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  • Visitors on the summit of Mt. Hamilton. Photo by J. Xavier Prochaska.

Public Information

Lick Observatory is located on the summit of Mount Hamilton, California, roughly 20 miles east of San Jose. The observatory is open to the public year-round Thursday through Sunday, from 12 to 5 p.m. Admission is free, and tours of inside the dome of the 36-inch Great Refractor are given every half hour by the Gift Shop.


The Gift Shop and Visitor Center are also open on the following days: New Year's Day, MLK Day, President's Day, Easter Sunday, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Thanksgiving Weekend (Friday, Saturday, Sunday only).

The observatory is closed on Veterans Day, Thanksgiving Thursday, and Christmas Day.

Visitor Activities

Make your trip to Lick Observatory a memorable one with our recommendations.

  • View exhibits in the main Observatory building, built in 1888. Note the original oak and marble interior.
  • Enjoy a short informal talk about Lick history while taking a look at the Great Lick Refractor in the 36-inch telescope dome (no charge). Talks begin at the Gift Shop, throughout the afternoon starting at 1:00 p.m. on weekdays and 12:30 p.m. on weekends, continuing until 4:30 p.m.
  • At the Gift Shop check out Lick Observatory sweatshirts, T-shirts, mugs, wineglasses, astronomical photos, posters, educational toys, and other astronomy-related goodies.
  • Take a short walk to the Shane Dome to view the 120-inch Reflector from the Visitors’ Gallery. Displays explain the Shane reflector, one of the major telescopes used to discover extrasolar planets.
  • Enjoy the view of the Santa Clara Valley from the parking lot at 4,209 feet. Bring a picnic lunch to eat, or grab a snack or soda at our vending machines.

Learn more about visiting:

Night Visits

Guests are permitted to visit Lick Observatory at night by purchasing a ticket to the Summer Series from June through September.

Please do not visit the observatory at night without a ticket to one of our evening programs.

Lick Observatory is an active research facilitiy, and at night all of the buildings are locked and astronomers are working at the darkened telescopes. Telescopes require the darkest possible conditions to detect the faint light from celestial objects.The success of our work relies upon minimizing lights around the observatory at night. Thank you.

Travel Prepared

The observatory is more than 20 miles from downtown San Jose along Mt. Hamilton Road at an elevation of 4,200 feet. The road follows a gradual grade laid out over a century ago for horses and carts. It has many sharp curves and is quite narrow in places.

At 4209 feet, weather on Mt. Hamilton may be cool and changable, so bring a sweater or coat. We do have wheelchair access to the main building from the back.

There are no gasoline or automative services at Mt. Hamilton or anywhere along the road outside of San Jose.

During the winter the road may be closed temporarily due to snowfall. For current road closure information, Visit the California Highway Information website and enter Hwy #130.