Public Evening Tour is offered once a month, alternating between Sunday and Thursday evenings to accommodate a variety of people’s schedules.

Public Evening Tours are scheduled for the following dates in 2017:

Sunday, April 23, 6:00 pm SOLD OUT
Thursday, May 25, 6:00 pm SOLD OUT
Sunday, June 25, 6:30 pm
Tickets go on sale at 8:00 am on Wednesday, May 24
Thursday, July 20, 6:30 pm
Tickets go on sale at 8:00 am on Wednesday, June 21
Sunday, August 6, 6:30 pm Tickets go on sale at 8:00 am on Wednesday, July 5
Thursday, September 21, 5:30 pm Tickets go on sale at 8:00 am on Wednesday, August 23

Driving to Lick Observatory
Please take extra precaution driving up to Lick Observatory. Snow, mud slides, and debris can cause hazardous road conditions. Mount Hamilton Road (SR 130) is closed from 4.9 miles east of the Alum Rock Ave / Mt. Hamilton Road junction to Quimby Road due to a washout. Please take Quimby Road, approximately 5 miles south of Alum Rock Ave, to get to the observatory from San Jose. Find more travel information here.